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Resources for research Part of series: Research Ethics Case Studies

Research Ethics Case Studies: 2. Researcher wellbeing & international fieldwork

Focussing on an early-career researcher embarking on her first academic role, this second entry in BERA’s  Research Ethics Case Studies series considers the ethical issues that arise not only from the pressures of conducting international fieldwork, but also from the support and self-care needs of less-experienced researchers.

Following the completion of her doctorate, Sonya is excited about starting a 12-month post as a research fellow working on a comparative study of rural schools across Europe. However, once she begins her first two weeks’ of fieldwork in Spain, she faces logistical and cultural challenges that, as the days go by, make her increasingly concerned about her own safety and wellbeing. Addressing these concerns requires Sonya to face up to difficult questions about her relationship with the principal investigator who oversees her work, their obligations to each other, and Sonya’s position as an early-career academic.

Drawing on BERA’s Ethical Guidelines for Educational Research, this case study discusses key ethical issues, including:

  • safeguarding duties towards researchers, and the importance of their physical and psychological wellbeing
  • differences in the roles and working conditions of different researchers, and employers’ responsibilities towards them
  • adapting and being sensitive to different cultural contexts during research
  • researchers’ duty of care to participants – weighing up potential benefits, harms and demands
  • securing and affirming voluntary informed and ongoing consent.


About this series

BERA’s Research Ethics Case Studies series presents illustrative case studies designed to complement BERA’s Ethical Guidelines for Educational Research, fourth edition (2018) by giving concrete examples of how those guidelines can be applied during the research process.

For a full account of ethical best-practice as recommended by BERA we suggest that researchers refer to our Ethical Guidelines, which these case studies are intended to illustrate without themselves offering guidance or recommendations.

Annotations in the margins of each case study document in the series indicate where, among the numbered paragraphs of BERA’s Ethical Guidelines, readers can find our full advice on the issues raised (hyperlinks to the relevant passages are included).


Profile picture of Jodie Pennacchia
Jodie Pennacchia, Dr

Lecturer in Youth Work at Nottingham Trent University

Dr Jodie Pennacchia is a researcher in the policy-sociology of education and youth. She began her career working in learning support roles in mainstream and alternative schools, and has undertaken research across a range of educational contexts....