Beyond Trickle-Down Benefits to Research Participants (Research NOTE) - Social Work Research

Beyond Trickle-Down Benefits to Research Participants (Research NOTE)

By Social Work Research

  • Release Date - Published: 2009-12-01
  • Book Genre: Social Science
  • Author: Social Work Research
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Beyond Trickle-Down Benefits to Research Participants (Research NOTE) Social Work Research read online review & book description:

Few social scientists would dispute the importance of safeguarding research participants' rights and well-being; nevertheless, the bulk of attention paid to research methods is focused on the innovation in and improvement of sampling, measurement, and analysis techniques. Although these efforts are undoubtedly critical to generating optimal knowledge, policy, and practice, researchers must balance the pursuit of these ideals with their ethical responsibilities to the participants in their studies. This point may be especially important for social work researchers, given our frequent involvement with the most vulnerable of individuals regarding the most sensitive of topics (Jenson, 2006; Mertens & Ginsberg, 2008).The ethical imperative of beneficence requires two things of social science research: the minimization of risks to participants and the maximization of benefits to them. The former is guided by a broad literature regarding research ethics and is carefully regulated and enforced by institutional review boards. In contrast to this rightful emphasis on ensuring participants' safety and rights, the maximization of research benefits is often regarded as a welcome but nonessential bonus. Researchers often count on an altruistic, "trickle-down" theory of participants' benefits: that participants derive sufficient gratification from believing that their effort and responses will play an indirect role in gradually advancing knowledge, policy, and practice, thereby eventually benefiting the communities in which they are stakeholders. In an editorial, Jenson (2006) noted that social work researchers may be especially inclined to view their work as ultimately beneficial by virtue of its focus on social justice and empowerment. But Jenson also urged social work researchers to be more thoughtful and conscious of furthering the "public good" in designing their studies, forging collaborations with community stakeholders, and disseminating their results. Mertens and Ginsberg (2008), in presenting a "transformative paradigm" of research, asserted that social work researchers must constantly evaluate their work in relation to this question: "How can my research at this time and place contribute to social justice?" (p. 486). These calls for greater mindfulness regarding the potential of research to advance social justice are certainly important, and they stand to strengthen social work research. I would add that along with these longer term, bigger picture recommendations, the provision of direct and meaningful benefits to participants deserves a central place in the planning and execution of social work research.

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