Sociologists issue joint statement prompted by social research nonprofit

Source: (jurek d./Creative Commons)

Sociologists at Estonian universities have recently drawn attention to the fact that organizations exist which are presenting the results of what appear to be sociological research, however these organizations' objectives and competence should be examined critically.

Over the past year, a number of allegedly sociological studies have been presented to the public, the objectives and/or competence of the authors of which there is reason to doubt. The Estonian Association of Sociologists is calling upon the media and other institutions of public communications not to publish the data and the resulting conclusions drawn of such studies.

The social significance and integrity of social science research is based upon sound ethical and methodological practices. This means, among other things, that as complete information as possible is to be made available to the audience regarding the survey sample, methodology, financing as well as potential conflicts of interest.

In a proper interpretation of study results, data is not torn out of context and an attempt is made to achieve in-depth understanding of the phenomenon being examined.

The result of deviating from these practices is data and conclusions which are biased and misleading to the public. This can happen as a result of either ineptitude or deliberate manipulation.

Studies' trustworthiness depends explicitly upon the theoretical and methodological expertise of the social sciences, which is generally provided by the inclusion of a professional sociologist in a project as well as compliance with the principles of research ethics.

It is likewise alarming that the nonprofit MTÜ Ühiskonnauuringute Instituut [the Institute for Social Research] makes use of academic symbols to legitimize itself.

We wish to stress the fact that there is no connection whatsoever between MTÜ Ühiskonnauuringute Instituut and the Institutes of Social Sciences of Tallinn University and the University of Tartu, and would like for the public to be clearly informed regarding this lack of connection.

The Estonian Association of Sociologists considers it of critical importance that best practices be adhered to both in conducting sociological surveys and in publishing the results of these surveys and that substandardly executed and biasedly interpreted surveys not be presented to the public as professional sociology.

We ask that media publications critically evaluate the quality of social research, and the credibility of the institutions, associations and groups organizing it, selected to be covered. If necessary, we are prepared to offer competent support and expertise.

Estonian Association of Sociologists

Association of Sociology Students in Estonia

University of Tartu Institute of Social Sciences

Tallinn University Institute of Social Sciences

Editor: Aili Vahtla

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