Research Ethics in the MENA Region (REMENA)

Principal Investigator

Project Description

The proposed project will establish a program based at Columbia University, working with the Global Centers in Amman and Tunis, as well as the Political Science Department of the American University in Cairo, to animate an interdisciplinary network of scholars to explore the landscape of social science research conducted in the Arab world, particularly some of the ethical, political and economic challenges to conducting research responsibly. Although efforts to support and enhance “international quality” social science research on and in the region are increasing—the Arab Council for the Social Sciences in Beirut, which was partly incubated by the USbased Social Science Research Council, has provided funding and networking for social science research for almost a decade, for example—the impact of this support has been modest. As Al-Fanar Media reported in December 2019, a recent survey of research scholars in the Arab world showed that more than 90 percent want to leave the region and would accept a permanent position abroad. This project seeks to situate these contradictory trends within a region where social science research has been debilitated for decades. Foreign (and too often paternalistic) dominance of the disciplines, regional government skepticism about the research enterprise and, most recently, the rise of consultants who provide bespoke research for governments, international organizations and private enterprises all represent challenges to the scholarly research enterprise. How does this context shape career opportunities, prospects for dissemination of research, indeed, even topics chosen and avoided, methods selected and disdained? And, equally important, in their efforts to foster high quality research, what responsibilities do researchers who work in and on the region have to each other and to the broader academic communities of which they are a part?