Anthropological Research – Financed by Whom?

Stefan Leins, University of Zürich
On-line published: October 30th 2012

The financing of research is an important, but little debated topic within anthropology. Since most Swiss anthropologists are funded by the public, conflicting interests resulting from divergences between a sponsor’s interests and a researcher’s results have hardly been discussed. With the emergence of a number of private sector research grants in social sciences, the questions of how research is funded and whether there might be ethical issues attached to it have now become more obvious.

As an anthropologist whose fieldwork is financed by a for-profit institution, I would like to stimulate a debate on the ethical dimensions of financed anthropological research. Based on my personal experiences, I will argue that private grants are sometimes necessary for researchers to access new research arenas such as financial markets or corporations. I will, however, also show that being funded by a for-profit institution can cause moral and methodological trouble for a researcher. To cope with these issues, I will suggest that all anthropologists, including the ones that are getting money from the state, should reflect more actively on their financial resources in order help colleagues, peers and readers understand the financial embedment of their research projects.