Quantitative data about political violence are frequently based on “desk research,” data derived from secondary sources that do not require direct contact between researchers and participants, such as people who witnessed or experienced violence. The research that employs these data is often viewed implicitly as ethically uncomplicated. In contrast, we argue that the production and analysis of political violence data coded from secondary sources require careful ethical deliberation regarding human subjects concerns. We consider two broad classes of quantitative political violence data often gathered through desk research: incident lists and indices. For both types, we identify ethical concerns about how data production and use can affect research participants. We conclude by offering a series of suggestions on how to incorporate ethical considerations about human subjects into the design and evaluation of political violence research based on secondary sources.
Hoover Green, Amelia, and Dara Kay Cohen. "Centering Human Subjects: The Ethics of “Desk Research” on Political Violence." Journal of Global Security Studies (July 2020).