Greg Downey, on the “Culture Matters” group blog, has written a series of insightful posts about ethnographic research ethics and the human subjects institutional review process. His comments are especially useful, written from the perspective of someone involved both in ethnographic research and in the institutional review process at his university.
I would especially recommend his latest post, “Some Practical Notes on Ethics Applications.” I think (or at least hope) that by now, nearly all ethnographers take seriously ethical considerations of informed consent, confidentiality, and minimizing risk to research subjects in the course of their research. Many, if not most, are by now aware also of the complexities involved at all levels of research, writing, and publication. What’s most useful about Downey’s latest post is that it provides a pragmatic guide for thinking through these important ethical considerations, and I think both as a way to ease the institutional review process and to think more systematically about seriously important ethical considerations for research activities.