War testimony

In response to questions that have arisen in connection to the war in Ukraine, we are publishing the guidelines on methodology and ethics developed during the implementation phase of the research-documentation project “24.02.2022, 5 am: Testimonies of War”. We encourage all oral historians, especially those interviewing victims of armed conflict, to read them carefully. The document can be downloaded at the bottom of the page.

Below you will find a description of the guidelines prepared by their authors:

Methodology, ethics and safety in projects documenting the war and refugee experience after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on 24/02/2022.

Russia’s invasion of independent Ukraine, Russian crimes committed in the occupied territories and an exodus of millions of Ukrainians from their country are unprecedented events in the post-war history of Europe. The natural reaction of researchers, NGO workers and cultural institutions is a desire not only to provide aid directly, but also to document the experience of war and exile. Research and documentation initiatives emerged almost immediately after the outbreak of the war and gained momentum when Russian crimes were revealed in Mariupol, Bucha and other towns outside Kyiv.

The role of such efforts is extremely important, they meet the criteria of higher-risk research according to the European Commission’s guidelines (Ethics in Social Science and Humanities 2018, 7.4.), and the respondents clearly fall into the category of “vulnerable” populations. Hence, special attention needs to be paid to the issues of methodology, ethics and safety – of interviewees, researchers and the data collected – during documentation work.

In this document, we propose general guidelines to address these issues. The proposed standards have been developed for the project “24/02/2022, 5am: Testimonies of War”, which has been running since mid-March, and are the result of collective reflection by the members of the international project team, our first experiences and the application of suggestions from two independent committees reviewing the project: the Ethics Committee of the Institute of Philosophy and Sociology of the Polish Academy of Sciences and the Ethical Board at the University of Luxembourg. As they are based on the experience of a large research project, some of these guidelines may be less relevant to small-scale documentation initiatives. However, we hope that they will provide support and reference for all initiatives undertaken in the sphere of documenting events resulting from the war in Ukraine.

[In this document, italics show the specific solutions we used in the project].

The research and documentation project “24/02/2022, 5am: Testimonies of War” was initiated by the Lviv-based Centre for Urban History, which began documenting the Ukrainian war experience as early as the first days of the war. In Poland, the project focuses on conducting qualitative interviews with Ukrainian refugees and is carried out by the Institute of Philosophy and Sociology of the Polish Academy of Sciences (IFiS PAN), in cooperation with the Polish Oral History Association, the University of St Andrews (Scotland) and the University of Luxembourg. Interviews recorded in Poland will be archived in the Qualitative Data Archive at IFiS PAN.

War_testimonies_methodology_and_ethics (.pdf file)