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About the project

Tackling ethical issues in community-based participatory research: A practical resource

Reasons for the project 


Community-based participatory research (CBPR) is an increasingly popular approach to research. It involves members of community organisations taking a lead, or working alongside professional researchers, in doing research that is relevant to their communities. It involves sharing power and responsibility and working for beneficial outcomes.

This type of research tends to generate a range of distinctive ethical issues. This is because it involves people working together in partnership, who may have different skills, perspectives and purposes. Community-based researchers may also often be involved in researching the communities to which they belong.

It is hard to predict what ethical issues may emerge in CBPR and can be difficult to handle them when they arise – for example:

  • Who owns the data collected or findings generated?
  • How can the community researchers preserve confidentiality when they interview their neighbours?

There is a need, therefore, to develop people’s ethical awareness and their capacity to work with the inevitable ethical issues that arise in CBPR. 

Background to the project

The Tackling ethical issues project grew out of a scoping study by Durham Community Research Team in 2011. The scoping study reviewed a range of literature to assess the nature and extent of the ethical issues that tend to arise in research that is community-based and participatory. Durham Community Research Team also began the process of developing a guide to ethics in community-based participatory research (CBPR). The scoping study is reported in Durham Community Research Team (2011) Community-based participatory research: ethical challenges

This work was then developed by a wider group of academics and community partners during 2012, resulting in a set of ethical principles and guidelines and a collection of case studies and case examples of ethical issues and dilemmas arising in real life research projects. These materials can be downloaded as booklets from the publications section of our website. The group also co-authored an article called 'Everyday ethics in community-based participatory research', which can be freely downloaded.

Durham University’s Centre for Social Justice and Community Action took this work further in 2013 by commissioning short films, podcasts and an EasyRead version of the ethical guide.

All these projects were led by Professor Sarah Banks at Durham University, based in the Centre for Social Justice and Community Action. The projects were funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council under the Connected Communities programme.

Introducing the ethical guidelines

This is a short video made at the Connected Communities Showcase, London, March 2013 introducing the ethical guidelines.