From a Distance: The ‘New Normal’ for Researchers and Research Assistants Engaged in Remote Fieldwork

Thumbnail Image
Open Access Location
Scheyvens R
Beban A
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
SAGE Publications
CC BY-NC 4.0
Doing remote fieldwork is a ‘new normal’ in the COVID-19 pandemic era. It is challenging, but not impossible. With planning and preparation, comprehensive training and ongoing support for Research Assistants (RAs), researchers can overcome the challenges of remote fieldwork. In this article, we reflect on the experience of employing local RAs to support doctoral research involving in-depth household interviews and focus group discussions with ethnic minority people in upland Vietnam. The challenge of adapting to this ‘new normal’ provided us with an opportunity for a critical appraisal of the researcher–RA relationship. The approach to remote fieldwork we developed centres on frequent communication, feedback and building trusting team dynamics. We argue that this approach can overcome some of the power hierarchies between global north researchers and local RAs, and therefore, should not simply be seen as a temporary or inferior ‘Plan B’ for researchers, but should be embraced as a way of reimagining knowledge production. We discuss lessons learned in how to carry out remote fieldwork, present practical strategies and recommendations, and consider the strengths of this approach for knowledge production and the empowerment of researchers in the global south.
Nguyen P, Scheyvens R, Beban A, Gardyne S. (2022). From a Distance: The ‘New Normal’ for Researchers and Research Assistants Engaged in Remote Fieldwork. International Journal of Qualitative Methods. 21. (pp. 1-13).