CALL FOR CASE STUDIES – AGENET WORKSHOP on ethnographic research involving people with cognitive impairment

In preparation for our workshop on ethical challenges and solutions in ethnographic research involving older adults living with cognitive impairment, we are inviting researchers to submit a 300-400 words description of a concrete ethical challenge they have encountered during their own ethnographic work with this population. Selected submissions will be discussed in a supportive and collaborative peer environment during the AGENET workshop on 24th November, Wednesday, 16.00 CET/ 15.00 GMT/ 10.00 ET.

The workshop is part of the EASA AGENET Slow Online Conference 2021, as well as the AGENET’s larger initiative launched to support researchers in addressing ethical issues they encounter during ethnographic work with cognitively impaired people, in Europe and beyond.

Submissions and inquiries to Cristina Douglas (r01crd17[at]abdn.ac.uk) and Barbara Pieta (pieta[at]eth.mpg.de), no later than 5th November.

For more details on the workshop and submission format, please see below.

Background and aims

Following a panel convened during EASA 2020 that addressed ethical challenges and solutions in ethnographic research with older adults who live with a cognitively impairing condition (e.g., dementia; learning disability), we are organising a workshop on the same topic. The aim of this workshop is to identify and discuss potential ethical issues that may emerge from such work at any of its stages: prior to starting fieldwork; during fieldwork; or when writing. Some of these issues can be (but, of course, they aren’t limited to): of an organisational nature (e.g., ethics governance/obtaining ethics approvals/sponsorship and what an ethics committee/board may expect from an application; no organisational ethics review); of legal nature (e.g., legal regulations that restrict the recruitment of adults without capacity consent); of practical nature (e.g., negotiating terms with gatekeepers) etc. We want to learn how national, political, organisational, cultural etc. contexts can shape ethics when doing research with older people who live with a cognitively impairing condition, how these may shape an ethnography – but also how, ideally, we can use the anthropology’s strength of being conducted in diverse contexts to help us reimagine ethics and use it as a means of addressing social justice.

We intend to create a repository of case studies of ethical issues and how they have been addressed. This can be used in the future as a source of inspiration and help for fellow anthropologists/anyone using ethnographic methods with older adults living with a cognitively impairing condition. This repository is part of EASA Age and Generations Network larger initiative of creating a support group and a (digital) platform for addressing ethical issues in research conducted with cognitively impaired people.

Workshop Format

The workshop will take place online during the Age and Generations Network Slow Online Conference on 24th November, Wednesday, 16.00 CET/ 15.00 GMT/ 10.00 ET. The workshop will be free and open to all pre-registered participants. During the workshop, we will work in 4-5 breakout groups (depending on the number of attendants). Each group will discuss a real situation that created an ethical issue and how you would have addressed it. In the second part of the workshop, we will reunite in the main room and discuss these in dialogue with the researcher who proposed the situation/ethical issue and their solution. More instructions about the format will be sent with the description of the situations proposed for discussion, prior to workshop.

Duration: approx. 2 hours, including introduction and breaks (45 minutes breakout groups discussion; 50 minutes whole group discussion).

Call for submissions- what we are looking for:

We are looking for descriptions of situations that created an ethical issue which did not necessarily have a straightforward solution (could have been addressed in more than just one way). This can be from any stage of your research (prior; during; after fieldwork). This should be a real situation that arose during your research and required a practical, concrete solution. Please describe this in 300-400 words. When writing your proposal, please think of the following aspects that may help the workshop participants when discussing:

  • In what country is your research organisation? Are there any regulatory ethics, both in terms of review and legal frameworks?
  • Where does your research take place? (e.g., country; care home/community/hospice etc.) Were there any regulatory ethics other than your host research organisation country that you had to follow?
  • If the ethical issue arose in a research project that you have conducted more than 5 years ago, please consider to specify this. We ask this because the regulatory environment that shapes ethics is in constant change and can influence massively what kind of ethical issues may arise.
  • Be as concrete and detailed as possible about the situation. Please consider to add details about the nature of the issue, how/where did it arise etc.
  • Do not include in the proposal how you have addressed the issue, but please be prepared to discuss this after we reunite in the main room. It is important to understand what your solution was and how/if additional solutions would have been viable.
  • Please make sure you don’t include in your proposal any identifying information (e.g., name of care homes or organisations).

Please send your proposal no later than 5th November. We will let you know the outcome no later than 10th November.

The presence of the authors of submitted scenarios will enhance our collective learning process during the workshop. Thus, the authors’ open participation is warmly encouraged.  However, we will also accept submissions from researchers who wish that their names are not identified.

About AGENET

The Age and Generations Network (AGENET) is part of the European Association of Social Anthropologists (EASA). We bring together social anthropologists interested in life-course perspectives, multi/inter-generational relationships, late-life and/or other life phases. More information on the network and how to join: https://www.easaonline.org/networks/agenet/

Many thanks and we very much looking forward to meeting you all at the AgeNet workshop!

Cristina Douglas (University of Aberdeen), Maria Vesperi (New College of Florida), Matthew Lariviere (Bristol University, AGENET Convenor), Barbara Pieta (Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology, AGENET Convenor)