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ResourcesHuman Research Ethics3 Strategies for Accountable, Ethical Online Behavior Research – Medium (J. Nathan Matias | November 2017)

Australasian Human Research Ethics Consultancy Services Pty Ltd (AHRECS)

3 Strategies for Accountable, Ethical Online Behavior Research – Medium (J. Nathan Matias | November 2017)

Published/Released on November 03, 2017 | Posted by Admin on April 13, 2018 / , , , , , ,
 


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Help CivilServant develop ways to inform people about their participation in online research and hold us accountable

In 2014, after researchers worked with Facebook to test the effect of newsfeed adjustments on the emotional tone of people’s future posts, academics took a closer look at the ethics of online behavioral research, in the midst of a wider public debate over the power of online platforms in society.

A very interesting (made even more topical by the Facebook/Cambridge/Kogan media storm) discussion about consent, privacy and ethical review for social media and other web2.o research. We’ve included links to a trove of other resource items. These topics have huge impacts far beyond a news cycle and the human research ethics sphere.

Two ideas were central to these conversations: consent and debriefing. In consent-based models of research, people are asked in advance if they are willing to participate in the study. Individual consent often works best under controlled, lab-style studies or surveys and interviews, where it’s easy to decide which people are part of a study and which people aren’t. Debriefing is a process where people are told after the study. Debriefing is also a way to identify any unexpected, harmful effects that the researchers weren’t looking out for, so the harms can be addressed.
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In field research, which tests ideas out in the world, individual consent and debriefing can be hard to acquire. For example, consider this study that tested the effect of lawn signs on voter participation rates. It wouldn’t be possible to obtain the advance consent of every single driver who passed by the signs; it would be impossible to predict exactly who would drive by. Even if you could obtain consent, you wouldn’t be able to show or hide the sign for people who hadn’t consented to the study. Likewise with debriefing: a researcher might be able to place a camera next to every sign in order to figure out the license plate, identity, and address of everyone who passed by, but in the effort to contact everyone in the study about ethics, the ethics procedure might become more risky and intrusive than the original study.

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