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Disaster Research Ethics

As Hurricane Harvey hits the United States, research will be important to understand what people need, as well as the underlying social, political, economic, infrastructural, and power dynamics at play. This is particularly important for documenting and reporting in terms of uneven distributions of harm within disasters.

Yet, research is not inherently good. After Sandy hit New York City, we saw disaster researchers parachute into hard hit communities, take data, and leave. We saw researchers interview survivors and report survivor insights as their own findings. This is called research theft, and it is usually done by well-intentioned researchers. It is crucial that research ethics in disasters far exceed the usual research ethics set out by universities and other research institutions.

With community input, the following Memorandum of Understanding was designed after Sandy to be a resource for a mutually beneficial researcher-community or academic-activist partnerships. It covers a number of different types of collaborations and partnerships, as well as various issues that might need discussion.

You can download the Template of Memorandum of Understanding for Mutual Aid Research in Disasters here. 

Also see the stable url on our webpage here.