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UC Fulbright Winner Mary Brydon-Miller Adds Action to Research in Europe

UC faculty member Mary Brydon-Miller is currently in England to look at the ethical challenges of conducting community-based research in a new culture.

Date: 6/20/2013
By: Tobi Muller
Other Contact: M.B. Reilly
Other Contact Phone: (513) 556-1824
Thanks to her current Fulbright award, the University of Cincinnati’s Mary Brydon-Miller, professor in the educational studies program, is conducting action research in England.
Mary Brydon Miller in front of an English church.
Mary Brydon Miller in front of an English church

Action research involves the process of actively participating in a community or organizational change process while also conducting research. The researcher not only observes and theorizes about actions and events but is actually part of that action in order to solve an immediate problem or improve the process of addressing issues.
Brydon-Miller, who directs UC’s Action Research Center, is advancing her work in the area of research ethics in educational and community-based settings. As existing models of ethical review assume that researchers and subjects don’t know each other, they don’t really apply for action research. So Brydon-Miller developed her own ethical approach for her discipline, called structured ethical reflection process.

To test this approach outside of the United States, she applied for a Fulbright fellowship in order to travel to England since those outside the United States have different systems for evaluating research ethics and have a different cultural background.

In England, she has been working at Keele University with colleagues in the Community Psychology and Nursing programs. She has also been meeting with scholars at the universities of Durham, Manchester, Bristol and Cambridge and additional trips to London and Sussex are already planned.

“I’ve also had the opportunity to be part of a symposium series on research ethics in London,” Brydon-Miller said. “Later in the summer I’ll be giving talks in Tralee, Ireland, and Edinburgh, Scotland.”

In addition, Brydon-Miller also tries to get to know her new surroundings by exploring public footpaths and the European train system, things she will miss when she returns to the U.S. in July 2013. She stated, “You get on the train and can see all the countryside while you travel. A lot of the trains even have Wi-Fi, so you can keep up on e-mail!”

That Brydon-Miller can be this active is partly due to the Fulbright Foundation staff. “The Fulbright Foundation has been amazingly supportive.  Not only do they support scholars financially, but the staff makes a point of staying in touch and helping to answer questions and resolve any problems you might have.”

The fact that they place their events in different parts of the country is an additional pleasing detail. “They make sure that we get to see some of the country.” Thus, it is no surprise that she would encourage everybody who’s interested in international studies to apply for the Fulbright program.

Brydon-Miller, who began her Fulbright-funded research in January, is enjoying her experience in the United Kingdom (except for the weather), especially the chance to share some time with her husband.

It turns out that both were selected for a Fulbright Research Fellowship for the same time and even for the same country. “We had to promise each other that if one of us got it and the other one didn’t, the person left behind wouldn’t complain.  Fortunately, we didn’t have to do that,” she said.

Previously, in furthering her research, Brydon-Miller has traveled to and met with scholars in Sweden, Denmark and Norway, where action research is very popular. And, in the future, she stated, “My next project is to take what I’ve learned this year and see how this works in other countries and cultures, like India, China, or other parts of the world.”