Translating the principle of beneficence into ethical participatory development research practice

Michelle R. Brear*, Rebecca Gordon

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Conceptualising and operationalising ethical principles like beneficence (maximise benefits, minimise risks) is complex. We contribute to understanding beneficence by critically analysing data documenting participatory international development research processes in Eswatini and India, informed by capabilities theory. Our results problematise (i) conceptualising beneficence solely in relation to either local or academic norms and (ii) offsetting economic, social and cognitive, or individual, group and societal benefits and/or harms, as either practice risks perpetuating unjust economic and/or epistemological hierarchies. Our results suggest that beneficence will be optimally achieved if it is conceptualised and operationalised considering diverse stakeholder perspectives and social justice theory.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)109-126
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of International Development
Issue number1
Early online date2 Sept 2020
Publication statusPublished - 21 Jan 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • research ethics
  • beneficence
  • community participation
  • capabilities approach


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