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Ethics in social science research involving human participants: cultural challenges for researchers in Kenya

Author: 
Julius O. Jwan, John O. Oluoch, Charles O. Ong’ondo and Sella T. Kisaka
Subject Area: 
Social Sciences and Humanities
Abstract: 

In this paper we discuss the essential ethical issues that have often been ignored in social science research involving human participants in Kenya. In most researches conducted in the universities, the ethical committees, if any, normally pay more attention to ethics when handling researches that deal with human medicine, health, biotechnology and related issues. Not much attention is paid to ethical requirements predominantly because of cultural orientations that do not conform with these research requirements. Nevertheless, we argue that the same scrutiny done in medical researches should be extended to social science research. We base our argument on observations and readings from several postgraduate theses across disciplines in the universities in Kenya. We note that there are hardly any subsections within the theses on ethical considerations even though the researches are laden with matters of ethical concerns ranging from anonymity to use of vulnerable groups such as pupils in schools. We argue that in the process of creating knowledge for sustainable development through research, and in order to be part of the fast expanding world of academic community, social science researchers in Kenya dealing with human participants should give due regards to international as well as local ethical demands. We, therefore, propose that there is need for ethics committees in the universities that are mandated to scrutinise all research proposals beyond the focus on health sciences.

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