Research Event – Studying Vulnerable Populations

Photo of panelists

Leslie MacDonald-Hicks, Aliya Kuzhabekova, Luciara Nardon and Angela Dionisi discuss studying vulnerable populations.

Download presentation slides

Register to get updates about CRIW’s research events and other activities

Event Date: January 20, 2020


  • Dr. Luciara Nardon, Co-Director, the Centre for Research on Inclusion at Work (CRIW) and Associate Professor, Sprott School of Business, Carleton University
  • Dr. Aliya Kuzhabekova, Postdoctoral Fellow, the Centre for Research on Inclusion at Work (CRIW) at Carleton University
  • Dr. Angela Dionisi, Assistant Professor of Management, Sprott School of Business, Carleton University
  • Ms. Leslie MacDonald-Hicks, Research Compliance Coordinator, the Office of Research Ethics at Carleton University

Event Summary:

Navigating ethical implications of studying vulnerable populations, while finding ways to benefit participants can be daunting. Following a presentation by Aliya Kuzhabekova on studying vulnerable immigrants, panelists discussed their experiences studying various types of vulnerable groups.

Panelists stressed the importance of protecting the safety of vulnerable participants and avoiding causing harm. For example, giving participants the option to participate in a study through online means of communication may increase anonymity and safety. Panelists also encouraged researchers to be careful not to put participants in a position of vulnerability with their language, cautioning against labeling participants as “victims” or “vulnerable.”

Furthermore, leveraging the expertise of a research ethics board is key in uncovering risks and navigating issues such as undue pressure or triggering trauma. Due process also helps researchers prepare for what they might need in terms of resources, ranging from having counselors during interviews to providing funds to cover transportation cost for research participants.

Panelists agreed that partnering with community service providers, serving the vulnerable population, is an effective way to gain a better understanding of the population, home in on relevant issues, recruit research participants and finally share research findings.

Ultimately, the research must benefit the vulnerable participants and researchers need to be mindful of their impact on participants at all times.