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Strictly Confidential? Integrity and the Disclosure of Criminological and Socio-Legal Research

Israel, M.ORCID: 0000-0002-1263-8699 (2004) Strictly Confidential? Integrity and the Disclosure of Criminological and Socio-Legal Research. British Journal of Criminology, 44 (5). pp. 715-740.

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When people allow researchers to investigate them, they often negotiate terms for the agreement. Participants in research may, for example, consent on the basis that the information obtained about them will be used only by the researchers and only in particular ways. The information is private and is voluntarily offered to the researcher in confidence. Researchers can justify protecting confidentiality by appealing to consequentialist-, rights- or fidelity-based arguments. Failure to respect confidentiality might not only affect one research project, but could have a ‘chilling effect’ on all criminological research. However, various researchers working in criminology, socio–legal studies and related fields have come under institutional, legal, physical and ethical pressures to disclose confidential information. They have been subpoenaed, imprisoned and have faced threats from armed drug dealers. To protect their sources, they have lied to correctional authorities, prosecutors and police (as well as to armed drug dealers). Drawing on an international literature, I examine some of the legal and methodological measures that researchers have taken to protect data, as well as some of the rationales that might justify disclosing information given in confidence by research participants.

Item Type: Journal Article
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Copyright: © 2004 the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies (ISTD)
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