BFE Ethics Statement


The British Forum for Ethnomusicology:

Ethics Statement


I. General

  1. For the British Forum for Ethnomusicology (hereafter, the BFE), the notion of ‘ethics’ comprises shared responsibilities that pertain to personal integrity and academic honesty as well as legal requirements. The BFE also recognises that many members are employees and students of academic institutions and should responsibly follow the ethical codes of such institutions.
  2. By addressing ethical concerns, the BFE hopes to stimulate ongoing dialogue and debate in order to respond as necessary to ethical issues in the changing discipline of ethnomusicology and related fields. The BFE also recognises the value of international collaboration and engagement. When in dialogue and debate the Forum will be informed by the position statements on ethics of other learned societies such as the Society for Ethnomusicology and the American Anthropological Association.
  3. The BFE acknowledges that ethnomusicologists must weight competing ethical obligations to employers and funders, participants and colleagues, and more, but consider that the obligations to research participants will usually be primary. The relationships that ethnomusicologists enter into may create obligations that may reflect the different frameworks in which collaborations take place, and the differing ethical systems and values between ethnomusicologists and field participants.
  4. These statements serve as a formal acknowledgment of a shared concern for upholding ethical conduct and supporting integrity within the ethnomusicological discipline.


II. Field Research

  1. Ethnomusicologists have a responsibility to deal ethically with the people and communities that they work with.
  2. The BFE acknowledges the diverse nature of the contemporary ethnomusicological ‘field’ and considers the scope of ethical behaviour in the field to extend to all forms of social contact among field research and consultants, whether mediated by personal contact or by digital or other media.
  3. The BFE acknowledges the context-sensitive nature of ethnomusicological research, and as such recognizes there can be no single prescription for ethical behavior applicable in all cases. However, ethical research will always be informed by the following principles, which should be duly considered before, during and after fieldwork:
    1. Honesty in the representation of oneself and one’s work.
    2. Concern for the well-being (physical, social and psychological) of the people we work with and study, and of the potential effects of our work and study upon this well-being.
    3. Cultivation of relationships based on informed consent, rights of privacy and confidentiality, and mutual respect.
    4. Sensitivity to other cultures’ and individuals’ ethical values.
    5. Sensitivity to proprietary concerns regarding musical practices, instruments and performance artefacts, and other documentation.
    6. Awareness of the connection between proprietary concerns and economic interests, as well as anticipation of future conflicts that may be caused by one’s research activities.
    7. Awareness of the potential dangers and complexities of fieldwork, including the possibility of negative consequences for the ethnomusicologist’s own wellbeing.
    8. Active engagement to address ethical considerations that arise during research in consultation with field consultants and academic colleagues.
  4. Ethnomusicologists acknowledge that the responsibilities of field research extend beyond the fieldwork setting. They involve a long-term commitment to the rights and concerns of field consultants and their communities, and may include advocacy.


III. Intellectual Property

  1. Ethnomusicologists acknowledge that field research may create or contribute to the basic conditions for future unanticipated and possibly exploitative uses of recorded materials, photographs, instruments, other performance artefacts, and other documentation. They recognize responsibility for their part in these processes and seek ways to prevent and/or address misuse of such materials.
  2. Ethnomusicologists recognize the need to be informed regarding copyright and other laws pertaining to the ownership of intellectual and cultural property and to be aware of the potential protections and liabilities of contractual arrangements when dealing with field consultants, as well as when depositing, licensing, and distributing field notes and interview transcripts as well as audio and audiovisual recordings. The BFE recognises that current intellectual and cultural property conventions may conflict with the moral rights of field participants, and considers that obligations to participants will usually be primary.
  3. Ethnomusicologists acknowledge their responsibility for disseminating recordings and other materials from field research using formats and practices that are mutually acceptable and culturally appropriate. In particular, ethnomusicologists will exercise caution when posting, sharing and uploading research materials and recordings on the Internet and when using new technologies.


IV. Publication

  1. Ethnomusicologists have an obligation to consider the potential impact of both their research and the dissemination of their research results. They must consider this prior to beginning research, during the research process, and as they proceed to dissemination and publication.
  2. Ethnomusicologists have a responsibility to share research data and findings through publication and various media, and in doing this they should always, unless it is deemed necessary to retain anonymity, give credit to consultants, colleagues, students, and others.
  3. Ethnomusicologists are encouraged to consider establishing reciprocal relationships with their consultants and participants, using their research findings, publications, sound archives, scholarly connections, and practical skills to give back to the community of study.


V. Education

  1. Ethnomusicologists accept their role as educators in both formal and informal teaching and training settings and, in their teaching, include information about and discussion of ethical issues, particularly regarding field research.
  2. Ethnomusicologists accept the necessity of preparing students and trainees to make informed judgments regarding ethical matters in line with this statement.


This statement was authored by the BFE Committe and ratified by the BFE Membership at the Annual General Meeting in Kent, 30th April 2016