Who controls research and how?
The notion of control in research is a complicated one. At an obvious
level research which is funded by commissioning bodies is almost fully
controlled by them. In the first instance they decide or agree to what
is to be researched. Often there are tightly worded contracts which
control both the methods and the outputs. Resistance to receiving the
findings of the research or not publishing research reports which do
not accord with a funder's current philosophies and policies are obvious
ways of exerting control, and have implications for academic freedom.
Significant research findings may be withheld or remain out of the public
However, power operates in complex ways and researchers also have to
accept responsibility for the control they exert in the research process.
The questions that are asked, the way that they are asked and the people
chosen to be research respondents or participants obviously influence
what is learned in the research. Similarly the interpretation of research
results by both funders and researchers has been criticised, especially
by feminist researchers, as a way of controlling the information. For
example feminist commentators pointed out that research findings from
groups of men were often used to describe the experiences of women (Stanley
and Wise, 1983). Jenny Morris has made similar criticisms of the
effects of research on disabled people (Morris,
1993). The section on ‘making sense of research’ gives
you more clues in how to identify bias or misrepresentation of research
Such criticisms have led to the call for the involvement of users in
the research process in a more active way (Beresford
and Croft,2001). Such involvement can be exercised at different
levels. Care has to be taken to ensure that this type of involvement
is presented clearly so that users are not misled or tokenised. Giving
users a greater say in the research process inevitably means the researchers
having to relinquish some control.