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Safer Field Research in the Social Sciences

Safer Field Research in the Social Sciences
A Guide to Human and Digital Security in Hostile Environments

July 2020 | 176 pages | SAGE Publications Ltd

Exploring the challenges and risks of social science fieldwork, this book shares best practice for conducting research in hostile environments and pragmatic advice to help you make good decisions.

Drawing on the authors’ experiences in regions of conflict and grounded in real-world examples, the book:

·        Provides practical guidance on important considerations like choosing a research question in sensitive contexts

·        Gives advice on data and digital security to help you minimize fieldwork risk in a contemporary research environment

·        Offers tools and templates you can use to develop a tailored security framework

Building your understanding of the challenges of on-the-ground research, this book empowers you to meet the challenges of your research landscape head on.

Chapter 1: Introduction
Chapter 2: Before the Field
Chapter 3: In the Field
Chapter 4: After the Field
Chapter 5: Thinking Systematically about Digital Security
Chapter 6: Tools and Tactics for Data Protection
Chapter 7: Conclusion: The Role of Research Institutions

This is a fantastic guide for anyone embarking on intensive fieldwork in any context. The advice given is nuanced, proportionate and measured, balancing the need to engage meaningfully in a place with protecting personal safety. It goes further to consider contemporary challenges in research engagement emanating from digital security and data protection. All research institutions need to engage with this book in their ethics and risk assessment procedures.

Anna Mdee
Associate Professor in International Development, University of Leeds

This is a must-read book for researchers and their supervisors embarking on research projects where safety is a consideration. This important book fills a gap in our current knowledge on how safer research can be accomplished. It is full of interesting, relevant and timely case studies, and information on how to manage risk before, during and after the field work experience. Brilliant. 

Jen Couch
Senior Lecturer, Youth Work & International Development, Australian Catholic University

How do we ensure that research on controversial and sensitive topics does not endanger ourselves, our participants, and the communities within which we work? Anyone doing research or building the capacity of others to carry out research in repressive environments should consider the conceptual concerns and practical steps offered in this book. 

Michelle J. Bellino
Assistant Professor, University of Michigan

This unique book provides a clear and practical path to establishing a comprehensive risk assessment plan for researchers involved in fieldwork. Based on the perspective of research safety, this book offers tools to mitigate risks for researchers and participants, especially in conflict prone areas.

An excellent resource for faculty members involved in applied research, it provides useful  tips to maximize security when looking for housing, seeking transportation routes, and developing a safety plan for the research team. It also provides useful examples of best practices on how to implement a safe research and data gathering experience, as well as how to assist researchers returning from hostile environments that have experienced trauma, and insightful recommendations on data and digital security.

Irasema Coronado
Professor, Department of Political Science, The University of Texas at El Paso

The book is very timely, given the increased challenges faced by researchers in different parts of the world.  It is the only book that offers researchers practical advice that comes from firsthand experiences by experts on the subject.  The well-thought out content is imperative for anyone conducting field research whether an academic, journalist, or practitioner.

Rabab El-Mahdi
Associate Professor, American University in Cairo

Research is not only vital to scientific development, it is essential to improvement of the human condition. But social science research, particularly fieldwork, is not always well-understood, effortlessly accepted or without risk. The appropriate response to such challenges is not to give up fieldwork altogether but to undertake it with care, vigilance and respect for all those involved, from today’s research subjects to scholars of the future. This indispensable book is a masterful guide to responsible field research; it should be on the desk of all academics—from students to senior scholars—who conduct, or advise people who conduct, research away from their desks.

Lisa Anderson
Professor Emerita of International Relations, Columbia University

At last a definitive guide to the management of risks associated with conducting research. We have long understood the risks faced by some in the pursuit of knowledge; finally we have a document to help researchers stay safe in the field, and to deliver cutting edge results.

George Shaw
Co-Director & Founder, International Location Safety

Research can be risky: more and more often, and not only in nondemocratic countries. This most precious book provides most valuable advice to social scientists about how to reduce those risks for all parts of their research projects. It is an invaluable resource for teaching young students how to conduct their field work in the safest possible way.

Donatella Della Porta
Director of the COMOS Center for Social Movement Studies at SNS Florence

After-the-fact support for scholars under attack remains an urgent responsibility for everyone in higher education.   But no less important are proactive strategies and practices to improve the security of researchers wherever their research takes them. By bringing valuable attention and structure to this much needed conversation, the authors make an important contribution to the future of research in challenging environments, whether a researcher is a few miles, or a few thousand miles, from home.

Robert Quinn
Executive director at Scholars at Risk

This volume is an absolutely indispensable resource for any researcher setting out to embark on social science fieldwork, and for anyone reviewing or overseeing such work. Filling a glaring gap in disciplinary methods training, the authors provide clear steps, along with helpful tools, to anticipate - and mitigate - risks, posed both to the safety and security of researchers, but also to their research participants and interlocutors. As this volume makes clear, attention to shifting security environments not only emerges as an ethical imperative, but also a prerequisite for careful research design and sound data analysis.

Milli Lake
Assistant Professor of International Security London School of Economics

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ISBN: 9781529701043
ISBN: 9781529701050

SAGE Research Methods is a research methods tool created to help researchers, faculty and students with their research projects. SAGE Research Methods links over 175,000 pages of SAGE’s renowned book, journal and reference content with truly advanced search and discovery tools. Researchers can explore methods concepts to help them design research projects, understand particular methods or identify a new method, conduct their research, and write up their findings. Since SAGE Research Methods focuses on methodology rather than disciplines, it can be used across the social sciences, health sciences, and more.

With SAGE Research Methods, researchers can explore their chosen method across the depth and breadth of content, expanding or refining their search as needed; read online, print, or email full-text content; utilize suggested related methods and links to related authors from SAGE Research Methods' robust library and unique features; and even share their own collections of content through Methods Lists. SAGE Research Methods contains content from over 720 books, dictionaries, encyclopedias, and handbooks, the entire “Little Green Book,” and "Little Blue Book” series, two Major Works collating a selection of journal articles, and specially commissioned videos.