An Ethics Journey: Ethical Governance of Social Research with Vulnerable Adults and the Implications for Practice
In this chapter we consider the challenges associated with seeking to undertake social research in health and social care settings when vulnerable older adults are involved. Our theme of the ethics journey is developed in a number of ways during our discussion but relates particularly to our experience of seeking formal ethical approval for a piece of qualitativelydriven research into the everyday lives of people with dementia. The journey in question, as we describe and discuss below, involved the step-by-step negotiation of a time-and labour-intensive passage from the preparation of an initial application to the final awarding of ethical approval that enabled us to commence our research. In seeking to make sense of this experience, we draw particularly upon the writings of the queer sociologist and critical humanist Ken Plummer (2001) whose own work highlights the long-running tensions between ‘ethical absolutists’ and ‘situational relativists’ and who subsequently calls for ‘narratives of research ethics and communities of research stories’ (p. 227) as a response to the ethical challenges of social research.