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HRECs and journalism research: The uneven playing field

Volume 20, Issue 1

May, 2014

From page
99
to page
116
Davies, K. (2014). HRECs and journalism research: The uneven playing field. Pacific Journalism Review, 20(1): 99-116.
Investigative journalism trends
Author(s): Kayt Davies
Publication date: 
May, 2014

This article continues an ongoing investigation into the problems that contemporary researchers in Australia using journalism as a methodology face in meeting the bureaucratic requirements of Human Research Ethics Committees (HRECs). This discussion in the peer-reviewed literature includes Richards (2009), Turner (2011), Lindgren and Phillips (2011), Romano (2012) and two articles by the author (Davies 2011a, 2011b). These two articles explored the flexibility built into the HREC’s guiding document, the National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research, in 2007 in order to make it possible for research that does not fit the standard scientific model to gain timely approval. The professional discussion has also included public conversations at the Journalism Education Association of Australia (JEAA) annual conferences and on the organisation’s online discussion list. It is evident from these discussions that some researchers find the ethics application process sufficiently arduous that research using journalism as a methodology is effectively not possible for them. Meanwhile, others find the approval process to be painless and beneficial to their work. This raises the question of whether these differences are due to the researchers’ competence in lodging applications for approvals, or differences in the approach taken by the various university-based HRECs. The novel contribution of this article to the discussion is quantitative data illustrating the diversity of approaches taken by HRECs to applications regarding research using journalism as a methodology and reflection on the implications for investigative journalism.