I have just read your response to the NSF through the newsgroups.
Your message certainly calls attention to the diversity and depth of qualitative research. In doing so, however, you have missed or excluded the work being done in Europe (for example, FQS, the trilingual, international, open access journal for qualitative research) and tend to conceive of 'international' events and resources in a North American-centric way. The only exception seems to be a mention of a journal out of Cardiff (perhaps because they have been loudest in their criticism of some 'American' qualitative work?).
You have not mentioned our work here at Bournemouth and the Centre for Qualitative Research, our pioneering efforts in novel and innovative research methods, humanising health and social care, and Performative Social Science (Performative Social Science moves well beyond the 'performance ethnography' that you do mention, by the way). Your message also leaves out the biennial qualitative research conference that we organise, attracting participants from dozens of countries every two years (and organised with quality, rather than simply quantity, in mind). In addition, we are well known for the four to six masterclasses held annually at Bournemouth with internationally recognised qualitative experts in a diverse range of qualitative methods (you were one of them a while back!) .
There are many other universities, centres and qualitative groups throughout Europe making important contributions to qualitative research and methodological innovation. (International resources) I will not rehearse that list here, except to say that it is often to Europe that many American qualitative researchers look when seeking a philosophical foundation to their qualitative efforts. In addition, qualitative work from Australia, South America, the sub-continent and other global locations cannot be ignored. By doing so, American scholars run the risk of creating an 'intellectual Las Vegas', --inward-looking and micro centric.
As an American, I can understand how easily we can fall into the trap that what is American is global and that we do not have to look beyond our shores for answers (examples from sociology of the immigrant to America turning her/his back on Europe abound). I would hope that recent movements, however, are beginning to change that pervasive cultural flaw. The current economic crisis (and any potential solutions to it) seems to point to the fact that we need to think globally if we are to dig our way out of it.
Please remember your 'cousins' over here; we may actually be able to contribute to the battle raging there!
My best to you and Art,
April 23, 2009
Michele Lamont and Patricia White, authors of report on “Workshop on Interdisciplinary Standards for Systematic Qualitative Research”
The International Community of Qualitative Scholars
Norman Denzin, Distinguished Professor of Communications, College of Communications Scholar, and Research Professor of Communications, Sociology, and Humanities at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.
Yvonna Lincoln, Ruth Harrington Chair of Educational Leadership, and Distinguished Professor of Higher Education at Texas A&M University
Arthur Bochner, Distinguished University Professor, Department of Communication, University of South Florida, Immediate Past President of National Communication Association
Carolyn Ellis, Professor of Communication and Sociology, Co-Director of the Institute for Interpretive Studies, University of South Florida
NSF's 2009 report entitled "Workshop on Interdisciplinary Standards for Systematic Qualitative Research."
We write to respond to NSF's 2009 report entitled "Workshop on Interdisciplinary Standards for Systematic Qualitative Research." We welcome the recent attention given by NSF to interdisciplinary standards for systematic qualitative research in the social sciences (Lamont and White, 2009; Becker 2009). NSF's statement recognizes the central place of qualitative research in the academy today, while noting considerable variability in the emphasis on constructivist versus positivist epistemologies.
Missing from the lengthy report, however, is acknowledgement of the critical and interpretive qualitative work being done in and supported by the International Congress of Qualitative Inquiry (qi2009. org), the number of journals now publishing this work (Atkinson and Delamont, 2006), the number of disciplines involved (St. Pierre and Roulston, 2006; American Education Research Association, 2006, 2008), and the many different paradigms, methods, and approaches being widely applied within the broader field of qualitative inquiry.
In seeking interdisciplinary (cultural anthropology, law and social science, political science, sociology) standards for qualitative research, the NSF workshop: (1) narrowly and traditionally defines qualitative research (QR)/methods as a set of data gathering tools, to be used alone or in tandem with quantitative data techniques; (2) narrowly frames QR to only include interviews, archival research, and ethnography; (3) seeks common themes and standards between QR and quantitative methods, such as: (a) an emphasis on rigor, (b) operationalizing key constructs, (c) testing hypotheses, (d) thorough data analysis, (e) sampling techniques, (f) small samples can yield big results, still be scientific, even if not random, and offer generalization.
The focus on common criteria: rigor, design, sampling, and generalizing, reads QR through an exclusively quantitative, logical empiricist model of inquiry. There is no consideration of the new interpretive qualitative inquiry methodologies: autoethnography, performance ethnography, active and interactive interviews, critical ethnography, mixed methodologies, narrative, discourse methods, decolonizing methodologies, disability issues, feminist qualitative research, ethics, IRBs and academic freedom, indigenous epistemologies, indigenous ethics, grounded theory and social justice methodologies, participatory action research, collaborative inquiry, the politics of evidence, postcolonial methodologies, qualitative case studies, queering the interview, writing as a method of inquiry, or varieties of validity.
This discourse contests and debates terms like operationalize, test, sample, generalize, and data analysis. Regrettably, in confining the document to these four disciplines, the report failed to consider the efforts by committees within the American Education Research Association to formalize evaluative criteria for qualitative research, including arts-based methodologies (AERA 2006, 2008). This discourse is situated within the global conversation regarding evidence-based research, and the challenges it raises for qualitative researchers. Indeed the report seems to stand outside time, ignoring the demands the global audit culture places on social science inquiry.
The report calls for: (1) partnerships with professional associations, (2) summer institutes focused on qualitative methodology (i.e. IQRM--Institute for Qualitative Methods--the qualitative equivalent of ICPSR--Interuniversity for Political and Social Research), (3) workshops for teachers of qualitative methods. Thankfully, two such institutes now exist: the International Institute for Qualitative Methodology at the University of Calgary (twelve years old), and The Center for Qualitative Inquiry and the International Institute for Qualitative Inquiry at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, which is the independent non-profit that oversees the International Congress of Qualitative Inquiry (six years old). In addition, a global network of interconnected Qualitative Inquiry Collaborating Sites connects programs and scholars in 65 nations. In May 2009, the Fifth International Congress will be held. As has been typical each year, the 2009 program has attracted 225 panel and 1500 paper submissions from 40 disciplines and 70 nations. Additionally, there were 70 submissions for the Illinois Distinguished Dissertation Competition, which features critical and interpretive ethnographic work
We urge NSF to take into account the work being done by interpretive and critical ethnographers in all disciplines, including Communication Studies and Education among others, and to include on their review panels and in their workshops distinguished scholars working within these approaches who can effectively represent this body of qualitative researchers in further deliberations about qualitative research.
American Education Research Association. 2006. Standards for Reporting on Empirical Social Science Research in AERA publications. Available at http://www.aera.net/opportunities/?id=1480
American Education Research Association. 2008. Standards for Reporting on Humanities-Oriented Research in AERA publications. Available at http://www.aera.net/pubs/draft_Humanities Standards_April 30.pdf.
Atkinson, Paul and Sara Delamont. 2006. "In the Roiling Smoke: Qualitative Inquiry and Contested Fields." International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 19, 6 (November-December): 747-755
Becker, Howard S. 2009. "How to Find Out how to do Qualitative Research." (circulated electronic document, April 2009).
Lamont, Michelle and Patricia White. 2009. Workshop on Interdisciplinary Standards for Systematic Qualitative Research (Washington: National Science Foundation), available at
St. Pierre, Elizabeth A. and Kathryn Roulston. 2006. "The State of Qualitative Inquiry: A Contested Science." International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 19, 6 (November-December): 673-684.