Whose Research Is It? Political Scientists Discuss Whether, How, and Why We Should Involve the Communities We Study
by Kristin Michelitch, Vanderbilt University
As scholars conducting research in the Global South, we “collect” the insights, opinions, and behaviors of those we study for scholarly publication and teaching outputs. Our audiences, however, are often limited to other scholars or students at universities in the Global North rather than the communities we study. In organizing the symposium “Whose Research Is It? Notable Ways Political Scientists Impact the Communities We Study,” I prompt fellow comparative politics scholars with a quote from Linda Tuhiwai Smith’s 2012 book (p10): “Whose research is it? Who owns it? Whose interests does it serve? Who will benefit from it? Who has designed its questions and framed its scope? Who will carry it out? Who will write it up? How will its results be disseminated?” Authors, whose research is rooted in diverse world regions and methodological approaches, react by discussing the extent to which we should involve or impact the communities we study, as well as the (lack of) professional incentives to do so. The contributors discuss ways in which involvement of local communities can alternatively enrich or hinder the quality of research, but they also argue for local community involvement (or not) based on professional ethical standards.