[A] neutral stance betrays the subjects of our research. Although our goal as researchers may be to speak to fellow researchers interested in honing theories and finding evidence to back our proposed policy solutions, our subjects’ goals are much more immediate. They open themselves to the considerable intrusiveness of research in the hopes that we will address the problems they reveal with the same urgency and directness with which we interrogate them. They entrust themselves to our abstract and remote research mission hoping we will become allies in their quest for basic human rights and, indeed, for life itself.
There is another reason we scholars cannot remain neutral: we hold certain powers, whether we acknowledge them or not. Our credentials are one such form of power. Graduate and especially doctoral degrees convey authority, an authority we are quick to use to our own professional advantage. But we can also use our credentials to support those struggling for change we believe in. […]
Contrary to the common academic stance that we should remain neutral in order to preserve our impartiality and our reputation as experts, I see us as deeply embedded in the systems we examine. In place of the ideals of objectivity and neutrality, I aspire to responsibility of the type contained in the title of this essay: ‘‘Once you know, you are responsible.’’ As First World researchers, we are obliged to convert privilege and access into information and understanding.We are responsible, both for the resources we use and the knowledge we gain, to ensure that we help eliminate the problems we uncover. To make the world a better, healthier place, I believe we must acknowledge our personal responsibility to advocate— vocally and occasionally uncomfortably—for changes in the directions our research suggests.
– Patricia Siplon, Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law