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Scott Neufeld, right, a PhD student in social psychology, has collaborated with 15 other contributors to develop a manifesto for promoting ethical research in the Downtown Eastside. Photo credit: Jamie-Leigh Gonzales


Report addressing research ethics seeks to improve researcher-participant relationships in DTES

May 02, 2019

By Cindy Li

A new report that addresses ethical concerns when conducting research with marginalized populations in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside (DTES) could help to alleviate researcher-participant tensions in the heavily researched neighbourhood.

DTES residents’ growing aversion to research has caused some community members to adopt a strict “just say no” policy when it comes to research requests—of which there are many. Some residents attest to receiving multiple requests per week from researchers.

SFU PhD student Scott Neufeld developed the 17-page report, “Research 101: A Manifesto for Ethical Research in the Downtown Eastside,” with 15 other contributors, many of them DTES research participants. The report’s findings and recommendations derived from a six-week series of workshops held in spring 2018. The workshops were sponsored by SFU’s Vancity Office of Community Engagement and DTES non-profit Hives for Humanity.

Mutual respect, reciprocity and access to completed research are just some of the many ethical concerns raised in the report. It also acknowledges that research has often been at the expense of DTES participants rather than for their benefit.

“It really bothers me that research, and researchers, have a bad name,” says Neufeld, who is studying social psychology at SFU.

“We’re associated with the exploitation of marginalized communities and seen as disconnected from the struggles of people who are dealing with layers of stigma and oppression on a daily basis.”

Neufeld and his contributors hope their work on the report will be the beginning of positive change between researchers and participants. The report has already initiated conversations around developing a community research ethics board to complement the University Research Ethics Board’s reviews of ethics applications pertaining to the DTES.

“I’m incredibly proud of the work we’ve been able to accomplish,” says Neufeld. “Research 101 would not have been possible without the incredible group of DTES community members who came out to share from their rich experiences and wisdom.”