Science and Engineering Ethics

, Volume 25, Issue 2, pp 477–517 | Cite as

Survey on Using Ethical Principles in Environmental Field Research with Place-Based Communities

  • Dianne QuigleyEmail author
  • Alana Levine
  • David A. Sonnenfeld
  • Phil Brown
  • Qing Tian
  • Xiaofan Wei
Original Paper


Researchers of the Northeast Ethics Education Partnership (NEEP) at Brown University sought to improve an understanding of the ethical challenges of field researchers with place-based communities in environmental studies/sciences and environmental health by disseminating a questionnaire which requested information about their ethical approaches to these researched communities. NEEP faculty sought to gain actual field guidance to improve research ethics and cultural competence training for graduate students and faculty in environmental sciences/studies. Some aspects of the ethical challenges in field studies are not well-covered in the literature. More training and information resources are needed on the bioethical challenges in environmental field research relating to maximizing benefits/reducing risks to local inhabitants and ecosystems from research; appropriate and effective group consent and individual consent processes for many diverse communities in the United States and abroad; and justice considerations of ensuring fair benefits and protections against exploitation through community-based approaches, and cultural appropriateness and competence in researcher relationships.


Bioethical principles Community-based participatory research Cultural competence Diversity Environmental science Environmental studies Field research methods Informed consent Nonmaleficence Research ethics 



Funding was provided by National Science Foundation, Ethics Education in Science and Engineering (EESE) (Grant No. GEO-1338751).


  1. Almany, G. R., Hamilton, R. J., Williamson, D. H., Evans, R. D., Jones, G. P., Matawai, M., et al. (2010). Research partnerships with local communities: Two case studies from Papua New Guinea and Australia. Coral Reefs, 29, 567–576.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Anderson, E. (2013). Views of academic and community partners regarding participant protection and research integrity: A pilot focus group study. Journal of Empirical Research Human Research Ethics, 8(1), 20–31.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Arquette, M., Cole, M., Cook, K., La France, B., Peters, M., Ransom, J., et al. (2002). Holistic risk-based environmental decision-making: A native perspective. Environmental Health Perspective, 110(Suppl. 2), 259–264.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Quigley. (2006). A review of ethical improvements to environmental/public health research: Case examples from native communities. Perspective, Health Education and Behavior, 33(2), 130–147.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Quigley, Sonnenfeld, D., Brown, P., Silka, L., Tian, Q., & He, L. (2016a). Research ethics training on place-based communities and cultural groups. Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences, 6(3), 479–489.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Quigley, Sonnenfeld, D., Brown, P., Silka, L., Tian, Q., & He, L. (2016b). Building cultural competence in environmental studies and natural resource sciences. Society and Natural Resources, 29(6), 725–737.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Quigley, Sonnenfeld, D., Brown, P., Silka, L., Tian, Q., & He, L. (2016c). Applying place to research ethics and cultural competence/humility training. Journal of Academic Ethics, 14, 19–33.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Baydala, L. T., Worrell, S., Fletcher, F., Letendre, S., Letendre, L., & Ruttan, L. (2013). “Making a place of respect” Lessons learned in carrying out consent protocol with first nations elders. Progress in Community Health Partnerships, 7(2), 135–143.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Beauchamp, T., & Childress, J. (2009). Principles of biomedical ethics. London: Oxford University.Google Scholar
  10. Begossi, A. (2008). Local knowledge and training towards management. Environment, Development and Sustainability, 10, 591–603.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Bengston, D. N., Schermann, M., Moua, M., & Lee, T. T. (2008). Listening to neglected voices: Hmong and public lands in Minnesota and Wisconsin. Society and Natural Resources, 21, 876–899.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Bengston, D. N., Schermann, M. A., Hawj F., & Moua, M. (2012). Culturally appropriate environmental education: An example of a partnership with the Hmong American community. Applied Environmental Education & Communication, 11(1), 1–8.Google Scholar
  13. Bento, S. F., Hardy, E., & Jose Duarte Osis, M. (2008). Process for obtaining informed consent: Women’ opinions. Developing World Bioethics, 8, 197–206.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Bezanson, M., Stowe, R., & Watts, S. (2013). Reducing the ecological impact of field research. American Journal of Primatology, 75, 1–9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Brody, J. G., Dunagan, S. C., Morello-Frosch, R., Brown, P., Parron, S., & Rudel, R. A. (2014). Reporting individual results for biomonitoring and environmental exposures: Lessons learned from environmental communication case studies. Environmental Health, 13, 40.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Bromley, E., Mikesell, L., Jones, F., & Khodyakov, D. (2015). Framing health matters. From subject to participant: ethics and the evolving role of community in health research. American Journal of Public Health, 105(5), 900–908.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Chenhall, R., Senior, K., & Belton, S. (2011). Negotiating human research ethics: Case notes from anthropologists in the field. Anthropology Today, 27(5), 13–17.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Cohen, A., Lopez, A., Malloy, N., & Morello-Frosch, R. (2012). Community-based participatory environmental health survey in Richmond, California. Health Education & Behavior, 39(2), 198–209.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Corrigan, P., Pickett, S., Kraus, D., Burks, R., & Schmidt, A. (2015). Community-based participatory research examining the health care needs of African Americans who are homeless with mental illness. Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved, 26, 119–133.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Council for International Organizations of Medical Sciences (CIOMS). (1991/2008). International ethical guidelines for biomedical research involving human subjects. Geneva.Google Scholar
  21. Crozier, G. K. D., & Schulte-Hostedde, A. I. (2015). Towards improving the ethics of ecological research. Science Engineering Ethics, 21, 577–594.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Dangles, O., Carpio, F. C., Villares, M., Yumisaca, F., Liger, B., Rebaudo, F., et al. (2010). Community based participatory research helps farmers and scientists to manage invasive pests in the Ecuadorian Andes. Ambio, 39(4), 325–335.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Dougill, J., Nshimbi, M., Chama, F., Falcao, M., Munyemba, F., Syampungani, S., et al. (2014). Assessing participatory practices in community-based natural resource management: Experiences in community. Journal of Environmental Management, 137, 137–145.Google Scholar
  24. Emanuel, E., Wendler, D., Killen, J., Grady, C., Emanuel, E., Wendler, D., et al. (2004). What makes clinical research in developing countries ethical? The benchmarks of ethical research. Journal of Infectious Disease, 189, 930–937.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Engels, J. M. M., Dempewolf, H., & Henson-Apollonio, V. (2011). Ethical considerations in agrobiodiversity research, collecting, and use. Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics, 24, 107–126.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Flicker, S., & Worthington, C. A. (2012). Public health research involving aboriginal peoples: Research ethics board Stakeholders' reflections on ethics principles and research processes. Canadian Journal of Public Health / Revue Canadienne de Santé Publique 103(1), 19–22.Google Scholar
  27. Folayan, M. O., Oyedejo, K. S., & Fatusi, O. A. (2015). Community members’ engagement with involvement in genomic research: Lessons to learn from the field. Developing World Bioethics, 15(1), 1–7.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Foster, M. W., Sharp, R., Freeman, W., Chino, M., Bernsten, D., & Carter, T. (1999). The role of community review in evaluating the risks of human genetic variation research. American Journal of Human Genetics, 64, 1720.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Freire, P. (1970). Pedagogy of the Oppressed. New York: Seabury Press.Google Scholar
  30. Gbadegesin, S., & Wendler, D. (2006). Protecting communities from exploitation. Bioethics, 20(5), 248.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Guthman, J. (2008). Bringing good food to others: Investigating the subjects of alternative food practice. Cultural Geographies, 15, 431–47. doi: Accessed January 3, 2014.
  32. Hall, T., Engebretson, J., O’Rourke, M., Piso, Z., Whyte, K., & Valles, S. (2017). The need for social ethics in interdisciplinary environmental science graduate programs: Results from a nation-wide survey in the United States. Science and Engineering Ethics, 23, 565–588.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Harding, A., Harper, B., Stone, D., O’Neill, C., Berger, P., Harris, S., et al. (2012). Conducting research with tribal communities: Sovereignty, ethics, and data-sharing issues (Commentary). Environmental Health Perspectives, 120(1), 6–10.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Hugman, R., Bartolomei, L., & Pittaway, E. (2011). Human agency and the meaning of informed consent: Reflections on research with refugees. Journal of Refugee Studies, 24(4), 655–671.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Hyder, A. & Wali, S. (2006). Informed consent and collaborate research: perspectives from the developing world. Developing World Bioethics, 6, 33–40.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. International Society for Ethnobotany, Code of Ethics; at
  37. Johnson-Shelton, D., Moreno-Black, G., Ever, C., & Zwink, N. (2015). A community-based participatory research approach for preventing childhood obesity: The communities and schools together project. Progress in Community Health Partnerships, Research, Education and Action, 9(3), 351–361.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Kalabuanga, M., Ravinetto, R., Maketa, V., Mavoko, H. M., Fungala, B., da Luz, R. I., et al. (2016). The challenges of research informed consent in socio-economically vulnerable populations: A viewpoint form the democratic Republic of Congo. Developing World Bioethics 1471–8847 (online) 16(2), pp 64–69.Google Scholar
  39. Kearney, J., Wiber, M., Charles, A., & Berkes, F. (2009). Enhancing community empowerment through participatory fisheries research. Marine Policy, 33, 172–179.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Kimmerer, R. (2000). Native knowledge for native ecosystem. Journal of Forestry, 98, 8.Google Scholar
  41. Lambert, T. W., Guyn, L., & Lane, S. E. (2006). Development of local knowledge of environmental contamination in Sydney, Nova Scotia: Environmental health practice from an environmental justice perspective. Science of the Total Environment, 368(2006), 471–484.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Marsh, H., & Kensington, R. (2004). The role of ethics in experimental marine biology and ecology. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology, 300, 5–14.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. McCabe, M., Morgan, F., Curley, H., Begay, R., & Gohdes, D. (2005). The informed consent process in a cross-cultural setting: Is the process achieving the intended result? Ethnicity and Disease, 15, 300–304.Google Scholar
  44. Measham, T. G., Richards, C., Robinson, C. J., Larson, S., & Brakes, L. (2011). Genuine community engagement in remote dryland regions: Natural resource management in Lake Eyre basin. Geographical Research, 49(2), 171–182.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Menzie, C. (2006). Traditional ecological knowledge and natural resource management. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.Google Scholar
  46. Mercer, J., Kelman, I., Taranis, L., & Suchet-Pearson, S. (2010). Framework for integrating indigenous and scientific knowledge for disaster risk reduction. Disasters, 34(1), 214–239.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Minkler, M., & Wallerstein, N. (2003). Community-based participatory research for health. San Francisco: Josey-Bass.Google Scholar
  48. Minteer, B. A., & Collins, J. P. (2008). From environmental to ecological ethics: toward a practical ethics for ecologists and conservationists. Science Engineering Ethics, 14, 483–501.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Mountjoy, N., Seekamp, E., Davenport, M., & Whiles, M. (2013). The best laid plans: Community-based natural resource management (CBNRM) group capacity and planning success. Environmental Management, 52, 1547.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. National Bioethics Advisory Commission (NBAC). (1999). Research involving human biological materials: ethical issues and policy guidance. Report and Recommendations (vol. 1). Rockville, MD.,.
  51. National Bioethics Advisory Commission (NBAC). (2001). Ethical policy issues in international research: clinical trails in developing countries. Report and Recommendations of the National Bioethics Advisory Commission (vol. 1). Bethesda, MD: NBAC.,.
  52. Rashad, A. M., MacVane Phipps, F., & Haith-Cooper, M. (2004). Obtaining informed consent in an Egyptian research study. Nursing ethics, 11(4), 394–399.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Raymond, C. M., Fazey, I., Reed, M. S., Lindsay, D., Stringer, C., Robinson, G. M., et al. (2010). Integrating local and scientific knowledge for environmental management. Journal of Environmental Management, 91, 1766–1767.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Roburn, S., & T. Hwech’in Heritage Dept. (2012). Weathering changes: Cultivating local and traditional knowledge of environmental change in Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in traditional territory. Arctic, 65(4), 439–455.Google Scholar
  55. Rowbotham, M., Astin, J., Greene, K., & Cummings, S. R. (2013). Interactive informed consent: Randomized comparison with paper consents. PLOS One, 8(3), 1–6.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Ruiz-Cadsares, M. (2014). Tailor informed-consent processes. Nature, 513(18), 304.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Scanlon, M., & Braitstein, P. (2012). A qualitative study using traditional community assemblies to investigate community perspectives on informed consent and research participation in Western Kenya. BMC Medical Ethics, 13, 23.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Schrag, B. (2006). Research with groups: Group rights, group consent, and collaborative research. Science and Engineering Ethics, 12, 511–521.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Shafiq, N., & Malhotra, S. (2011). Ethics in clinical research: Need for assessing comprehension of informed consent form? Contemporary Clinical Trials, 32, 169–172.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Shore, N, Brazauskas, R., Drew, E., Wong, K. A., Moy, L., Baden, A. C., Cyr, K., Ulevicus, J., & Seifer, S. D. (2011). Understanding Community-Based Processes for Research Ethics Review: A National Study. American Journal of Public Health. Supplement 1, Vol 101, No. S1.Google Scholar
  61. Strauss, R., Sengupta, S., Crouse Quinn, S., Goeppinger, J., Spaulding, C., Kegeles, S. M., et al. (2001). The role of community advisory boards: Involving communities in the informed consent process. American Journal of Public Health, 91(12), 1938–1943.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Society for Applied Anthropology, A Worldwide Organization for the Applied Social Sciences—About SAA, Ethics. at
  63. Society for Conservation Biology. At
  64. Taylor, H. A., Faden, R. R., & Kass, N. E. (2008). The ethics of public health research. Moral obligations to communities. International Encyclopedia of Public Health, 3, 496–503.Google Scholar
  65. Thering, S. (2011). A methodology for a scholarship of transdisciplinary action research in the design professions: Lessons from Indian country. Landscape Journal, 30(1), 133–147.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Vreeman, R., Kamaara, E., Kamanda, A., Ayuki, D., Nyandiko, W., Atwoli, L., et al. (2013). THE (Trade, Health, Environment) impact project: A community-based participatory research environmental justice case study. Environmental Justice, 6, 17–26.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Yi, L. (2011). Translating interviews, translating lives: Ethical considerations in cross-language narrative inquiry. TESL Canada Journal, 28(SI5), 16.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Science and Technology StudiesBrown UniversityProvidenceUSA
  2. 2.State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry (SUNY-ESF)SyracuseUSA
  3. 3.Social Science Environmental Health Research InstituteNortheastern UniversityBostonUSA
  4. 4.Science and Technology StudiesProvidenceUSA

Personalised recommendations