I was preparing an question and realized that while I was carefully anonymizing the people involved, I was identifying the universities, etc.

Personally, I believe that knowing the universities and/or locale involved adds context to the situation but might serve to assist someone with 'less than altruistic intentions' in identifying the participants in the dilema.

I also know that while I've only recently joined this community, I have followed many questions in the past through the Hot Network Questions sidebar from other sites. TBH, I don't recall other ethics related question(s) where scholastic institutions were named.

How should I proceed and stay on-topic while accurately describing the situation? An accurate description of the situation involves at least five universities and a couple of countries. I feel that locale is important because the ethical conundrum involves student loans.

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  • Thanks @StrongBad. That didn't directly address my issue but it did help provide perspective. – user117495 Dec 18 '19 at 3:14
  • It's a judgment call. There is no one-size-fits-all answer. Ask yourself whether an identification of the researchers involved is realistic, and if yes, whether it's worth risking anyway. There are quite a few sui-generis universities in the US alone, so there will be cases where even despite a lack of anonymity you'll want to mention the place. – darij grinberg Dec 27 '19 at 20:41

I recommend sharing the relevant details without naming the schools. For example, instead of "Columbia University," you could say "a prestigious university in a large city in the US with several other nearby universities." I can't imagine any ethical quandary that is so specific it only applies to a single set of universities (and if it does, it is probably not a great fit for this site in any case).

As an aside, questions with many actors and locales are difficult to write cleanly. A lot of questions provide too many details and end up attracting few answers. Even moreso when there are awkward naming conventions ("Professor X in Country Y talked to Professors A and B...."). So, I really recommend boiling it down to the key issues and most important details.

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  • The ethical quandary is directly regarding student loans and the avoidance of repayment. While the particular universities may not be identified, their general location (and governing laws) is a sacrosanct part of the ethical question. Maybe I'm just shortcutting my question's narrative. – user117495 Dec 18 '19 at 3:04
  • including the country, or part of the world, seems reasonable (meant to include that in my example, will update). – cag51 Dec 18 '19 at 14:14

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