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The Politics of Research Methods

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As far as politics is related to research, the matter in question is how much can be done to increase peace and reduce conflict as possible. The traditional and early argument concerning politics of research was that it should be a struggle to be objective and scientific by following assumptions and practices of natural sciences, through positivism which is a philosophical stand. Exploring matters of politics of research moots a wide range of debates and questions. To make discussions about the politics of Research methods in relation to conflict and peace studies and perhaps more interesting, it is important to look at politics of research via the typical lens of power.  Power is the predominant theme which determines who does the research, how and when Werbner, P. (2010).  The politics of research fundamentally disintegrate into power dynamics outside and within the academy.  In this way, most probably research is seen as a socially fabricated process, where professional networks, religious organizations or individuals negotiate regarding who does what, and which processes or conditions of the decree will either empower or constrain the researcher. In this case, this negotiation process may be covered up in the establishment of bureaucratic documentation processes, particularly through ethical endorsement forms or funding applications. Nevertheless, the process is still negotiation despite the varying levels of power used, by constituencies and agents, to shape the outcome and process. The purpose of paper is to discuss the politics of Research methods in relation to conflict and peace studies. The study will observe how power shapes politics of research considering the fact that struggle for power is the main reason of conflict in the society. The discussion will describe politics with lower case and politics with upper p and show how change of case creates a new aspect to the way power influences research process (Finch, 2009).

Politics – upper-case ‘P’

Research process costs money and human resources. Therefore, decisions concerning who will be financed, and the amount of money is released are generally political. Charities and academic research councils among other sponsors make decisions on how much money is spent on research based on interest of the academic community, trustees, policy makers or government officials. This decision-making process reflects contemporary assumptions concerning what should or should not be funded or researched.  Although reference terms for main initiatives are enticed in consultation with the senior academics, in some occasions policy considerations influence the decisions. For instance, the research started by ESRC which focused on security challenges and Islamic radicalization was politically influenced.  In her article in the, Current Anthropology,  Werbner Pnina  has revealed the politics behind this funding program (Werbner, 2010).  The author notes that the research results were biased and did not give the true picture of security challenges. In fact, the academic community criticized some of the dangers and assumptions exposed in this research (Werbner, 2010). It is dangerous for to have political influence in research as this influences the results and gives false recommendations. In case of conflict, a politically influenced research gives wrong causes of the conflict, thereby giving wrong methods of resolution. Sometimes, social sciences and humanities are not funded as they do not meet the needs of policy makers or political leaders at that time. This becomes unethical and morally unacceptable as it fails the academic community. However, the struggle for power and desire to remain in power for ever does not allow policy makers to allow research that reveals their back to continue. Therefore, they cannot fund it (Werbner, 2010).  

In recent years, it has become an ethical dilemma on whether to accept funding of research and adjust your goals to fit those of the financer, or cancel the whole research instead of conducting a biased research. This is as a result of the influence of policy makers in research. For instance, the Muslims and Islam issue in Britain require researchers to participate through government funded programs such as evaluation surveys, research projects and consultative groups.  The funding is channeled through the Local Government and Communities aiming to prevent violent extremism policy objectives.  In fact, most of the continuous conflicts between and among communities, religious groups and organizations fail to be solved because of politically influenced research (Finch, 2009). Researchers are funded to come up with biased causes of the disagreement and ultimately biased resolution methods. Mostly, government or politically funded programs place academics in complicate political territory and increases chances of conflict. Whenever research is not funded for any reason be it political or apolitical, it becomes an obstacle in the academic career.

Politics – lower-case ‘p’

At the beginning, it is important for researchers and academics to document work they did not do, side by side with the achievement they made.  Documenting these blind-alleys, the refutations of access to research sites, and other difficulties experienced, may help future scholars to anticipate what kind of issues and problems they may encounter that may have political relations. Through not hearing reports of unsuccessful research, logic of the research field in whole is denied, and the how it can be amended through reliance on studies that were undertaken and did not present intractable difficulties. Approaches textbooks incline to give somewhat idealized notions of research as a tidy, neat, and normally unproblematic linear procedure.  It is inevitable that there are a number of challenges associated with research and fieldwork at large. Therefore, it would be advisable for professional researchers to document these problems since a huge number of scholars rely upon their research reports. Supposedly, research politics with a trifling ‘p’ is basically about the progressions of getting out, getting in, and getting on the arena, and all these stages are molded through power dynamics.  Documenting about the structural or personal factors, which have enabled or constrained is important (Peshkin, 1984).   

The Muslim ministers walk a tightrope between priorities, the expectations, and political concerns relating to Muslims, and organizations that employ and recompense them.  The logic of trying to join two communally exclusive realms is a familiar idea in chaplaincy trainings. Ministers from all religious communities often describe the tension of serving God, on one hand, opposed to the exigencies of secular organizations, on the contrary. Presumably, there are interesting analogies in the circumstances of the minister and the experimental researcher. This is because all are managing situations of indecisiveness, usually made complex through the politics of different organizations (Finch, 2009).

As Peshkin’s critique implies, experimental researchers rarely fully insiders, nor fully outsiders, but commonly somewhere in-between, while they pursue to gather worthy data without ‘being native’ while also maintaining a level of reflexive self-awareness and critical distance about the effect that research procedures will have on them, as well as on the research contributors.  Going through this tightrope of indecisiveness seems to encompass the ability to manage perpetually a single’s researcher self’, and a single’s human self, with honesty, integrity, and professionalism.  It is tasking, and, unfortunately, to the researchers, new issues and challenges arise with every project undertaken (Peshkin, 1984).  Nevertheless, likened to early 1990s researchers currently can access a growing organization of social technical writing that is far well above the ‘cookbook’ method that is the archetypal of some research approach textbooks. Currently, there is a growing organization of significant new writing that is critically reflecting and documenting upon the political and ethical scopes of being a researcher.  Commencing such wider reflection contains a continuing responsibility for all, offering the latent for noble acumens into the process and context of work and opportunities to re-obligating to what is highly valued.

Conclusion

In conclusion, conflict refers to the disagreement between or among parties over incompatible goals. On the other hand, peace refers to harmonious existence between and among parties. Research is the deep study conducted to bridge a gap in knowledge. The results of empirical studies of any set of occurrences, whether investigating processes, structures or combinations of the two, are affected by the theoretical structure and the research methods applied. This paper discusses the politics of Research methods as it relates to conflict and peace studies. It examines the effect of political influence to research methods, and how the phenomena under investigation are defined, measured, interpreted and conceptualized in favor of the policy makers. In recent research, quantitative, qualitative, and mixed methods research is currently subject to politics. Impoverished and inconsistent research might be the consequence, especially for the mixed methods research. Politicians and government officials are known to fund researches only if the results will favor them. This makes the researcher change his/her goals to fit the needs of the funding program or else the program is not funded. In conflict and war environments, it becomes hard to resolve conflict and gain peace again if the research conducted is biased. Unfortunately, leaders value power than peace. They do their best to remain in power as much as possible. This is why some humanities and social sciences are not funded.

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