A conflict sensitive approach is relevant for both the impact of research on the context as well as for the security of the persons involved in research. Particularly when research is securitized (by demand of stakeholders, following protocols that were intended for other contexts/other institutions), you need to assess how this affects implementation and your research results.
- What are adequate personal safety and data security measures (for researchers and participants, both local and international)?
- What security protocols exist? What social control that helps your safety exists?
- Are vulnerable populations or individuals involved? What are safeguards to avoid harm?
- Are security measures budgeted and feasible in the respective context (i.e. telephone and internet connections, access to security and digital infrastructure)?
- Which (local/international) institutes have capacity to deliver security support?
- Conduct a risk assessment with everyone concerned, including the questions above and points below.
- Maintain a large network to regularly access local and international sources of information on safety and security.
- Link and adhere to the security protocols of your partner organisation, particularly if your research institution is not familiar with the local situation or unable to support you in case of security accidents.
- Institutions may offer safety and security training for their researchers.
- Make a well-informed choice between a «securitized» (police escorts, armed protection, etc.) and a low profile (no protection, «local» appearance, etc.) approach. Both have advantages and disadvantages.
- Refrain from personal relationships with actors in conflict contexts.
- Organize conferences in secure places that both local and international researchers can access.
- Ensure sensitive data management and anonymization of sources. Prepare (with your research partners and funding institution) on how to react in case research data ends up in the wrong hands.
- Be aware that expensive research equipment could be a security liability in a context prone to theft.
“Many of the researchers we work with are nationals who don’t live there anymore. So, they know the context well. However, as we are dealing with authoritarian regimes, there is a lot of control over research, and it’s crucial not to jeopardize researchers’ safety.”
“Pushing for access to get information is problematic. In some contexts, people might feel uncomfortable to say no to a well-educated researcher instead of prioritising safety of interviewers (e.g. Asia). If researchers would conduct joint analyses, this would reduce risks. But nobody would want to share data, because that information builds careers.”