Consultation meet on ‘Ethics in Social Research and Evaluation – Practice and Challenges in India

Centre for Media Studies-Institutional Review Board (CMS-IRB)
Aug 1, 2014 at IIC, New Delhi

The relevance of practicing ethical norms is increasing day by day in the field of social research, particularly in India, with more than 1.2 billion population; 70% of them living in 638,000 villages. To add to it, India is a religiously, culturally diverse multi-lingual society; more than 18 major languages combined with some 1652 languages and dialects are being spoken in India. At the same time, the literacy rate is low. As per Census 2011, literacy rate is around 74%; even lesser among female- 65% than male-82%. With such a socio-culturally diverse population, designing a uniformly acceptable ethically robust research with human subjects is a challenge in India.

The most common way of defining “ethics” is ‘norms for conduct that distinguishes between acceptable and unacceptable behavior’. In fast growing professional world of research, relevance and importance of practicing ethical norms is very critical as it ensures objectivity, promotes truth and knowledge and ensures lesser occurrence of error. In research, human subject, as defined by the United States Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), is a living individual about whom a research investigator (whether a professional or a student) obtains data through 1) intervention or interaction with the individual; or 2) identifiable private information. Thus, human beings irrespective of gender, age group, ethnic group and socio-economic status, individually or in group, is considered as a ‘subject’ for research and identified as human subjects for social science research.

While on one hand, research involving human participants must not violate any universally applicable ethical standards, on the other hand, a researcher needs to consider local cultural values when it comes to the application of the ethical principles to individual autonomy and informed consent. However, research involving human subjects categorized in special categories such as minors, juvenile, pregnant women, differently-abled, prisoners, etc become ethically more sensitive. Important ethical issues include voluntary participation and informed consent, anonymity and confidentiality, and accountability in terms of the accuracy of research design, analysis and reporting.

The main reason for considering ethical norms in social research is because it prohibits immoral approach towards information/data collection. Further, restricts misrepresentation of information/data and restricts researchers from being biased. Also, to an extent, emotional conflicts of surveyed population are addressed properly. On researchers’ part, accountability of researchers towards the community gets ensured and last but not the least, institutions/organizations more likely to fund research projects can trust the quality and integrity of research.

The basic demand of ethical norms is to respect human dignity and privacy; take special precautions with vulnerable population; and make efforts to ensure utilization of evaluation findings i.e. follow-up with donors/implementing agencies.

Institutional Review Board

An institutional review board (IRB) is primarily a committee that is formally designated to approve, monitor, and review biomedical and behavioral research involving humans. The purpose of an IRB review is to assure, both in advance and by periodic review, that appropriate steps are taken to protect the rights and welfare of humans participating as subjects in a research study. IRBs attempt to ensure protection of subjects by reviewing research protocols and related materials.

Initially, IRBs were committees at academic institutions and medical facilities to review research studies involving human participants, primarily to minimize or avoid ethical problems. Today, some IRB reviews are also conducted by for-profit and not-for-profit organizations known as ‘independent’ or ‘commercial’ IRBs. However, the expected responsibilities of such IRBs are identical to those based at academic or medical institutions.

CMS-IRB, a registered body since 2008, is one such review board, having representation of professionals working with CMS, other like-minded organizations and independent consultants.

In India, Institutional Review Board on ethics for non-clinical research is few, almost non-existent. Mostly universities in India have duly-constituted ethics committee but their review is limited to research by their faculty and students and not to research done outside the University purview. In 1999, Ethical Guidelines for Social Science Research in Health was framed by the National Committee for Ethics in Social Science Research in Health (NCESSRH). Non-clinical health research do follow some basics of ethical clearances but in most of the cases it is more of a voluntary choice and less as a pre-requisite for initiating a research study. Studies on juvenile, social groups, differently-abled, prisoners or on issues such as domestic violence, human trafficking among other sensitive issues are rarely reviewed to ensure ethical appropriateness of the research design and protocols.

In this context, CMS-IRB is organizing a half-day Consultation with professionals in development sector, which include those representing international/national donor agencies, social research organizations/institutions, independent consultants. Participation from government funded institutions and bodies will be invited to have a 360 degree sharing of views and opinion.

Agenda: The discussion will focus on two core aspects:

  • One, how best can we sensitize, facilitate and help each other towards improving and ensuring practicing of ethical standards in social research, particularly in context of India
  • Two, debate the importance of IRB in social research projects in our country.

Venue: India International Centre (IIC), Kamaladevi Complex, Seminar Hall III

Time: 2.30-5.00 pm Date: Friday, August 01, 2014

Programme Schedule

2.30–3.00 pm Registration & Tea
3.00 -3.15 pm Welcome Note and brief Introduction about CMS-IRB by Ms. P.N. Vasanti, Deputy Chairperson, CMS-IRB
3.15 – 4.15 pm Panel Discussion:

Best Practices to Address Ethical Issues in Social Research and Role of IRB

Panelists :

Dr Jyotsna Puri, Deputy Executive Director and Head of Evaluation, 3ie
*Dr M.E. Khan, Senior Associate, Population Council, India
Dr Sushanta K Banerjee, CMS-IRB member and Senior Advisor-R&E, Ipas India
Dr Subrato K Mondal, CMS-IRB member and Chief Technical Advisor-M&E, IHBP/FHI 360
*Prof S. K. Sarin, Chairperson, IERB, JNU

4.15 – 5.00 pm Open Discussion-How we can help each other towards improving and ensuring practicing of ethical standards in social research
(*To be confirmed)


The Resilience of Print Media in Asia – Plenary Session at IAMCR Hyderabad 2014

PRESS NOTE July 19, 2014

The Resilience of Print Media in Asia – Plenary Session at IAMCR Hyderabad 2014

In spite of aggressive emergence of new or social media and television across the globe, print media in Asia is growing extensively and will do so on account of various factors.

These are some of the highlights from speakers at the plenary held by International Association of Media and Communications Research (IACMR) in collaboration with CMS in HICC Hyderabad on July 19, 2014. The Panel speakers who included referred to various models in vogue in Asian countries and the way various political organizations and celebrities are making good use of the social and print media in recent times.
India’s pioneer in media research, Dr N Bhaskara Rao, founder Chairman of New Delhi based Centre for Media Studies(CMS) elaborated on the resilience of print media in India specially the regional media. He explained since proliferation of news channels in Andhra Pradesh in the last decade, nearly two million additional circulation has been generated and the number of Telugu dailies too have increased. The extent of migration away from print is minimal but gain is much more, particularly of first time readers. This was possible because of appetizer effect of news bulletins, their more of the same content priorities and preemptive nature of reporting. He quoted CMS research since 1990 in support.

Dr Bhaskara Rao, indicated eight peculiar conditions unique to India which facilitate Persistence of news papers, not with standing growth of television and new media. He however felt that deliberate efforts have to be made to realise the potential for print in India. While competitive compulsions and corporationalisation helps print media positively, cross media ownership and monopolisation beyond would not, Dr Rao argued.

Mr Saddarth Vardarajan, former Editor of the Hindu and an eminent journalist also spoke in this panel. He opined that print media is more about business models than about journalism. The very cheap price of newspapers in India (less than the production cost) is the very genesis of the fall of this form of journalism. He spoke of the allied business of media groups and dependence on advertising for survival.
Mr Vardarajan He also felt that advertising has not moved away from print because the television and internet business models are yet to be more accountable. He opined that responsible editorial gate keeping is still the main reason for the credibility of news content of newspapers. As new technologies emerge and new challenges influence this printed form of media, the main challenge will still be on the investment on news gathering and editorial gate keeping to maintain relevance.

The panel had a Chinese Scholar Dr. Debao Xiang from Shanghai University who shared how there are three distinct players in the media ecosystem – government, commercial and public media. He explained how media organizations reinvented themselves with the available technologies like they started web applications like messages and rss feed that are now quite popular- even larger than pint version subscription.
The Bangladesh scholar Shudipta Sharma from Chittagong University shared that the newspapers are increasing in numbers and circulations inspite of new media presence because of increasing literacy rates and also cross media ownership. However, new media is slowly catching up and newspapers will have to find more ways to maintain their relevance. Most newspapers have already have adopted online for digital distribution of their news.
This session was attended by more than 200 scholars, students and media professionals from various countries attending IAMCR. It concluded with active interaction with the audience and the panelists.

IAMCR is a preeminent worldwide professional organisation in the field of media and communication research. The University of Hyderabad (UoH) and the English and Foreign Language University (EFLU), are jointly hosting the IAMCR 2014 at Hyderabad International Convention Centre (HICC), Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh from July 15 to 19, 2014. About 900 delegates from 80 countries attended this conference.

For more information, please contact: Ms Anita Medasani, Regional Manager CMS, Hyderabad web– | Email – | cell 8897507936




A unique feature of our parliamentary democracy is its free media sustaining the very process, as in the case of periodic elections, nationally for Lok Sabha and state wise for Assemblies. NEWS media, in turn, flourishes from electoral politics. An important indicator of how free and fair our elections are could be seen from the way NEWS media facilitates the electoral process with its coverage.

The 16th general (Lok Sabha) elections 2014, could easily be considered a ‘wonder of the world‘, not just for the size, but also for the smoothness with which the 100-day spectacle was held. Since the 2004 elections, NEWS channels, often referred to as the hallmark of poll campaigns, have doubled in numbers and their coverage of elections has become professional and competitive to the extent of determining the process and even in making the very outcome obvious. Hence, the need to look into the trends in NEWS channels covering the poll processes has become critical.

CMS has been tracking a couple of prominent NEWS channels for nearly a decade and analyzing their contents. After round the clock monitoring of broadcasts for a couple of years, it was concluded that prime time coverage (7 to 11 PM) is sufficient to reflect the priorities of the day in view of unique nature of NEWS channels, repeat and replay coverage, including the visual footage as often during the day.

To bring out the nature of coverage of 2014 Lok Sabha election, CMS analysed the periodic reports of its Media Lab. Five news channels (two English and three Hindi), namely NDTV 24×7, Aajtak, ABP NEWS, Zee NEWS and CNN IBN, were tracked to reflect the scope of coverage of NEWS media in general and of NEWS channels in particular. This monograph presents highlights of this analysis.


An Overview

NEWS media coverage of 2014 poll was unprecedented. Never before has NEWS media coverage of poll campaign been so polarised, (or should we say one directional), to the extent of pre determining the poll outcome. What started as AAP’s Arvind Kejriwal centric media coverage (at the announcement of the poll schedule), became Modi driven too soon and remained that way till the poll campaign ended.

Although the fight at the national level was between the incumbent Congress party led UPA and the BJP, the media coverage of Congress party was not even thirty percent at any point of the campaign. Even the coverage of Rahul Gandhi by NEWS channels was only about ten percent of the prime time given to Modi. It was interesting how Kejariwal’s campaign was relegated to a third position as the poll schedule advanced, phase after phase.

Download detailed report

Performance Matters

Implementation of Citizens’/Clients’ Charter of Central Departments: An Independent Audit

Volume 5            March 21, 2014              lssue 1

Alok_SrivastavaMr Alok Srivastava, has extensive years of experience in social development research. He is a trained Development Programme Evaluator from The World Bank and Carleton University (Canada) and holds a post graduation in Rural Development and Management. He has been involved in a number of research and evaluation studies in the area of education, employment and livelihood, labour (including child labour), and governance. He can be reached at:


Government of India’s ministries/department’s are mandated to develop Citizens’/Clients’ Charters (CCC). This exercise, in fact, marks the culmination of a process whose origin can be traced to the Conference of Chief Ministers of States and Union Territories held way back on May 24, 1997, in New Delhi and presided over by the then Prime Minister of India, Shri I.K. Gujral. In this Conference, an ‘Action Plan for Effective and Responsive Government’ at the Centre and State levels was adopted. One of the major decisions taken in the Conference was that Departments would formulate Citizens’ charters starting with those sectors that have large public interface. However, overall not much progress was made in this direction. Given the unsatisfactory track record of the implementation of CCC and the uneven quality of CCCs, which were neither useful for measuring the performance of departments with respect to this important aspect of departmental performance, nor was there any consequence for ignoring the commitments listed in CCCs, the High Power Committee on Government Performance, chaired by the then Cabinet Secretary, in its meeting of May 28, 2010 decided to include “Development of Citizens’/Clients’ Charters” in Results Framework Documents (RFDs) as a mandatory indicator for all ministries/ departments.(Table 1).

Table1Subsequently, departments have prepared CCCs and all CCCs that were found to be of acceptable quality have been published as a compendium and are also available on the website of Performance Management Division (PMD), Cabinet Secretariat (CS), GoI, which is the nodal agency for ensuring the approval of CCC by respective ministries and departments. CCC of respective ministries and departments are also available on their websites.

Independent Audit

An independent audit of implementation of CCC under the leadership of Dr. Prajapati Trivedi, Secretary, Performance Management Division, Cabinet Secretariat, was carried out by the Centre for Media Studies (CMS) in mid-2013. Fifty nine (59) ministries/departments of the Central Government, whose CCCs have been approved by PMD were included in this audit. The exercise was intensive which included physical visit to each ministry/department’s office, interacting with nodal officers of 2-3 services provided by the respective ministries/departments, observing the display of CCC, making the phone calls for checking the response rate and accurateness of contact details of the nodal person and analyzing the quality of self-assessment report of each ministry.

With the expectation that a shared understanding of the proposed methodology and the process would ensure transparency, objectivity and fairness of the proposed independent audit, all the ministries and departments were informed well in advance about the audit methodology and process. The Audit was participatory in nature as it included not only ranking of ministries/departments on the basis of visits by CMS audit team members (Success indicator A to E in Table 2); but equal weight was given to Selfassessment reports of respective ministries/departments (success indicator F in Table 2 ). Being the first year of audit, it was decided to restrict the audit process only to assess the preparedness and practice of ministries and departments as far as CCC is concerned. The indicators, weights assigned and target/criteria value used for audit of ministries/departments status on CCC is shown in the Table 2:

Table 2: Independent Audit Indicators


Overall Score/Performance-Ministries/Departmental Rating

The composite score of the Ministries/Departments on the six success indicators of Independent Audit present a not so satisfactory picture (Table 3).


Some Insights

  • Considering the fact that in case of most of the ministries/departments, the implementation of CCCs has completed about an year or so, the efforts made by departments/officials to make CCC visible is encouraging.

  • At the same time it is observed that CCC is yet to sink in among different level of functionaries functionaries, including the reception desk. Orientation of staff is desirable to give the message that CCC is for bringing both transparency and accountability in service delivery. It is more for self-assessment and improving departments’ performance and less as an additional burden.

  • The perception that ministries/departments do not interact directly with public but has more interdepartmental interaction at centre and as a partner with states, hence there is no need for CCC, has to be addressed for making CCC more effective.

  • Regular, may be every six-month update of designated officials’ name and contact details in CCC uploaded on respective ministries/departments’ websites is desirable. As most of the clients are state departments and institutions, they will be a ‘virtual visitor’ to the ministries/departments through the websites for required information.

  • Last but not the least, this round of audit, due to paucity of time, did not take the feedback of service seekers. Next round of audit should factor in the experience of service users (institution/individuals) as well as assess the implementation of the CCC, in spirit and in action.

TV News gives less than 1% of its news time on Environment (PRESS NOTE)

On the eve of the World Environment Day on June 5, CMS ENVIS Centre has released its report based on a 5 year study of Indian television coverage of environment issues.

Over the years, environment has become an extremely grave and sensitive issue not only in our country but across the world. However, Indian news channels, an acclaimed feature of the electronic media, have still not impressively taken up the cause of promoting environmental concerns in the country.

The dearth of environmental coverage is certainly not due to dearth of visual material or lack of conflict; the TV channels apparently go by the policy “why bore people with country’s efforts with regard to environmental protection when they can be entertained instead.”

In a country like India, media is the most effective environment communication tool, but as per the records, these are not sufficiently exploited for the same and most of the environment stories lack the priority status with which it should be presented.

The limited knowledge of reporters also leads to environmental catastrophe, while the stories suffer content limitations, typically providing little qualification or support from scientific data, making vague references to the scientific communication, and emphasizing sensationalist aspect.

To bring this concern to the fore, CMS ENVIS Centre undertook regular analysis of environmental issues coverage in six mainstream 24X7 television news channels – DD News, Aaj Tak, CNN IBN, NDTV 24X7, Star News (Now ABP News) and Zee News. The prime time band from 7 to 11 pm was selected for the study.

The study, which covered a five year period from 2009 to 2013, reflected on the overall coverage and priorities given to environment related issues by these channels.

The year wise analysis of six prominent news channels revealed that the news on politics, sports, entertainment and crime had maximum coverage in five years. Looking at the overall coverage of the channels, it is evident that less than one percent of the total time is devoted to issues like environment and wildlife.

In 2009, the coverage on environment was only 1.53% and news on politics was 20.36% (graph given below). In the year 2010, the coverage of sports news was 17.93% in comparison with the environment news 1.29%. Since 2011 to year 2013, the coverage on politics had dominated over other social issues. The coverage on environment news had sharply declined since 2009, which was an alarming situation for environment conservationists. It was found that in the last five years, the media had focused rarely on different environmental issues such as agriculture, weather, natural disaster and wildlife.

As the backbone of our survival and consistent maintenance on earth, environment needs to be lent the required space and structure that it rightfully holds. Only then, a mature and palpable interaction will be made possible.

Therefore, there is an urgent need to accommodate environment effectively so that the validity of its essence is comprehended and widespread understanding is generated. It is anticipated that the findings of this study would help create an adequate advocacy platform to voice environmental concerns through the electronic media.

For more detailed report of this study, please go to ….


For further clarification, please contact:

Anand :  9582254615,

John :     98999 79167,


CMS ENVIS Centre: In 2000, Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) designated CMS an ENVIS Centre to facilitate information dissemination and further the cause of environment awareness and sensitization through media. The CMS Environment team set up a separate space in their campus to house documentary films, spots/ public service messages, info-mercials, quiz programmes, jingles etc. on environmental and wildlife