Public Statement on care and ethical practice

(published on 21/04/2021)

Purpose: to make public our intentions to work ethically and with care for the people we work with and the places we work in.

We commit to working with respect for diversity, equality and human rights, and social and environmental responsibility.  We have identified specific actions aligned with each of the broad principles listed here, in order to better bring into practice our intentions of care for the relations involved in our work and our project as a whole. 

This statement draws on the work of many artists, researchers, curators and scholars whose work on ‘care’ shapes our understanding of ethical practice. A list of these can be found at the bottom of this page.

Context: We work under University ethics systems that hold us to act with integrity, to do no harm, to gain informed consent, to respect diversity, equality and human rights, and to take social responsibility. However, we understand our ethical responsibility to extend beyond these requirements through a relational and reflexive approach (as a counter to extractive approaches) that develops in dialogue across the research team and with participants, project partners and associates, and advisors. Ethics becomes a process underpinning our research practice, continuing throughout the project and evidenced in our care for the relations that bring it into being, rather than simply a checklist completed at the start. This includes a commitment to inviting, hearing, and acting on feedback.

Our commitments are described under the following headings

Institutional power structures and bureaucracy

We recognise that the systems and structures of Higher Education Institutions uphold privilege, and that noticing and naming these, as well as identifying the problems they create, and assisting others in their navigation, is vital. Our goal is to minimise delays in payment, reduce stressful interactions with administrative systems, and remove the burden of ‘chasing’ labour from precarious colleagues.

Action:

  • We commit to understanding our own University systems, including forms that need to be completed, processes and timescales for payments, and the departments, teams and individuals who manage specific tasks so that we can better support others.
  • We will be clear about these processes in our communication with those we work with.
  • We will be clear about our response time to queries we receive. 
  • We will stay in communication with those we work with if there are any delays, changes, etc. 

Anonymity, confidentiality, acknowledgement and citation

We recognise that participants we work with, in the co-creation of research, may want to retain their anonymity. We also recognise that some of our co-researchers may want to be attributed for the contributions that they make, and we value the expertise that they bring to the project and generously share with us. In some instances, then, the usual ethical requirement for anonymity of research participants may be reversed so as to credit participants’ contributions and expertise and to acknowledge their authorship. 

Action: 

  • We will always include the option of anonymity and a commitment to confidentiality. We will also offer participants the option to be named as authors of their contributions. Where participants want attribution, we commit to acknowledging and citing their contributions to the research (for example in our references to published writing, creative practices, art works, concepts and ideas).

It is vital that anyone participating in our research gives their informed consent. For consent to be informed, participants must understand: 1. who is doing the research 2. the purpose of the research 3. what data is being collected 4. what will happen during the research 5. how results of the research will be used, and who the results will be shared with 6. that their participation is voluntary 7. how long their data will be kept 8. what their rights are and how they can complain.

Action: 

  • We will take time to ensure that participants are able to give their informed consent. This includes giving due care and consideration to the information we provide in participants’ information. We will be clear about the right to anonymity, as well as the option of citation (see above). 
  • Where there is a cut-off point for withdrawing their consent, we will make that explicit (for example, it may not be possible to withdraw consent once analysis of data has been completed).

Transparency and Communications

We acknowledge that precarity is rife in Higher Education and the arts and cultural sector, and that many are experiencing increased precarity due to the impact of the pandemic therefore clear communication about fees, budgets, and payment systems is more important than ever. We commit to good communication and transparency around our use of data, our research design and process, our commissioning decision making, the basis for collaborations, and the basis for support in kind.

Action:

  • We will include clear information about fees, budgets, costs and expenditure, payment systems and timescales, expenses, and differential costs for those with different access needs in our invitations and call outs. 
  • We will be clear about the timescale of decision making.
  • We will be clear about contractual matters at the outset of any discussion.
  • We will ask participants and partners what they need, and work to meet these needs wherever feasible.
  • We commit to providing feedback in relation to our application and selection processes (open calls/invitations to submit/expressions of interest).

Inclusion, equality and diversity

We will take a holistic approach to inclusion and also recognise intersectionality / complexity. We recognise that people and groups are excluded from walking activities. The arts, academia and organised walking groups are predominantly white, middle class, non-disabled spaces. This project seeks to promote inclusive walking practices through our partnerships, commissioning process, communication and outputs. 

Action: 

  • We will use inclusive language throughout the project to emphasise that walking does not only take place on foot.
  • Commissions for outputs must support accessibility and public communication around accessibility must be accurate. 
  • We will actively seek to engage, showcase, and commission a diverse range of artists and co-researchers. We will reach out to organisations which support minoritised people and communities and invite them to influence our work. We will ask participants, partners, and collaborators in the work to tell us what their needs are to be able to take part.
  • We will respect people’s self-definitions and welcome the expertise of lived experiences. 
  • We recognise that people have different needs to be able to access opportunities. Our commissions will explicitly include budget support for artists with additional access needs.
  • Our research outputs, including our pilot walking works, will be designed for accessibility with the use of (where appropriate) alt text, closed captions, transcripts, and audio descriptions.We will endeavour to make published outputs open access, so that there is no charge to access them. 

Feedback mechanisms

We recognise that despite these commitments at times we will make mistakes, get things wrong and that we do not know everything. We also recognise that ethics practice is an ongoing and reflexive process. We will make space within the project to reflect honestly on our practices, to ask for feedback, to hear what is said, and to respond. We welcome the opportunity to learn through the work and from/with others. We value the expertise of lived experience.

Action: 

  • We invite all those who engage with this work to tell us if something could be improved, if our wording is wrong, or if our actions have had a negative impact. This can be done by contacting the project team at walkcreate@glasgow.ac.uk, or if you prefer to be anonymous, using this form.
  • We will invite those we work with to offer us feedback on their experiences, and recognise this as valuable labour.

Dee Heddon, Maggie O’Neill, Clare Qualmann, Morag Rose, Harry Wilson

References:

Sheila Ghelani’s Checklist of Care https://sheilaghelani.blogspot.com/2017/10/checklist-of-care.html

Ria Hartley’s Ecologies of Care (no longer online but described in this talk) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G-WiuuOMZf4

Victoria Horne, Kirsten Lloyd, Jenny Richards, Catherine Spencer, “Taking Care: Feminist Curatorial Pasts, Presents and Futures” On Curating, Issue 27 https://www.on-curating.org/issue-29-reader/taking-care-feminist-curatorial-pasts-presents-and-futures.html#.YFMq65P7QWp

James Leadbitter’s Access Awareness Documents http://www.thevacuumcleaner.co.uk/about/

Julie Vulcan on Artist’s self care https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GEu6wNNSck8

Emily Williams and Alice Tatton Brown’s Contract of Care https://cranberry-harpsichord-ss5n.squarespace.com/#/stein/

Yassi, A., Spiegel, J.B., Lockhart, K. et al. Ethics in Community-University-Artist Partnered Research: Tensions, Contradictions and Gaps Identified in an ‘Arts for Social Change’ Project. J Acad Ethics 14, 199–220 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10805-016-9257-7