Research Policy


MOU refers to Memorandum of Understanding

SAC refers to the Scientific Advisory Committee

SIHMA refers to the Scalabrini Institute for Human Mobility in Africa

SIMN refers to the Scalabrini International Migration Network

SIMI refers to the Scalabrini International Migration Institute

Purpose of Policy:

The purpose of this policy is to provide a guiding framework for SIHMA’s research activities, including guidelines for setting strategic research agendas, developing and maintaining research partnerships and collaborations (including authorship), research capacity development, and ensuring appropriate and ethical research design and execution.

Policy Contents:

1. Strategic Direction of Research

1.1. Role of Strategic Planning

1.2. Research Agenda and Criteria

2. Research Partnerships and Collaborations

2.1.   Research Partnership with the Scalabrini Centre

2.2.   Research Collaboration with SIMN

2.3.   Research Collaborations with Academic and Research Institutions

2.4.   Research Collaborations with Individual Researchers

2.5.   Authorship

3. Research Capacity Development

3.1.   Internships

3.2.   Staff Research Capacity

4. Managing Research Ethics

4.1. Beneficence and Non-Maleficence

4.2. Informed Consent

4.3. Confidentiality

4.4. The Duty of Honesty and Integrity

4.5. Data Protection Policy

1. Strategic Direction of Research

1.1. Role of Strategic Planning The strategic direction of research undertaken by SIHMA will be aligned with annual Strategic Planning objectives. It is the responsibility of the Director of SIHMA with advice and support from the Director of the Scalabrini International Migration Institute (SIMI) to develop and manage the execution of this research agenda.

1.2. Research Agenda and Criteria SIHMA will develop and execute an ongoing, relevant, and appropriately scoped research agenda that meets the following criteria:

  • Research that contributes to the overall strategic vision and mission of SIHMA.
  • Research that is of notable national and/or international importance.
  • Research that it is easy to access and to understand by a larger audience.
  • Research that is reflective of a particular research strength or opportunity within SIHMA.
  • Research that takes cognisance of the existing migration research landscape and explores significant, demonstrated research gaps.
  • Research that will enhance the standing of SIHMA on the national and international research landscape.

Research design should avoid extractive research processes and narrow conceptualisations of academic expertise. Instead, where possible, research design should be built on participatory approaches and should encourage an exchange of ideas. Where appropriate, SIHMA research will attempt to incorporate research capacity development objectives into its design and execution.

2. Research Partnerships and Collaborations

SIHMA will develop an annual networking plan to strategically identify key partners and scope for collaboration with different stakeholders involved in the same field of research. SIHMA is also institutionally embedded within an international research network, the Scalabrini International Migration Network (SIMN) and recognises the value and importance of research collaborations, locally, nationally, and internationally. SIHMA recognises that such partnerships and collaborations offer important opportunities for research capacity development, dissemination of findings, and the development of new research platforms. To this end, SIHMA seeks to develop research partnerships and collaborations with relevant academic institutions, research institutes, individual academics, and other researchers. Potential research partnerships and collaborations must always be assessed against the research priorities and strategic vision of SIHMA. SIHMA recognises that the respective responsibilities and benefits of each partner in a research partnership or collaboration must be clearly delineated and mutually agreed upon at the outset of each project.

2.1. Research Collaboration with the Scalabrini Centre SIHMA’s physical location at the Scalabrini Centre is of particular value in assisting SIHMA staff and researchers to construct a relevant research agenda, grounded in and shaped by the lived realities of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers. An MOU developed between SIHMA and the Scalabrini Centre will govern the research relationship between the two entities. Both organizations will identify together relevant advocacy issues and topics of common interest to be researched. Any research will be governed by an individual research proposal and terms of reference.

2.2. Research Collaborations with SIMN As the first research centre on the African continent to be part of SIMN and the Network of the Scalabrinian Centres for Migration Studies, SIHMA will also engage in international collaborative research projects undertaken by the network, in consultation with the Director of SIMI.

2.3. Research Collaborations with Academic and Research Institutions Appropriate research partnerships or collaborations with Academic and Research Institutions will be negotiated by SIHMA Director in bilateral MOUs between such institutions and SIHMA.

2.4. Research Collaborations with Individual Researchers Appropriate research collaborations with individual researchers will be negotiated by the Director on a case-by-case basis, according to SIHMA’s strategic research priorities and capacities.

2.5. Authorship Authorship decisions regarding research outputs must be discussed and agreed upon at the outset of any research collaboration, guided by the following principles, which are drawn from the Research Ethics Policy of the University of the Western Cape:

2.5.1. Each author should have participated sufficiently in the work to take public responsibility for appropriate portions of the content.

2.5.2. One or more of the authors, as corresponding author, should take responsibility for the integrity of the work as a whole.

2.5.3. Credit as an author should be based only on participation in each of the following aspects of the work: Substantial contribution to conception and design, or acquisition of data, or analysis and interpretation of data. Either drafting the article or commenting critically on the draft. Approving the final version, to the extent that each author is prepared to take joint responsibility for it. The acquisition of funding, the collection of data, or the general supervision of the research group, do not, by themselves, justify authorship. Such contributions should be listed in the acknowledgements. The order of authorship should be a joint decision of the authors, decided at an early stage of drafting the paper. In most fields of research the first author is recognised as having made the most significant contribution. This is the preferred style unless the conventions of the field of research require another ordering.

3. Research Capacity Development

SIHMA is committed to the development of research capacity amongst its own staff, as well as amongst established and emerging researchers working on issues of migration and human mobility. There are three main pillars of SIHMA’s research capacity development platform, including the hosting and mentoring of graduate level researchers, the provision of internship opportunities, and ongoing professional development for SIHMA staff.

3.1. Facilitating Graduate Researchers The Scalabrini Centre annually receives numerous requests from researchers, mostly at the Graduate level, seeking access to Scalabrini Centre data and resources. As part of the ongoing collaboration between Scalabrini Centre and SIHMA, graduate research requests will be jointly vetted on an individual basis, guided by the goal of building local and regional research capacity. Graduate researchers wishing to affiliate with Scalabrini Centre and/or SIHMA will be asked to sign and adhere to a joint Scalabrini Centre/SIHMA protocol for researchers, outlining Scalabrini Centre and SIHMA’s expectations for such researchers. Emerging researchers will be supported through access to SIHMA’s library and research resources, connections with stakeholders, ongoing mentoring, and access to relevant data, as appropriate.

3.2. Internships SIHMA might provide up to a maximum of two unpaid internship positions annually. The time commitment for each internship posting should preferably be no less than six months. Interns will be responsible to the Director but may be managed by other SIMHA staff, as required. Internships will be designed to offer professional development and capacity building opportunities for emerging local researchers or other individuals interested in migration and human mobility in Africa.

3.3. Staff Research Capacity SIHMA is committed to the ongoing research capacity development of its staff. In line with respective job descriptions, staff will be encouraged to partake in ongoing professional development and research capacity building activities.

4. Managing Research Ethics

As an organisation with a strong research focus, SIHMA is committed to upholding the highest standard of research ethics in its work. SIHMA will clarify and negotiate ethics procedures on a case by case basis at the outset of any partnership or collaboration with academic institutions, research institutes or individual academic researchers. Depending on the research project, formal ethics processes may be undertaken through the collaborating partner’s affiliated institution. Research that is developed and undertaken by SIHMA alone will be designed using the commonly agreed standards of good ethical practice, such as those outlined in the Declaration of Helsinki, as follows:

  • Beneficence – “do positive good”
  • Non-Maleficence – “do no harm”
  • Informed consent
  • Confidentiality/Anonymity
  • Veracity – “truth telling”

Drawing on the current Research Ethics Policy from the University of the Western Cape, which expands upon and explains the standards of the Helsinki Declaration, SIHMA commits to upholding the following ethical principles of research:

4.1. Beneficence and Non-Maleficence

4.1.1. Concerns risk(s), harm and hazards, and includes emotional and mental distress, damage to financial and social standing as well as physical harm.

4.1.2. The research should be scientifically sound and the purpose should be to contribute to knowledge.

4.1.3. The research should be undertaken and supervised by those who are appropriately qualified and experienced.

4.1.4. The importance of the objective should be in proportion to the inherent risk to the participants. Concern for the interests of the participants must always prevail over the interests of science and society.

4.1.5. The research should be preceded by careful assessment of predictable risks in comparison with foreseeable benefits to the participants or to others.

4.1.6. Research should not be undertaken where the hazards involved are not believed to be predictable.

4.1.7. Adequate facilities and procedures should be in place to deal with any potential hazards.

4.2. Informed Consent

4.2.1. Ethically, informed consent is part of the principle of respect for autonomy. Rights of self-determination and “not to be harmed” are implicit in the South African Constitution.

4.2.2. Each potential subject must be adequately informed of the aims, methods, anticipated benefits and potential hazards of the research and any discomfort participation may entail.

4.2.3. Any documentation given to potential participants should be comprehensible and there should be an opportunity for them to raise any issues of concern

4.2.4. Consent should be required in writing and records of consent should be maintained.

4.2.5. Potential participants must be informed that they are free to withdraw consent to participation at any time.

4.2.6. There should be a procedure for making complaints and participants should be made aware of this.

4.2.7. All participants should be volunteers. Considerable care should be taken where consent is sought from those in a dependent position and it should be made clear that refusal to participate will not lead to any adverse consequences.

4.2.8. Any inducement offered to participants should be declared and should be in accordance with appropriate guidelines.

4.3. Confidentiality

4.3.1. When personal identifiers are used in a study, researchers should explain why this is necessary and how confidentiality would be protected.

4.3.2. Procedures for protecting the confidentiality of participants should be followed and include:

  • Securing individual confidentiality statements from all research personnel;
  • Coding data with numbers instead of names to protect the identity of participants;
  • Using codes for identification of participants when transcribing audiotapes, and destroying the tapes on completion of transcription;
  • Storing data with any identifying information in a locked file to which only one or two persons have access;
  • Using pseudonyms for participants, agencies and geographical settings in the publishing of reports;
  • Disposing of information that can reveal the identity of participants or places carefully.

4.4. The Duty of Honesty and Integrity

4.4.1. Researchers must possess the knowledge and skills compatible with the demands of the investigation to be undertaken and must recognise and not overstep the boundaries of their research competence. Researchers should not accept work they are not qualified to carry out or supervise

4.4.2. Researchers are expected to maintain the highest standards of honesty and integrity. Any form of academic dishonesty, including but not limited to the following, is a serious offence:

  • Falsification of Data, Plagiarism, Fabrication
  • Non-declaration of Conflict(s) of Interest
  • Misuse of Research Funds
  • Any other form of dishonesty in research that undermines the integrity of the research and which may bring SIHMA into disrepute

4.5. Data Protection Policy

4.5.1. The collection and storage of research data by researchers must comply with the Data Protection Act of 1998.

4.5.2. Researchers should be aware of the risks to anonymity, privacy and confidentiality posed by all kinds of personal information storage and processing, including computer and paper files, e-mail records, audio and videotapes, or any other information which directly identifies an individual.

4.5.3. Participants must be informed of the kinds of personal information which will be collected, what will be done with it, and to whom it will be disclosed. ‘Consent to process’ may need to be obtained where information collected from individuals is to be used later for research purposes.

4.5.4. Measures to prevent accidental breaches of confidentiality should be taken and in cases where confidentiality is threatened, relevant records should be destroyed.

4.5.5. Provisions for data security at the end of a project must be made. Where the researcher leaves the University, this responsibility should usually rest with the relevant Faculty.

4.5.6. Current practice is that research data, research transcripts, videos and other related electronic data – tapes and videos should be kept for a two year period after completion of the research study and hard copies of data capture sheets, questionnaires, informed consent forms, transcripts and analysis for a period of five years.