Conference Papers

Attitudes to Research Ethics in Sub Saharan Africa; a phenomenographic based narrative inquiry

Building on work presented at BESA 2015, this paper presents the results of phenomenographic research into the attitudes and practices of academic research ethics in Sub-Saharan Africa. By understanding the cultural underpinnings of African ethical philosophy, it aims to reconcile research practices in the region with the ethical compliance requirements and processes explicit in Western postgraduate research.
Research is an important element of many postgraduate degrees and an understanding of the principles and policies associated with conducting research ethically is an important component of student research. For students of a British university operating in Sub-Saharan Africa there is a dichotomy between the requirements of the University, based on ethical rationalism, and the cultural context, influenced by pragmatism, in which they operate. Research by Grant and Gazdula (2017) found that students’ ethical compass was strongly influenced by cultural factors, the most prominent of these being family, tribe and religion.
This paper builds on this previous work and presents the findings from a second phase of qualitative data collection (interviews) in Malawi and Zambia (May 2017) which looks specifically at the ways students engage with and experience the Research Ethics process to better understand the impacts that their culture, society and experience have on research ethics in a transnational context. It explores the challenges encountered as the students navigate their way through the University Ethical Processes within the societies in which they are researching.

Grant, C. (2017) 'Attitudes to Research Ethics in Sub Saharan Africa; a phenomenographic based narrative inquiry', paper presented to The 13th Annual Conference of the British Education Studies Association (BESA), 29–30 June, viewed 13 August 2020, <>