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Researching the Ethics of Data Collection in Post-conflict Acholiland (Northern Uganda): The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Arthur Owor

2022 Uganda, Africa

This research aims to contribute to debates on the decolonization of research in an African context with a focus on Gulu City in Northern Uganda. It seeks to investigate the key emerging contemporary ethical concerns in relation to researching post- conflict Northern Uganda, that is, before (clearance processes), during (conducting fieldwork alongside research collaborators) and after (information dissemination and data protection) research; examined with power relations as a denominator. The paper draws secondary sources, and primary data obtained through a set of qualitative research methodologies from research collaborators who have worked with foreign (Western) researchers. This study reveals the ethical issues and dilemmas that often precipitate the exploitation of research participants in the region. It also illustrates the dynamics of Uganda’s research industry and burgeoning research assistant culture and sub-economy. Finally, the research revealed the high levels of problematic data protection and storage issues in the region and the weaknesses of enforcement of data protection laws in the region and country. This points to the inconspicuous persistence of colonialism, oppression, and domination in systems of western research training and seek to include such an ethical understanding in their research practice.

ethics, fieldwork, decolonization, research collaborators, focus group discussions, acknowledgements