For the past few months, members of the NOISE Project have been coding responses from interviews that were conducted over the summer. During the coding process, we scan interview answers for their main ideas, and then assign them words or phrases that capture these main themes. These words and phrases are called codes. For more information on coding, check out the video on box here! Each week, we’ll outline our “Moment of the Week,” in which we share an interesting coding discussion. Here’s this week’s!
What They Said
Question: “Can you share your ideas about equity in scientific research?”
Interviewee Answer: “So, you know, I think that’s one of the real powers of these CBOs is you don’t go into communities and tell them the research that they need and what you’re going to be doing. You go into communities and you ask them what’s going on for them and what their needs are and you engage with them on that human level.”INTERVIEWEE
How We Coded It
Here, the interviewee describes the different ways that research is conducted by scientific institutions, and discusses the way in which a method of research in which the institution actively engages with community members is preferable to a method of research in which communities are simply told “the research that they need.”
Note that the interviewee describes the way that research is normally done by scientific institutions–this represents the status-quo. Then, in the next sentence, they outline their vision for the way in which scientific research should be conducted. Because of the fact that their vision differs significantly from the norm, we coded this status-quo resist.
We had a very interesting discussion as to whether the method of research outlined in the second sentence, “You go into communities and you ask them what’s going on for them and what their needs are and you engage with them on that human level,” is a form of paternalism or not. We use Tema Okun’s definition of paternalism, which can be found here.
- Ultimately, the fact that the lab feels that they can “go into communities” can be seen as a form of paternalism, even if the lab genuinely engages with the community and accounts for their needs. By making the decision to enter a community, the lab uses its power to make a decision that will affect a given group of people, without that group of people’s explicit consent. In other words, the decision-making process was clear to the lab–they decided to enter a community–but unclear to the individuals within that community, making this a form of paternalism. We applied the code paternalism.
- From this answer, we observe that an action can be paternalistic even if the action is well-meaning, and even if the end result of the action is beneficial for both parties. The key is that if an action does not explicitly involve the consent of all individuals involved, it will still be paternalistic. In other words, whenever the lab makes a decision on behalf of a community–for instance, the decision to “go into” that community–the lab will be acting paternalistically.
Question for thought:
Think about mission trips and volunteer tourism in third world countries. Is this a form of paternalism? Why or why not?
Do you agree with the codes we applied? Do you disagree? Are you comfortable with the thought process that took place? Let us know!