Publication Details

Whelan, A. (2018). Ethics Are Admin: Australian Human Research Ethics Review Forms as (Un)Ethical Actors. Social Media and Society, 4 (2), 1-9.


In Australian universities, social research projects secure institutional approval as ethical through research ethics committees, and are defined and communicated to these committees through standardized local application forms. In organizational terms, ethics are instituted first as an administrative ritual anterior to research, and routinely elided as such. The documentation constituting this ritual thus bears scrutiny, in terms of what it says and what it does, and in turn, what it requires applicants to say and do. Such scrutiny is a means of fleshing out the standard critique of prospective ethics review from social media researchers: that the opportunity for a proper conversation about research ethics in the community of researchers is supplanted by an administrative exercise in "box ticking." This paper discusses these ethics application forms, attending specifically to the ethical consequences of the stance they require the applicant to take with respect to prospective research participants, and the implications of their formulation of research as a process of data extraction.



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