Today Ola, Robert, Ola and Markus had the pleasant news that their article “Negotiations and research bargains: Bending professional norms in the effort to gain field access” was accepted for publication in International Journal of Qualitative Methods.
Worth mentioning this was Robert´s first. More to come!
The present study provides an auto-ethnographic account of the efforts to gain field access to a police organization, spanning more than two years. The aim is to describe a case of gaining access in relation to the professional norms of science put forward by Robert K. Merton. Aided by an organized record of notes, emails and other written communications regarding access (144 memos of various types), the study describes and discusses the negotiations with Mertonian norms that followed from the dissonance between ideals of research and practical reality. Opening up for further scholarly discussion, the article concludes that Merton’s norms are incongruent with both prevailing guidelines of research ethics as well as with the practical, short-term problems of access negotiations and research bargains.
What is already known?
Obtaining field access in organizations is an increasing problem for qualitative researchers. The literature on gaining access is providing strategies that researchers can use, as well as problematizing the ethical issues involved when bargaining with organizations. However, the literature has not hitherto engaged with the problem of how access negotiations affect the types of research questions asked, the way results are presented, and, consequently, what the role of research in society ought to be.
What this paper adds?
Using Merton’s norms of science (universalism, communalism, disinterestedness and organized skepticism) as a reference, the paper shows how the realities of research bargaining are at odds with research ideals such as impartiality, rationality and, in particular, freedom and autonomy from often competing societal interests. It also shows that prevailing ethical guidelines such as ‘informed consent’ might, in the effort to gain access, be problematic in relation to these ideals. With these arguments, the paper seeks to expand the debate on the problems of access to organizations to include the role of research in society.