Reflections on engaging with an advisory network in the context of a ‘sensitive’ research study

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This article surfaces issues about the often-used but widely under-reported practice of working with advisory fora. We critically reflect on our experiences working with an advisory network when co-designing a research study about a ‘sensitive’ subject. We discuss the following: 1) How the network evolved as a matter of ethical and pragmatic choices; 2) Potential issues when discussing sensitive issues ‘outside’ of the participatory or participant context; and 3) Practical and epistemic issues involved in (not) ‘taking’ advice. We suggest that although sensitive research is more conventionally aligned with more ‘radical’ forms of participatory practice, advisory networks can present a useful and sometimes more appropriate form of inclusion and engagement for some advisors and for some types of research study. The article should, therefore, be of interest to a wide range of academic and practice-based health and social care staff and, in particular, those who plan to use advisory fora in their work.
Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Social Research Methodology
Publication statusPublished - 8 Oct 2018


  • Participatory research
  • advisory groups
  • sensitive research
  • ethical issues


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