Secrecy and knowledge production: doing research in corporate organisational settings

Shadreck Mwale

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper examines the challenges of conducting research in secretivecorporate organisational settings where corporate professionals areinformants and gate keepers of the research. It draws on experiences ofnegotiating access to informants and conducting research within regulatoryand Contract Research Organizations (CROs) for a PhD project aimed atexploring the ethical and regulatory issues associated with the conduct offirst-in-human clinical trials in the UK. The explicit ways in which secrecysurrounds the practice of clinical trials, relates to a theory of, and ways of,knowledge production that directly opposes the principles of modernacademia. This brings up important questions for researchers: is it possibleto carry out research while abiding by the values of good research practice,such as transparency, if one's informants or gatekeepers are not open andtransparent? This is because the secrecy in the practice of pharmaceuticalresearch is in sharp contrast to postmodern social research practices in whichsocial scientists believe that the production and distribution of knowledge iskey to resolving social problems. Precisely, this paper explores thechallenges faced by early career researchers (ECRs) in negotiating access andconducting research, and how such settings influence not only the questionsfor the research but the methods to be used as well. Drawing on experiencesin tackling these issues, the paper argues that to carry out research ECRshave to use a swathe of tactics and sometimes depend on luck to gain accessand eventually do their research.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)133-152
Number of pages20
JournalReview of Social Studies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2014


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