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International Development research and COVID-19

Alwand Refugee Camp

The past several months have confronted researchers with both methodological and ethical questions and challenges of whether, and how, to continue with international development projects in the face of an unfolding global pandemic.

Can research that is intended to be participatory be rethought in ways that allow participants in remote locations to have a meaningful say in shaping research design? How can face-to-face methods be adapted or innovated for online use and what are the implications for data collection? What moral issues and obligations arise?

Mobile populations are, arguably, some of the worst affected by the pandemic. Migrants traversing Europe have been identified as extremely vulnerable as they become trapped in transit, in states that are tightening migration policies in ways that may be compromising human rights. An Open University webinar, held on Wednesday 1 July 2020, brought together an inspiring mix of academics and practitioners who probed these questions through their experiences of researching with migrant and forcefully displaced groups.

The following webinar explored four main issues:

  1. The ethical questions and dilemmas of working with vulnerable communities
  2. Implications for participatory approaches and responsibility to participants
  3. The challenges of accessing participants during lockdown
  4. Gendered dimensions of researching remotely


  • Tominke Christine Olaniyan, Director of the Pan African Development Education and Advocacy Programme (PADEAP)
  • Felicity Okoth, Migration Research Consultant at the African Migration and Development Policy Centre (AMADPOC) and a Tutorial Fellow at Moi University, Kenya
  • Dr Margaret Ebubedike, Research Associate in International Education at The Open University
  • Dr Melis Cin, Lecturer in Education and Social Justice at Lancaster University
  • The event was Chaired by Professor Giles Mohan, Director of The Open University’s research network in International Development and Inclusive Innovation

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