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Anonymity revisited: a case study in mentoring teachers-as-authors

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Today's developing educational leaders must think carefully about the relationship between anonymity and authorship issues, and the career needs of research participants. The way that the contributions of research participants are presented has the potential to further career goals of both academic researchers and those who co-operate with them as participants in their research. An institutional barrier to the sharing of authorship rests in the American Institutional Review Board (IRB) system that requires researchers who use human subjects to abide by confidentiality policies. Such review boards typically require researchers to use subject code numbers or pseudonyms for research participants. The larger picture is that institutions in the USA are held accountable to this federal policy for the protection of human subjects through the establishment of an IRB that upholds the ethical stance of the policy and its constraints. â–˜Human subjectâ–™ is defined by this policy as an individual through whom an investigator obtains data or private information for the purpose of research. â–˜Human subjectâ–™ does not extend, in this definition, to an individual through whom an investigator develops an equal relationship as a co-researcher and co-author. The IRB gatekeeping practice of universities favours and expects the use of participant anonymity. At one level, this value helps to protect participants against potentially damaging consequences of research, but at another level, the disguised or concealed way that participants and their contributions are presented in studies prevents them from speaking for themselves and from gaining the rewards of doing so. The protected stance also sets in motion a socialisation process for investigators who become trained to view the role of participants and their contributions to research in seriously limited ways.

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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Auburn University, USA

Publication date: March 1, 1999

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