Research Ethics

The project team are very aware of the complex ethical and privacy issues of collecting data from social media spaces, which is one of the methodologies used in this project. We take all privacy and confidentiality concerns extremely seriously.

This page explains our ethics approach for this research.

Focus of the Research

This project focuses on how teachers in this University prepare students to deal with wicked problems in their future lives. Wicked problems are messy and cannot be fully defined. They have no single obvious solution, require imaginative interdisciplinary problem solving, and bring together multiple stakeholders with diverse perspectives .  We are collecting qualitative data  through virtual ethnography and semi-structured interviews. The findings from the project will be used to develop workshops and an online space to support teachers to guide their students in developing the competences to respond to wicked problems.

This work has gone through formal ethical approval processes by the School of Education ethics committee. The project team are also experienced at working with personal data. Our approach is strongly informed by the Association of Internet Research Ethics Guidance, which we feel offers the most nuanced approaches to protecting and respecting the privacy of participants in internet and social media research.

How research data is being collected and kept private

Our semi-structured interviews with educators in the University are being audio-recorded and transcribed. Once we have checked the transcripts we will delete the recordings. All of the transcripts and recordings are stored securely in a password protected space. Carefully anonymised extracts may be used when we report on the project. We are getting explicit written consent from our interview participants.

We will also engage in participant observation which follows participants into other spaces which they identify as sites where they learn about preparing students for wicked problems.  We will ask participants about the discussion fora, social media and web pages which are relevant for them in relation to our research questions. We will also seek permission to access relevant virtual learning environments but we will only observe the ways in which the teachers’ use these sites. We will not access any student data. We may observe in face-to-face contexts if participants indicate this will be workable and we can gain the written consent of participants.

We will not quote anything our participants write online as this may inadvertently identify them as internet sources are easily searchable. Where we are looking at sources developed by authors outwith out interview sample, we will respect any guidance given within online sources as to how and whether the owners of the pages want to be quoted. Where there is no guidance we will not use direct quotations in our publications and dissemination. We will let all page owners whose data we wish to analyse know we are looking at their data and why. In our dissemination we will not quote directly from any source without written consent. Where we seek to use blogs with restricted access we will seek explicit written consent from the blog authors and the course leader.

Where online texts are part of participants’ assessed coursework we will only seek consent to gather data from participating staff members who have successfully completed the relevant course. We will seek permission from list or group owners to conduct research in their space and will ask to see the terms and conditions of any group to make sure we are not breaching those. We will make participants aware of our reasons for joining the group and provide a process for them to opt out of us using any of their data. We will let participants know the timescale for our presence in any group.

Across the project we will anonymise any data we collect at the earliest possible stage.  We will give careful consideration to participants’ expectations of privacy across all of our data collection.

Opting Out of this research

If you would like to opt out of this research then you can do this by contacting the project team to request removal of your data.

To request that you opt out of this project contact the project PI, Dr Velda McCune.

 Any Questions?

For any further information please contact the project PI, Dr Velda McCune or the project researcher, Rebekah Tauritz.