Risks and Dilemmas, Virtues and Vices: Engaging with Stakeholders and Gatekeepers in Australian Traveller Education Research

Year: 2003

Author: Danaher, P. A., Danaher, Geoff, Moriarty, Beverley

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Scott and Usher (1999, pp. 129-134) have postulated three possible models of analysing the rights and responsibilities of researchers and researched: covert research; open democratic research; and open autocratic research. While we eschew characterising our research as "covert", we are less definitive about whether and how it is "democratic" and/or "autocratic". Partly this dilemma derives from uncertainties involved in identifying stakeholders with 'legitimate' involvement in the conduct and outcomes of a research project. Partly this dilemma also reflects the risks attendant on stakeholders becoming gatekeepers, and/or when stakeholders' expectations of the project diverge.

We illustrate these risks and dilemmas by reference to an ongoing research project investigating the educational experiences and opportunities of Australian occupational Travellers - specifically, itinerant circus and fairground people. This critically reflexive illustration is informed by our deployment of selected elements of Pring's (2002) provocative delineation of the "virtues" and "vices" of educational researchers. We argue that Pring's depiction of "the virtuous research community" (pp. 125-126), augmented by the principles of co-operative communities, provides a more contingent and nuanced basis than Scott and Usher's (1999) "democratic" versus "autocratic" research for engaging with the multiple and sometimes conflicting interests of stakeholders and gatekeepers in Australian Traveller education research.