Practical and Ethical Dilemmas in Researching Sensitive Topics with Populations Considered Vulnerable

October 01, 2019

Dear Colleagues,

Conducting research with populations considered vulnerable might be fraught with ethical and practical dilemmas that might place the development of the research at risk. People can be defined as vulnerable when they lack the autonomy to make their own decisions or experience impairing conditions, which might constrain their physical and/or cognitive autonomy. These dilemmas might be even more challenging when the nature of the topic is sensitive (e.g., sacred, stressful, and/or private). There is little information available in the field of social sciences on the ethical and practical dilemmas faced by researchers when researching sensitive topics with populations that are considered vulnerable. This Special Issue intends to build awareness of these challenges and offer guidance for researchers who intend to develop research on sensitive topics with vulnerable populations. We invite contributions, whether theoretical or empirical, that address but are not limited to the following topics: (i) the analysis and conceptualization of sensitive topics and vulnerable populations; (ii) accessing and recruiting vulnerable populations to talk about sensitive topics; (iii) responsibilities and conflicts of developing research on sensitive topics with populations considered vulnerable; (iv) issues of privacy, anonymity, and confidentiality; (v) risks when dealing with vulnerable populations and sensitive topics; (vi) the safety and protection of participants and researchers; and (vii) personal, ethical, and methodological issues, in general.

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a double-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Societies is an international peer-reviewed open access quarterly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charges (APCs) of 350 CHF (Swiss Francs) per published paper are fully funded by institutions through the Knowledge Unlatched initiative, resulting in no direct charge to authors. Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.


Published Papers

This special issue is now open for submission.