A Response to “Responsible Research Practices,” Part 4: Research on Human Subjects

Picture 18This is an installment in an ongoing series on the American Academy of Religion’s recently released draft statement on research responsibilities.
An index of the
complete series (updated as each
article is posted) can be found here.

The previous post ended by citing the fourth of Bruce Lincoln’s “Theses on Method” — specifically, his call for scholars always to contextual, historicize, what they study by asking “who speaks here?” and “to what audience?” Among my difficulties with the AAR’s draft document is that it reads as if its authors had never read or taken seriously comments on the field such as Lincoln’s. Again, while I have no idea what debates took place between the members — or better yet, what compromises were required — reading their draft’s second bullet point’s advice that we “promote good” by, among other things, “telling the truth” flies in the face of Lincoln’s own widely read thoughts on what we ought to be doing in this field when we do research. Continue reading

A Response to “Responsible Research Practices,” Part 3: Do No Harm

hippocraticoath This is an installment in an ongoing series on the American Academy of Religion’s recently released draft statement on research responsibilities.
An index of the
complete series (updated as each
article is posted) can be found here.

The previous post — concerned with a group of Academy members who, I argued, are necessarily absent from the draft statement on responsibilities (why necessarily? If they were explicitly acknowledged it would likely undermine our ability, as an Academy, to advocate for academic freedom) — was implicitly about the lack of systematicity of this draft document. Although I am, of course, unaware of what the committee discussed, what they produced and distributed does not suggest they itemized a complete list of the groups to which they think a researcher owes something (i.e., has responsibilities). After all, church hierarchies are oddly absent from the document despite many members within our big tent surely working in private religiously-affiliated schools that sometimes require faculty to sign and follow a statement of faith (which likely has a direct impact on what they teach and study). But acknowledging this to be one such constituency likely undermines some of the ways that the AAR seeks to authorize itself as an academic organization.

The absence of self-awareness for what, in principle and in practice, the Academy is therefore seems to be a strategic necessity to make a document such as this work. Continue reading

A Response to ‚ÄúResponsible Research Practices”: Index

Picture 11As each successive part in this ongoing series is made posted, this index page will be updated with links.

Introduction: Our Highest Ideals
Part 1: General Reflections
Part 2: Academic Freedom
Part 3: Do No Harm
Part 4: Research on Human Subjects
Part 5: Sources and Interpretations
Part 6: Irrevocable Commitments
Part 7: Methodological Pluralism
Part 8: Diverse Approaches
Part 9: Broader Public
Part 10: Peer Review
Part 11: Research Assistants
Part 12: Highest Standards
Afterword: And Isn’t It Ironic? Don’t You Think?

Click the above graphic to visit the American Academy of Religion’s site
to read the draft research responsibilities document.

Or click here to learn about the final version of the document
(passed by the AAR Board in February 2016).

A Response to “Responsible Research Practices,” Part 1: General Reflections

aarA few days ago I wrote a brief post on this site, intended to draw attention to a document that had just been circulated publicly by the American Academy of Religion (our main professional organization in the US), entitled “Responsible Research Practices: A Statement on Standards of Professional Conduct for AAR Members.” (Click here to read it or click here to learn a little more about it and to find the names [posted as a PDF here] of the 10-person committee that drafted it.) Approaching mid-July, and released without much fanfare (at least that I’d heard), it wasn’t entirely clear to me that members of the Academy would necessarily know this draft had been posted, or that their input was being solicited.

So my post was mainly concerned to just help get the word out a little more.

Picture 9I offered a brief critique, sure, but didn’t dwell on any of the details.

Since then I’ve talked privately with two people on the committee, to make my views known to them directly, and so I think my post from the other day now deserves a more sustained and public follow-up. Continue reading