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This paper will explore the complex ethical issues raised when ‘non traditional’ insider research is conducted in sensitive and secretive workplace settings. The paper will outline the experiences of the author between 1996 and 2000 - as a Captain in the Irish Army - when he conducted PhD research into the status and roles assigned female personnel in the Irish military. This research uncovered evidence of the widespread bullying, harassment, sexual harassment and sexual assault of female soldiers, sailors and air crew in the Irish military. The paper will address a number of ethical issues as they apply to the relationship between the university and the researcher. These include the legal and ethical implications of the Official Secrets Act for the gathering of primary and secondary data within the military setting. The paper will also address the specific legal and ethical dilemmas posed by the Official Secrets Act for the examination and publication of such research findings within the university setting. The paper will also explore the ethical dilemmas arising from the researcher’s relationship with his employers - the Irish military authorities - and the research participants who collaborated with the study at considerable risk to themselves, both personally and professionally. The research findings were the focus of saturation coverage in the Irish print and electronic media in August and September of 2001 during which time the author was ostracised by his military colleagues and accused publicly by the Irish military authorities of having ‘fabricated’ his research findings. Arising from these matters the Irish Government commissioned an independent enquiry into the Doctoral Thesis entitled the ‘Study Review Group’. This enquiry reported in March of 2003 and fully vindicated the author’s research methodology and findings. The author also subsequently settled a libel action against the Chief of Staff of the Irish Defence Forces and the Minister for Defence in May of 2005. This paper will explore the many ethical and legal issues raised by the research and will highlight the requirement for the literature on research methodology to directly address the ethical, legal, professional and personal challenges that confront ‘non traditional’ insider researchers resident in the workplace setting.
Clonan, T., 2010: Researcher As Whistleblower: The Ethical Challenges Posed By Sensitive Research, Interdisciplinary Conference, Ethics and The Academy, Salzburg, Austria.