Ethical Research Landscapes in fragile and conflict-affected contexts: understanding the challenges

Kelsey Shanks, Julia Paulson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)
72 Downloads (Pure)


As the prevalence of conflict and fragility continue to rise around the world, research is increasingly heralded as a solution. However, current ethical guidelines for working in areas suffering from institutional and social fragility, insecurity or violent conflict have been heavily critiqued as highly abstract; focussed only on data collection; detached from the realities of academia in the Global South; and potentially extractive. This article seeks to respond to that assessment by spotlighting some of the most prevalent challenges researchers face in the pursuit of ethical working practices. It explores the material and epistemic injustices that often shape and underpin research structures and relationships in these contexts. The paper draws on the authors’ experiences of research in conflict-affected and fragile contexts over the last fifteen years and on workshop discussions with researchers based in fragile and conflict-affected contexts conducted in Amman, Bogotá and Dhaka in 2019-2020. The paper works from the premise that achieving ethical research in fragile spaces is not dependent solely on activity at the site of research, but also on decisions made across the entire ecosystem of a research project. It therefore interrogates the full research landscape, from funding models, to research design (including research topics, partnerships, methods, participant selection, and researcher positionality), to dissemination plans and ethical gatekeeping. The paper critically reflects on inequities in the processes of knowledge production about conflict and fragility and the key ethical challenges that researchers encounter. It highlights the need for further guidance, support and accountability to ensure ethical research practices.
Original languageEnglish
Article number174701612210941
Pages (from-to)169-192
Number of pages24
JournalResearch Ethics
Issue number3
Early online date30 Apr 2022
Publication statusPublished online - 30 Apr 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information: This article includes data collected at a series of workshops on educational research in fragile spaces, conducted in Amman, Bogotá and Dhaka between February 2019 and February 2020 that were funded by UK Research and Innovation. All articles in Research Ethics are published as open access. There are no submission charges and no Article Processing Charges as these are fully funded by institutions through Knowledge Unlatched, resulting in no direct charge to authors. For more information about Knowledge Unlatched please see here: Publisher Copyright: © The Author(s) 2022.


  • Philosophy
  • Education
  • Conflict
  • knowledge production
  • research ethics
  • equitable partnerships
  • fragility


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