October 1, 2019 Geopolitics
We are happy to celebrate Rebecca V. Bell-Martin and Jerome F. Marston Jr., CLACS affiliates in the department of Political Science who recently had their research published in the journal Geopolitics. Their article is titled "Confronting Selection Bias: The Normative and Empirical Risks of Data Collection in Violent Contexts," and draws from their fieldwork in Mexico and Colombia. The abstract can be found below.
The data collection strategies we employ affect the quality of our findings. This is particularly true for field researchers of violence and human rights. Working in high-risk, low-information contexts, these researchers are at greater risk of methodological missteps and the accompanying shortfalls for their findings and policy recommendations. We interrogate one methodological challenge particularly common to research in violent contexts: selection bias. While methodology textbooks address this topic generally, little space is dedicated to the unique challenges scholars face in their attempts to avoid selection bias during fieldwork amidst violence. Using survey and interview data from the field, we demonstrate how such a methodological misstep not only biases results, but further marginalises the already marginalised by privileging some voices over others. Asymmetrical power relationships and the normative consequences of selection bias are emphasised. We suggest how scholars of several positivist methodological traditions can address selection bias in the field. Specifically, we urge critically assessing received insight about a fieldsite, multi-method research, long-term engagement in and with fieldsites, and acknowledging biases.