Halfway through the semester, the Research in Emerging Technologies: Social Tech class has curated content from all blog posts on Ethics of Internet Research by the class and information from #mscret touching on this topic. This collaborative work has yielded a database of different thoughts on areas covered in this module. This curated media is what I will be discussing about in this post, backing up with other sources and citing my own thoughts about the subject.
A progressive change of the Internet has seen a shift in to its application by users.
“…as the Internet has evolved into a more social and communicative tool and venue, the ethical issues have shifted from purely data driven to more human-centred.” (Buchanan, Elizabeth A. and Zimmer, Michael 2012).
The wide usage and accessibility to the internet and provision of instant information has contributed to on-line researches. The use of emails, forums or instant messaging(to mention a few) offers direct contact to relevant people in the line of research or subject area expects. This research may range form ‘looking something up’ on the web, for example the meaning of a word, to gathering information for personal understanding for example, how far in mileage is Oxford from London, to students researching for an academic paper/journal. However the authenticity of the information gathered can be a problem, but this depends on the skills of the researcher to filter unnecessary data and identify the authors’ credentials. For a scientific research method involving gathering measurable evidence by conducting test end experiments on humans and animals. As discussed earlier about ease of internet accessibility, direct contact to relevant individuals in the area of study has resulted in some human subject based test or experiments carried out on-line. This may seem as arguably an easy way for large samples of human subjects testing with a possibility of diverse crowd rather than an area limited group whose data is automatically coded reducing human error not forgetting cost effectiveness. However, there is risk of repeated participation, subjects dropping out of the test, or start the test, stop and join after a while or even rush through the test. To overcome some of these detriments an email address can be requested from subjects at least to lessen multiple participation but not so much of a solution with individuals having more than one email account. For a ‘dropping out’ drawback, an incentive could be offered to the subject, if they agree to give their contact details they could be entered in a draw to win a prize. In one of our guest Lectures, Professor Trevor Cox in his talk Psychoacoustic Testing: Web vs Laboratory to my class, gave us an exercise to fill in an on-line questioner on Speech in Noise Experiment and at the end of the experiment there was a choice of entering into a draw to win an Amazon voucher. Some researchers may suggest that subjects give email addresses if they are willing to take part in other experiments in future or interested in knowing the result of the experiment and this email address will be the only link between the subject and researcher..
- The honours now is on the researcher to ensure that the information presented to them is used appropriately and contacts stored securely. The researcher should ensure that privacy is maintained with the data captured because some experiments will ask sensitive issues from subjects and if there is no anonymity then data confidentiality should be in practice so that there is no harm to subjects by exposing their sensitive information.
- For ‘cloud computing’ based experiments for example where information is shared on an on-line drive for example Google docs or on-line sharing platforms like Drop box,steps must be taken to ensure that only authorised individuals have access to the ‘cloud’.
- For Experiments involving Minors there may be need for parental consent depending on which country the experiment is being carried out in.
- Briefly giving a clear and understandable explanation of the purpose of the research and why the research is being carried out and how the data is going to be used before hand then subjects will have to willingly agree to be tested on and have a choice of opting out at any time probably without having to explain themselves.
For our research project, ‘Is stereoscopic 3D the Future of Film making’, Sharon and I have made a given out an information sheet and consent form, explaining what the research is all about, confidentiality and safety data giving an opt out option with out any explanation if subjects do wish so here.
Buchanan, Elizabeth A. and Zimmer, Michael, “Internet Research Ethics”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2012 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL: http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/win2012/entries/ethics-internet-research/.