Moral bureaucracies and social network research

José Luis Molina, Stephen P. Borgatti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


In the wake of Europe's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), research ethics governance does not just affect the ethical dimensions of social research but also the range of scientific decisions available to researchers. Because of the sensitive status of personal data and the aversion to even minimal risk by what we call “moral bureaucracies”, we are concerned that social network researchers will increasingly limit their research decisions to “safe” options, like reusing anonymized datasets, choosing target populations based on convenience rather than theoretical relevance, and routinely subcontracting fieldwork to professional data collection companies, among others. We also suggest that scientific associations and social scientists in general need to adopt a proactive role in preserving both scientific freedom and genuine ethics advice within this new regulatory framework.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)13-19
Number of pages7
JournalSocial Networks
StatePublished - Oct 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We want to thank Paola Tubaro, Louise Ryan, Antonio Casilli, Alessio D'Angelo, Bernie Hogan, Elise Penalva-Icher, and Guillaume Favre for their kind invitation to participate in the RECSNA17: Recent Ethical Challenges in Social Network Analysis, 5-6 Dec 2017 Paris, and the successful discussions that took place during the sessions. Last but not least, we want to thank Miranda Lubbers her valuable suggestions for improving this paper.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 Elsevier B.V.


  • Censorship
  • GDPR
  • Open science
  • Personal data protection
  • Research ethics
  • Social networks research

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anthropology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Social Sciences (all)
  • Psychology (all)


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