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Research ethics and community engagement

12 June 2012
12:30 - 13:30

The word “community” carries a particular connotation in South African political discourse. Professor Harold Annegarn would like to use the term in a broader, plain English context, to denote a group of individuals linked by a common bond of kith and kin, cultural, economic or professional shared interest.

The shared bond differentiates the members and group from others, the outsiders. Although intangible in nature, communities possess many attributes shared with individuals – personality, whims, traditions, sensitivities, memory, ambitions – that need to be recognised by any outsiders wishing to engage with a community. As with direct human interactions, the rules of engagement fall within the knowledge field of ethics. How ought individuals to engage with communities? How ought communities to engage with each other? Within the domain of academic research, there are scaled hierarchies of communities, from small villages in rural Africa (who find themselves as the hapless subjects of prurient academic curiosity), to the great scientific societies of the western world.

In this seminar Professor Harold Annegarn will argue that scientific engagement with communities can seldom reach the rarified perfection of idealized scientific objectivity and neutrality. He will explore some of the ethical practices and dilemmas that have evolved in the practice of nominally value-free physical and chemical studies of the Earth and natural systems, making reference to the power dynamics between research and researched communities, and between players in different ranks within research community hierarchies. From this evolve a series of ethical guidelines for engaging communities. 

Kindly RSVP by 10 June 2012

Cape Town : HSRC, 12th Floor, Plein Park Building (Opposite Revenue Office), Plein Street, Cape Town. Contact Vuyokazi Ngxubaza, Tel (021) 4668004, Fax (021) 461 0299, or, Cell: 082 0508453

Durban :  First floor HSRC board room, 750 Francois Road, Ntuthuko Junction, Pods 5 and 6, Cato Manor, Contact Ridhwaan Khan, Tel (031) 242 5400, cell: 083 788 2786 or

Pretoria : HSRC Video Conference, 1st floor HSRC Library Human Sciences Research Council, 134 Pretorius Street, Pretoria. Arlene Grossberg, Tel: (012) 302 2811, e-mail: