PurposeGatekeepers in social research are regularly taken for granted in the associated methods literature, yet they constitute an interesting social phenomenon in themselves as powerful and normally unpaid agents of research access. Questions relating to the recruitment of potential gatekeepers and to the nature of the rewards that they might seek are under-considered and locating key gatekeepers is often characterised (perhaps inadvertently) as a matter of luck or happenstance. The paper aims to discuss these issues.Design/methodology/approachThis paper is a multi-sited ethnography based on maritime industry conferences held annually in Europe and Asia. The two authors attended 18 of these conferences either as regular delegate or as a speaker. In these conferences, they maintained fieldnotes and formally and informally interviewed participants both face to face and e-mail.FindingsEvery year executives come together at commercially organised conferences focussed upon human resource management in the shipping industry. At these events, major global players discuss a programme of issues related to the business of recruiting and training seafarers. However, these international conferences are both much more and much less than they seem. They are crucial in establishing reputational capital and provide researchers with key venues for negotiating research access.Originality/valueThis paper argues that unlike most conferences, these can only be seen as “field configuring events” to a very limited extent but that they nonetheless serve an important purpose in securing symbolic, and more significantly reputational, capital for both individual delegates and interested academics. The paper further argues that resourceful researchers can mobilise such capital in their favour in negotiating research access contributing new ideas to the literature on gatekeepers and on research access.
Journal of Organizational Ethnography – Emerald Publishing
Published: Apr 3, 2018
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