Keep Research Ethics Dirty!

A comment and responses

  • Martin Sökefeld (Author)
  • Tabassum Fahim Ruby (Author)
  • Chien-Juh Gu (Author)

Identifiers (Article)


In his comment “Keep Research Ethics Dirty!” Martin Sökefeld questions the growing trend of routine procedures of ethics reviews in Germany. His discontent centres around two reasonings. First, he contends that the standardised ethics review is designed to protect institutions but is less effective at protecting subjects of research. Second, the “ethical clearance” granted by institutional reviews rarely solves the real ethical issues and dilemmas during fieldwork. Martin Sökefeld ends his essay with resistance against the “purification” of institutional reviews and politics of research. Tabassum Fahim Ruby builds on Sökefelds contribution and further discusses shortcomings of ethical clearance typical for social sciences research with a focus on the standards formulated by the United States Institutional Review Board (IRB). Chien-Juh Gu adds to the discussion examples from her submissions to the Human Subjects Institution Review Board (HSIRB) at the Western Michigan University. She then contests Sökefelds's second point that uses dichotomous notions of "pure" versus "dirty" in perceiving research ethics.


Anthropology, research ethics, politics of research, institutional review boards, fieldwork, social sciences, comment, debate