In this episode I talk to Warren Speed, postgraduate researcher at the University of Exeter, about the development of an emergent approach to research ethics during his PhD, and the Research Ethics Conference that recently secured funding for March 2021. During the podcast we discuss:


You can find Warren on twitter @WarrenSpeed1.


Music credit: Happy Boy Theme Kevin MacLeod (
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License


Music credit: Happy Boy Theme Kevin MacLeod (
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License


Podcast transcript

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Hello and welcome, R, D

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And in betweens, I'm your host, Kelly Preece, and every fortnight I talk to a different guest about researchers development and everything in between.

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Hello and welcome to Episode four. In this episode, I'm going to be talking to Warren Speed.

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He's a postgraduate researcher in the University of Exeter's Graduate School of Education.

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Warren takes a really interesting and I think innovative approach to research ethics in his project.

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He talks about research ethics as going beyond the processes and procedures that we have to engage with

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to meet university ethical requirements to what Warren terms an emergent approach to research ethics.

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Warren are you happy to introduce yourself So I'm Warren Speed.

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I'm studying PhD in education and I look at fundamental British values with the Prevent Duty.

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And I look at how schools apply this agenda across the across the regions of England.

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My conference has come about from what? DHT, although it wasn't expected.

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The conference. Funding for is to put on research ethics conference where it brings together people who

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are from various different disciplines across cost discipline and also from various

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universities and also outside organisations to get together and present papers and to attend

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and listen and do workshops about everything and anything to do with research ethics,

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to kind of open up conversations around things like, for example, I'm a social scientists.

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So, for example, things I wouldn't have thought of which animal animal ethics people do.

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And it's about trying to get those types of ethical kind of stuff together.

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So how did this come about in terms of your research?

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So what how how is it that you got so interested in some of the challenges in the discourse around research ethics?

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Yeah, I think it's a few things released in my background was I used to be teaching union for about 12 years,

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and my role mainly within this union was Equalities Officer. So within Devon mainly, I was the quality of service to schools around Devon.

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So I always had a thing about equity,

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all kind of rights of equality and ethics and making sure that everybody was treated equal and fairly and respectfully at all times.

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And the other thing was during my P.H. day, which looks at fundamental British values,

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it's got really deep roots into counter-terrorism within schools.

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So I had to be very mindful of that and mindful that participants might not want to get

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involved because they might they might have their own concerns and worries about it.

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And since thinking along those lines of of that, I my ethics awareness.

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But he's got greater as he got greater, I got a lot more interested in it.

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So now my PHC doesn't just have an ethics section.

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The entire thesis is all about fundamental British values and research ethics and how I've applied ethics and an ethically minded,

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very emergen ethically emergen approach. Might the H.T.?

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Yeah, so I think the thing that really has interested me when we sort of said in the past is that idea of emerging ethics.

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So the way in which ethics is embedded into the research process rather than being an approval process, I guess, that you go through at the beginning.

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Can you talk a bit more about that and how and what that means in terms of your research?

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Yeah. Okay. I actually wrote a paper on this. So I looked.

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I looked at what was happening in regards to the procedure, ethics or institutionalised ethics.

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So things that were going on within university and that the university wanted

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you to do in order to get ethical approval had to jump through some hurdles. I to look at some guidance forms and things like that.

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And although I do agree with it, that does definitely have its place.

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I know. So I've always thought is never enough. There was never enough done in order to really, truly be ethically minded whilst conducting research.

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So procedurally, people would fill out an ethical application form.

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The application form gets sent to an ethical panel.

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An ethical panel will decide whether or not the article ethics application form is sufficient enough for you to.

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Research. Once you've got that approval, I was curious as to know how many people actually went back to rehab a day.

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The ethical approval through the data collection or research process.

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And I found out through contacts at the University of Exeter that it's not very many at all.

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And they actually can't think of any and any people. I've actually had to go back and read keep on redoing it.

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So I had massive issues and concerns around that because I was thinking when your cadet conducting data,

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surely your ethics or your ethical standpoint should change because you're meeting people,

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you're building rapport and friendships and relationships, whatever, with participants, therefore, does this.

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This should change the dynamic of ethical approach.

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And this is why I thought taking a very emersion approach whilst applying complying with procedure or ethics was very important.

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The immersion approach allows me to to to really think about as effectively as I'm going along, the kind of the ethical dilemmas or implications,

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not even ethical successes that are coming ahead of me or happening at a time and the things that I need to do to change them or how.

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Yeah. The other thing I used to do it well, I still do. Actually can.

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Still collecting a little bit of data through the process.

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I've spoken to my participants as well in regards to the ethics and if there is anything specific

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to that school that ethically I should know about and how I could ethically support them,

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because I have a variety of schools with a variety of backgrounds.

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And by asking that question is quite good, actually, I managed to get quite a lot more information I never would have thought of.

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I could put into my ethical kind of writing my processes and my application forms.

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So be an immersion approach is I highly I highly recommend it is very beneficial and it really puts your self and the participant,

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the human participants in my case at the central research.

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Ethically, I think ethics is it should be the centre of the research without the ethical clearance not doing things properly, respectfully.

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You can't actually have, I don't think, a very asao ethically sound piece of work.

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Yeah, and I think there's something in that that really resonates with me as.

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Somebody who as an academic and researcher was always working with with people and certainly as an arts researcher.

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Kind of a strong awareness of and presence of kind of an eye and reflection of your subjectivity within the research.

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And I've always considered that to be about. About the methodology, but also about the ethics of the research is about being making clear about your

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place and perspective as the researcher and how that frames everything you're doing.

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And I think there's something really interesting about this difference between

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that you've that you're cutting procedural ethics and that emergent ethics,

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which is it's a sort of really speaks to me is, you know, a form of ethical, reflective practise.

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Yes. And it's something to me that I find quite odd doesn't actually happen.

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This is the reason why I want to put this conference on this.

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It's not these conversations to say, look, you know, procedural to institutionalised ethics does have its space.

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It really does. Of course it does. And also, the university has to mitigate sells against any issues.

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And, you know, anything that might happen, you know, there's legal requirements there as well. It has to happen.

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But I'm hoping that this conference start opening up this conversation to say, look, everyone,

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we need to start looking at ethics, not just an emergent way, but also a very innovative way.

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The world is changing quite a lot at the moment. You know, we've got a lot going on.

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We've had you know, we've had we have a very controversial things happen in the U.K. like we've had Brexit.

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We've had to change of prime ministers before October 19. We've had a lot of things happening.

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We've got Black Lives Matter movement, which is happening at the moment. We really need to not just be very static in what we do.

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And the only to do the one of the negative things I think about procedural ethics is which the universe is all institutionalised.

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Ethics is that we are expected to follow a specific or recommended ethical guidance.

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So, for example, the sort of education we want.

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We're told that we need to look at. We should be looking at, as you know, is the SPARER, the British Educational Research Association ethics.

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But that is very static. It's only stuck at a certain point.

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And I think it's up to the researcher to really go as far as they can consistently through

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their research to start looking at innovative ways of how they can be ethically do.

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The research can be ethically minded the entire time. And it doesn't happen.

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And I know it doesn't happen because I've spoken to colleagues, both academic colleagues and, yes, Senate colleagues.

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And I've had this conversation with them and they just don't.

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One of the things I've been told, which just it doesn't it doesn't normally I say, is that when HD,

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for example, need to update their ethics, they should keep on putting it through the ethical panel.

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An ethical panel should be approving it. That's what they're there for. That's what they should be doing.

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And it also keeps a paper trail, keeps everyone safe as well.

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I've been told by a senior academics that all the know the universe isn't haven't times that people don't have time to do that.

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And my my response is, so what is your responsibility to do it?

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It shouldn't be happening. We should be obeying our participants and ourselves and the universe.

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And everyone's resolved the research. The utmost respect that we do not is necessary.

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Thing happens all the time. No, I don't think there's a number of things that I think are really crucial for me in terms of because this is you know,

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this is something that is quite new to me as a topic area and that sort of thing

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about ethics not being static because the world is static and research isn't static.

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We know that research is constantly evolving through the through our research processes.

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So why would ah. Why would our ethical standpoint or ethical approval or ethical methods.

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Why would that be static if we know that the research is in and of itself ever changing?

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Yeah, I mean, it has been like that is it is is static, but I don't think it's static that anyone's fault.

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No, particularly. I just don't think we have. There's not enough training that goes on at all level.

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Was undergrad master p h d right up to presses ships and there's not enough training that goes on.

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On ethics we need training. Right from the beginning of all of studying, when we looked at looking at human,

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no data or tissue, animal ethics, whatever we need, if we need ethical training.

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Right. Beginning to just say to us that you do have to use procedural stuff is static.

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But it is a star. Don't frown on it. It is dirty. You do need it.

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But you do need to take a very emergen approach. And that comes from you as a person.

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The university. And you can't do that. It's individually.

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And then you got to ask the question, I guess, who is going to make to about that particular pasty old person of the day is take an emergent approach.

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Do they do it themselves? The supervisor cheque on it, just like the doctor college do it.

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I mean, it's not built into the E.M.S. stuff within the university. We don't have any.

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We don't have anything. Nothing exists, which I find strange. I find it really odd.

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Yeah, and I. I I really hate what you're saying about the difference between, you know.

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Because I guess the message that came back to you from that senior academic is about the I guess the administrative or workload associated with.

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The resubmission of know the kind of emergent approach to ethical approval and confusing that sense of of workload and box ticking with the actual.

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The fundamental kind of principles of the way that we operate in this environment, and I can see, you know,

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I can really see how this approach or imagine ethics would be crucial not just in terms of conducting research,

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but thinking about how we operate and treat each other as a community.

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Yeah, I mean, I do find it really odd that we we don't have emergent ethics properly.

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No one really talks about it. I can't. And I know a lot.

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I'm always up to conversations like this all the time. But I still can't believe I have a conversation.

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I'm having conversations where I'm still trying to prevent this sort.

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So we're trying to talk about it. It's really strange that this just doesn't happen.

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I think that the university. All university is not just us.

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So everyone and all of the. We need to do more. I mean, we have we got great resources.

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We've got great people in university where we are at the moment, where we've got we've got the governance and ethics manager.

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She's brilliant. She's so good. She's so good. And she is she's always got work to do.

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Surely that says that there is this. So if she's always got work to do.

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There's more scope. There's more things that we can do within ethics that needs to be more people to support this person within her role.

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I don't think many places take it as serious as they as they make it would like us to think.

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I think they just they just do it because I think they have to do it.

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And it's not enough and it's disrespectful to participants or it's disrespectful to any living thing,

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your your doing research on how is the conference going to challenge some of these kind of fundamental issues and flaws in our system,

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in the sector of approaching research ethics? Well, I mean, I don't think as much as it is about challenging.

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I think it's about starting to open up conversations. Yeah, I I've done a little bit of a look around to see what conferences go on.

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I've got a regards to research ethics within the U.K. or England, and there isn't any Ivens.

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I found anything. So I'm trying to open up that debate in conversation to get people to start sharing their stories, to open up networks.

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But what's even more important is keeping the conference free. So it's accessible,

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but also making sure that we invite actively in by organisations within the south west to come along

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for free and to apply for a bursary if they need one or the or if they're self-employed or something,

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where we can we can have Akeda in academia, academics,

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and we can have these professionals in organisations or skilled trades or whatever

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coming here to have or come into the conference to have these conversations.

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I mean, we don't we don't know what's going to happen within the conference call.

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That hasn't never happened yet. But what's really important is starting to open these conversations and start to

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start to ask questions about how we conduct our research ethically that way.

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Yes. Opening up the conversation and getting people to think more about.

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The way they approach ethics within their own research, but also outside as well.

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Yeah, some research cross discipline, looking at everything. Because we don't we don't when when do we ever get the chance to.

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I don't get the chance, for example, to speak someone to who looks at human tissue or animal ethics.

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I'd love to. I would love to be able to take something away. I would never have thought I would actually would work or would work as a form

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of a model which I could adapt to fit within my social science research.

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I think I think that's what we need to do. I think we start open up is really,

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really important conversations because we owe it to the participants of all the animals or to other living things, organisms, whatever.

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We owe it. You can't be can't just take it.

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You can't just do ethics to an ethical obligation to take off and get on with it and never look at it again.

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I think that is I think that's unacceptable. It's a responsibility.

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Of course it is. Yeah, I think you're doing research.

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Usually you should want to feel responsible for the living things and the participants, et cetera.

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You would want to make sure that these people are safe. All these these things are being respected.

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It's complicated, but you can do something about it even if you don't understand it.

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So by having these conversations challenging the status quo on ethics, challenging the ethical panel's challenging,

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why did the organisation or academic institution isn't doing enough for ethics?

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I think all you need to you need to look at everything and constantly thinking challenge.

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You don't ever have to understand that. You just need to be making an effort to protect yourself, funds and everything else.

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I think so. Aside from our responsibility to those involved in our research, whether those be human participants or animal participants or tissues,

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what what has this kind of sense of emergent ethics brought to your research?

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Well, you seem to sort of be saying by having those emergent ethics,

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ethical conversations with individual schools, you if you were getting more information.

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So what's the kind of the the benefits that you're reaping of having that imagine ethical approach?

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I think it's the outcome of my books, I suppose, in my research is following this process.

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My research followed a completely different path now than what I thought it would do.

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So I look, instead of looking at all the negative things which I was going to do,

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is going to look negative and positive things are fundamental British values and schools.

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And putting together this, there is no this just was that and it didn't really add anything.

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It's not it's not as nice as something.

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And if the researchers, the participants upon this research celebrate what they say and actually let's look all the positive things that we do.

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Let's share best practise. Let's look at all the great things that's going on.

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Sure. It takes an appreciative enquiry approach.

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So I'm trying to avoid all the negativity that comes with it and focus on the things that they consider that works well within.

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Why is I'm looking for or looking at. And in the hope to share, to share stuff.

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So I think because I I opened up my ethical and open to ethical discussions with my participants.

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This is what I got out of it. It was too much negativity that surrounds it, but it's something I wanted to look at.

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So I had to question myself, do I need to? I did my questions.

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I need to know all the negative things. And the answer is no, I don't.

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I can look at things positively and appreciate the approach, which is what I've done.

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The other thing is, is I've got offset as well.

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You're who I've met a few times. I've come to the context to meet me, discuss my research because they like the approach I take with it.

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Well, yeah, Wheatley's. And I've also got so the funding for the conference,

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as well as the many of the schools that I've got with they want to or they're looking at some of them are looking at waiving anonymity.

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They want. They want. They want to be known within their search was to have the approach that I'm taking.

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And I think that's all because the ethical process I, I, I took or I'm still taking, we should face it,

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informed me that I shouldn't be taking a negative or looking at this disclose kind of negatively.

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I should be celebrating the great work that they do to an end.

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It's come about that way.

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And it's just I'm quite I mean, I've got a lot I've still got a lot work to finish off all this, but it's it's done me really well.

00:20:53,000 --> 00:20:59,000
And I just feel up to really great relationships with different organisations and groups of people.

00:20:59,000 --> 00:21:05,000
And also my relationships with the participants is excellent. It's really good.

00:21:05,000 --> 00:21:11,000
And they're always positive to add more and get involved. And that's because I've kept them within the process.

00:21:11,000 --> 00:21:15,000
So they've they've been part of the methods, the type the way I collect the data,

00:21:15,000 --> 00:21:20,000
they've been collect the part of the the ethics, the really part of the the at the end as well.

00:21:20,000 --> 00:21:26,000
They've all got a chance to write a thesis about something. I would write about my about that story,

00:21:26,000 --> 00:21:35,000
about the research and what it is they've learnt and how they can do thing might do things differently or all that and that type of stuff.

00:21:35,000 --> 00:21:43,000
So the ethics stuff in it gives you I think it benefits you in more ways than what you actually might think.

00:21:43,000 --> 00:21:48,000
It's not just ethics in looking after people who suspected PPI participants,

00:21:48,000 --> 00:21:53,000
but it's also about the other the other bits I talked about the approach I take and

00:21:53,000 --> 00:21:59,000
appreciate Biglari approach and that that I think that goes hand-in-hand with ethics taken.

00:21:59,000 --> 00:22:09,000
Appreciate the quarry approach. Yeah, and it sounds like the the impact.

00:22:09,000 --> 00:22:14,000
The research has is going to be so much more wide ranging with the way that some

00:22:14,000 --> 00:22:19,000
schools are potentially waiving anonymity and sharing that best practise isn't.

00:22:19,000 --> 00:22:20,000
I was just I was just this one.

00:22:20,000 --> 00:22:26,000
I just think, you know, the other thing is, is the ethics of is still going on right now because of the created 19 thing.

00:22:26,000 --> 00:22:31,000
So we're saying I've still got some information to collect from some of the some schools and teachers,

00:22:31,000 --> 00:22:37,000
etc. But I have to ask myself, is it ethical for me to ask teachers now?

00:22:37,000 --> 00:22:42,000
Yes. They reach interested and carry on with the research, or do I have enough time to do it?

00:22:42,000 --> 00:22:46,000
Well, I could wait and I am waiting. I'm not going to put any more pressure on them.

00:22:46,000 --> 00:22:53,000
They're already under a lot of pressure. What we're teaching union. I also used to be a teacher and I can imagine the pressures are on.

00:22:53,000 --> 00:22:58,000
And I don't think it's ethical for me to continue right now to collect data.

00:22:58,000 --> 00:23:10,000
That's why everything's on hold at the moment. Yeah. And I think particularly with David and the way that the world is shifting.

00:23:10,000 --> 00:23:15,000
Again, these things are going to come more and more crucial because the ways in which we.

00:23:15,000 --> 00:23:21,000
Conduct, race research and the environments in which we work in and the pressures, the pressures that we're under.

00:23:21,000 --> 00:23:25,000
All of that is shifting so massively at the moment.

00:23:25,000 --> 00:23:33,000
And it's shown as well during the P.H. day with especially teachers around schools in the regions of England.

00:23:33,000 --> 00:23:40,000
What I do is I keep a touch base with them and ask are how they are asking if there's anything they would like me to do to support them.

00:23:40,000 --> 00:23:43,000
So I'm doing a few things to support some schools at the moment.

00:23:43,000 --> 00:23:50,000
Mostly is that around is around my research, but creating some sessions with with the teachers there to try and support them.

00:23:50,000 --> 00:23:54,000
And sometimes it's just touching base with them and asking if they're okay and that type of thing.

00:23:54,000 --> 00:24:00,000
Just so you know, I forgot about them. Still, there is no pressure. We don't need to get involved the research yet.

00:24:00,000 --> 00:24:04,000
I know that they know that they need to do it, the things that they have to do.

00:24:04,000 --> 00:24:09,000
And I know that they're waiting. And they did. Yeah.

00:24:09,000 --> 00:24:15,000
It's just been respectful listening. I would always say it's not ethical. That is four steps.

00:24:15,000 --> 00:24:23,000
Yeah. There's something, you know, some perhaps somewhat somewhat ironically, given the kind of fundamental, precious values that you're researching.

00:24:23,000 --> 00:24:27,000
There is something about fundamental value system within this.

00:24:27,000 --> 00:24:34,000
In research about respect for those that are involved in our research and care as well.

00:24:34,000 --> 00:24:39,000
Yes. Seems to be a huge amount of care in the way that you are approaching this.

00:24:39,000 --> 00:24:44,000
Yeah, I mean, it's really I think it is important. I do know that those are people that do come.

00:24:44,000 --> 00:24:51,000
You do care for them. But equally, there are, you know, what is it?

00:24:51,000 --> 00:24:56,000
There are quite a few people that just it's just a hurdle.

00:24:56,000 --> 00:25:05,000
The quality, the ethics or the respect, it's just what they do because they wanna get the research done, not because they actually care about them.

00:25:05,000 --> 00:25:10,000
And it sounds horrible, but I know this because I've had conversations with people about this and I don't.

00:25:10,000 --> 00:25:14,000
I do challenge them on it a little bit, but I didn't go into it too much. But it does sometimes.

00:25:14,000 --> 00:25:18,000
I do have to feel like I need to hold back. I try very hard to hold myself.

00:25:18,000 --> 00:25:25,000
Perhaps before I say something, I. I probably shouldn't say I don't want, sir.

00:25:25,000 --> 00:25:35,000
I don't know. I have issues with it. I'm more. And it's I guess it's finding the right environment in which to challenge that.

00:25:35,000 --> 00:25:41,000
Yeah, yeah. And the conference would be the perfect environment.

00:25:41,000 --> 00:25:46,000
Yeah, absolutely. So when is the conference planned to take place?

00:25:46,000 --> 00:25:51,000
Okay. Yes. So the day is now the 26 of March. It'll be around that day.

00:25:51,000 --> 00:25:57,000
We've got we're getting everything ready. We've got a team of people who are already on it.

00:25:57,000 --> 00:26:04,000
Which is brilliant. I am going to put another call on my first call out for anyone who wants to join the team.

00:26:04,000 --> 00:26:11,000
And that's site that is for us, everybody that says staff and students, because we've got a mixture of staff and students on the team as well.

00:26:11,000 --> 00:26:21,000
Yeah. Twenty six will be all day. But what I want to try and do is to get some organisations in with some decent academics

00:26:21,000 --> 00:26:25,000
from various disciplines or related disciplines to the organisation before the

00:26:25,000 --> 00:26:30,000
conference to do some workshops so we can go on to and trying to promote and highlight a

00:26:30,000 --> 00:26:36,000
conference and also to support organisations as well with with they might need support.

00:26:36,000 --> 00:26:42,000
Well, I could be writing something or poster or it could be just a networking session.

00:26:42,000 --> 00:26:51,000
And then on the day we're going to have a mixture of papers. It can be organisations, local sound institutions from the southwest.

00:26:51,000 --> 00:26:58,000
So but still we accept them if you are invited and academics and students as well.

00:26:58,000 --> 00:27:07,000
This is everybody just open up conversation. And at the end, we we have a drink section that'll be fun.

00:27:07,000 --> 00:27:13,000
And this that's somewhere online at the moment where people can find out information or keep keep up to date with the conference.

00:27:13,000 --> 00:27:23,000
So is that forthcoming? So if that's been made, we've got someone in the committee at the moment who is responsible for social media and the Web site.

00:27:23,000 --> 00:27:27,000
The Web site is a landing page, but it's not. We haven't published it yet.

00:27:27,000 --> 00:27:28,000
It should be published.

00:27:28,000 --> 00:27:38,000
I think in this couple of weeks and that'll be w w w dot research ethics conference, dot dot U.K. and then they'll be up there.

00:27:38,000 --> 00:27:42,000
And then we've got we've got Twitter and Facebook pages as well.

00:27:42,000 --> 00:27:53,000
So imagining that someone listening to this who hasn't really thought about ethics much beyond the kind of procedural institutional processes.

00:27:53,000 --> 00:27:59,000
And what would you say to them? What what do you want? What questions do you want them to ask themselves or to think about?

00:27:59,000 --> 00:28:05,000
I think we just need to think about taking it slow when doing ethics isn't a hurdle.

00:28:05,000 --> 00:28:12,000
And I think in that they do remember that removal is something which is going to affect your participants.

00:28:12,000 --> 00:28:18,000
It is going to affect them. They're involved in issues, are involved in research that in some way they might not be good or bad.

00:28:18,000 --> 00:28:26,000
It might be well could be anything. And I think it's just about making sure that you're mindful of the type of people

00:28:26,000 --> 00:28:33,000
or the type of person that's involved in your research and also speaking to them.

00:28:33,000 --> 00:28:40,000
You can't you can't do ethical. We can't complete an ethical application without finding out if there's any ethical concerns for your participants.

00:28:40,000 --> 00:28:47,000
But you can't access your participants and you've got ethical clearance so you don't get ethical clearance.

00:28:47,000 --> 00:28:52,000
Then you should speak to your participants and you shouldn't look a previous eight or pre talk or something like that,

00:28:52,000 --> 00:28:58,000
anything and just about and build rapport. And you should be doing but take some time to really ask them.

00:28:58,000 --> 00:29:05,000
Is there anything that really worries you about this research that I can do that might make you feel better?

00:29:05,000 --> 00:29:13,000
Is really support. I can give you, you know, that type of thing. And I think it's just take take your time.

00:29:13,000 --> 00:29:17,000
But every time you have an interaction with a participant, just reconsider.

00:29:17,000 --> 00:29:23,000
Is anything changing? If it does change it. And don't forget to write down your thesis.

00:29:23,000 --> 00:29:30,000
Thanks, Warren, for what must be one of the most illuminating discussions I've ever had about research ethics.

00:29:30,000 --> 00:29:38,000
I think the thing that's stuck with me the most is the fundamental thing that research isn't static.

00:29:38,000 --> 00:29:43,000
So why is our approach to research ethics static?

00:29:43,000 --> 00:30:15,636
And that's it for this episode. Don't forget to, like, rate and subscribe and join me next time where I'll be talking to somebody else about researchers, development and everything in between


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