How is being anonymized or named in research described? Moralized?


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Angela Okune's picture
March 13, 2020

AO: The interlocutor raised the double bind of anonymization of qualitative data:

"BC-MW-F-S-02 6:01
So internally I would want all of this information. So when even I can see anonymized male, anonymized ministry...I would probably want to know that information so that I know that if we've gone to this person more than once with different research projects, or if I want to do something on a particular ministry, I know how to identify that. So that would be for internal use. But for external use then I think...this is tricky because the location that you have that could be of interest to someone so taking away is a loss of... so I don't know whether you could... hmmm... this is a very tricky one because the more information you give the easier it is identify that person, but then the less information you give them...

Angela Okune 6:44
the less value it is for the researcher.

BC-MW-F-S-02 6:46
Exactly. Yeah."

Angela Okune's picture
February 20, 2020

AO: This quote highlights how being named in a research report (especially in multiple reports on the same topic/field) can help signal a respondent's expertise on a particular topic and may increase their standing and authority within the community on that particular topic. It can also further increase the report's credibility as well. Interestingly, despite saying this, the particular respondent did not want to be named and opted to be anonymous.

“I am telling you that, this is like the...I have done four researches where I have provided my emails, and I'm not asking them, they're telling me "now this information is so helpful. We're going to put it together and share it with you." I didn't expect much but just to participate for... you know, it's also important it reaches a level for us as researchers, in Kibera, or leaders, where we would prefer that some documents are quoted with us. You know, because it's professional, it's information based. And as a leader, if a document for example, raises about the level of sanitation, the level of governance is quoted on your name, in Kibra it gives you credibility. You know, on your leadership. [Others make sounds that show agreement]. Yeah, hence I was saying facts. You provide facts and its facts that can be referred to. You know.” (KPKMU09 1:03 October 29, 2018)

Angela Okune's picture
January 28, 2020

AO. Despite stating their desire to be anonymous, participant #KPKMU09 wrote out their whole name in a legible format on the consent form. (I had given verbal directions to those who wished to be anonymous not to write in their names and stated that I would write in a participant number instead afterwards). Ideally, this form should have been redesigned so as not to ask for names if one wishes to be anonymous. But as it was the officially approved IRB form, this example illustrates some of the cracks where formal mechanisms for protection may not be sufficient. It would not be hard to imagine how a larger sample size and less careful attention to explicit/implict patient desires and individual/collective risks might lead to a bulk uploading of such consent forms and increased exposure to individual and collective risks. Thus, taking the practices as I attempted in this project as "best practice" and scaling them up in other projects may not in fact be advisable nor desirable. I hope this example helps reveal the entanglements caught up in concepts like Open Data and how such "experiments" within the ethnographic endeavor (asking participants for their desired level of sharing, uploading and sharing materials including consent forms) should be seen as emergent forms rather than fixed targets or clear criteria to be achieved within careful consideration.

Angela Okune's picture
January 28, 2020
In response to:

AO: While we were going over the options covered within the consent form after the interview, this individual, who throughout the interview was all for openness, was also very willing to be named and did not see a reason to be anonymized. However, as I was uploading the consent form into this RDS platform, I grappled with whether or not to leave them named or use my researcher's perogative to anonymize them. I eventually opted to redact the name from the consent form because all of the other interviews conducted with individuals within the organization were anonymized as per the research participants' wishes. Naming this person would lead to the research organization easily being identified. Once the research organization was identified, it would be much easier to potentially identify the other research participants interviewed. Therefore, unlike some of the other cases (link to this focus group where some participants explicitly stated their desire to be named) where I decided not to over-ride the wishes of the research participants stated desire to be named as I did not believe there was a risk for others to be identified in the group, in this case, I decided to exert my researcher's perogative and redact the name in order to protect those who wished to remain anonymous.

Angela Okune's picture
January 16, 2020

AO: This excerpt from the discussion describes the surprise that two of the Kibera residents felt when they found their names mentioned in research reports. One person mentions that his name is in 15 reports. This seems to illustrate a point made by Bradbury-Jones and Weber (2019) who describe researchers' use of the same key informants as a short-cut to finding new participants. The report attributes this to the popularization of research that includes "community participation" without really adhering to what such terms stand for: "‘who is this community? Because the word is always community, participatory; but you find it is always the same gatekeepers’ (Interview 13 June)," (page 7).

Douglas and Micera mention that they are named (or depicted by photo) in various research outputs. While they take slight issue with the lack of consent, their biggest concern is more about the fact that despite these outputs, they don't see anything changing in their community. Notably, here Micera does not speak as an individual but speaks in the plural for the group ("it's not changing where the environment that we are in"). She describes this as "famous with nothing" - being represented in research outputs prolifically but that not translating into anything tangibly different in one's day-to-day life.

"Douglas Mamale

... I have just discovered that my name has been used in so many publications.

Angela Okune 3:18
Ah? Your names?

Douglas Mamale 3:19
Yeah, my names. I think in more than 15 different publications.

Angela Okune 3:25
15? Woah! Those are many!

Douglas Mamale 3:31
The only one that I think was quite (inaudible) cautious enough was a paper done by World Bank. That one mentioned my name... (inaudible)

Angela Okune 3:53
as like a thank you?

Douglas Mamale 3:54

Angela Okune 3:56
So how does that make you feel? To see your name? You feel famous or you feel used? [all laugh]

Micera Wanjiru 4:01
[Lots of murmuring] No, it's not the famous one... [all laugh].

Douglas Mamale 4:03
Ok, you know, based on the many I've seen, that one was the most honest. The most honest. Yes. (inaudible). Because I've participated in many others and you even don't know where the figures are or how the data looks like and all that. And you don't even know the value of all of this. So sometimes, if somebody calls and tells you they also want to talk to you... unaelewa (Swahili: you understand?) you are like, ok, another one? [all murmur in agreement, laugh].

Micera Wanjiru 4:37
I think when you find - like I was reading a certain report it is not yet released and i saw my photo there  - and I'm like, now you haven't told me that I'm in your report. But anyway. There's that feeling of ok this is good, you're making me famous but again on the other side, you are famous with nothing.

Female Respondent

Ai! With nothing! That is your view?

Micera Wanjiru

Yes, that is my view. Because when you participate in so many things and you don't know what is happening and it's not changing where the environment that we are in, you feel like wasted. You keep on asking questions, but this data will go...? The one who takes data will never come back to us like okay, we took this and these are the results. So you feel wasted."