Peter Robinson:

Welcome to the August 2017 issue of Nexus, in which the focus is on rural sociology and the methodologies of doctoral candidates. As well, we invite readers to contribute to a discussion in the next issue of research ethics, a perennial for research-active academics, and one requiring more thought and reflection as sources of data expand with the exponential growth of e-media expressing and recording human activities, experience, and ideas.

In this issue, we have two articles showcasing the work of the Rural Issues Thematic Group. Both are drawn from the authors’ recent doctoral research. Despite the growth of corporate agriculture in Australia, many farms are still family owned and operated, and Diane Luhrs investigated the vexed issue of succession planning and inheritance of these farms. She shows how and why she moved from a narrow research question to one that was much broader, and then discusses the use of multiple theoretical perspectives to interpret her empirical data. This article provides a useful counterpoint to the section on methodology in this issue.

The second rural article is by Keith Noble. Using the plans for major expansion of agriculture in Australia’s north as an exemplar, he poses provocative questions about whose voices are heard by governments and policy makers. He links his work on resilience in farmers to a discussion of fairness, and draws on concepts from business management to argue for better ways of planning change in which all voices are heard. This is an important issue at a time when most Australians live in towns and cities while much of the nation’s income is generated in the sparsely populated rural areas.

In the city or in the bush, volunteers play a vital part in providing services and generating social capital. Bill Calcutt writes about the motives behind volunteering. He notes the recent significant decline in the number of volunteers, and sees this as a reflection of a generational shift in the community’s dominant values from altruism to egoism. This work is ongoing and its outcomes will have crucial significance for the maintenance of community well-being and safety.

After our call-out to postgraduates in sociology and allied disciplines, we received several succinct accounts of methodologies being practised, and we publish three of these in this issue. Our plan is to publish more of these in each issue so we welcome further submissions. The three published in this issue consider how to arrange and collect life stories from female sports people in Colombia, elderly mothers caring for adult children with disabilities, and gays and lesbians who were young adults in the 1950s in Australia. All three research projects touch on important areas of inquiry in sociology and allied disciplines and suggest a continuing strong interest in diverse populations in Australia and overseas.

Continuing the discussion about research ethics is the central focus of our next issue. To this end, we invite submissions from our readers. TASA’s statement on ethical guidelines was generated quite a few years ago now and much has changed in the social worlds we study. As a collective discussion of sociological practice ethical research conduct must, by nature, be an ongoing conversation. For the next issue of Nexus we are calling for short articles focused on ethical considerations in research conduct. We are seeking articles presenting research case studies on, but not limited to, the following topics:

  • Navigating professional integrity in new research contexts
  • Encountering ethical contradictions with research participants
  • Digital extensions to research ethics, that is, working with social media
  • The ethical implications for new techniques of data collection
  • Applied ethics in industry contexts, contractual considerations
  • Research ethics for student projects, negotiating responsibility and accountability.

We would like to invite you to use the next edition of Nexus as an opportunity to re-invigorate the discussion of what constitutes ethical research practice within sociological approaches.

What: Opinion piece considering research ethics in your professional context

When: Due 1 October 2017

Why: Please include a statement on how this work or experience can contribute to the updating of TASA’s statement of ethics for sociological practitioners.

Format: Up to 1,500 word essay in the style of a public access critical essay, with minimal references preferably embedded as hyperlinks.

We hope you enjoy this issue and we welcome feedback through the comments screen at the end of each article, or to nexus@tasa.org.au

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