2.3 Research in the Institution and Beyond

As an open researcher you will need to ensure that you have any required institutional permissions in place for the work that you want to carry out. Once these permissions are in place then the rules of the institution should be followed. They will normally define the kinds of behaviors that are acceptable. However, it should not be assumed that any behaviors not specifically mentioned (or forbidden) in institutional guidance are acceptable.

If working outside institutional processes (e.g. using Facebook to connect with adult learners) you should take every precaution to make sure that your research adheres to the principles of ethical research. Generally speaking, it’s not enough to simply get institutional ethical approval at the start of a project. Institutional approvals typically focus on protection of individuals rather than groups and research activities can change significantly over the course of a project.

Similarly, if you're doing research with informal learners (e.g. a survey of MOOC users) and no institutional approval is required you should still strive to consistently apply the same basic principles that underlie standard modern research ethics:

  • Avoiding harm;
  • Ensuring that consent is informed;
  • Respecting privacy and persons.

Activity 7: Ethical Implications of Openness (1 hour)

Consider the following text from Wikipedia on the definition of ‘open research’:

“Open research is research conducted in the spirit of free and open source software. Much like open source schemes that are built around a source code that is made public, the central theme of open research is to make clear accounts of the methodology freely available via the internet, along with any data or results extracted or derived from them. This permits a massively distributed collaboration, and one in which anyone may participate at any level of the project.” (Source)

Now consider the suggestions for an open research process available here.

Do you think that there are potential ethical issues raised by the suggestions made for ‘open research’? Would they be covered by the principles outlined in the previous activity? If not, are there new principles that we need to use when working ‘in the open’ (without institutional rules)? What might they be?

Post your own thoughts and comment on one other post in the Discourse forum.

Additional Resources

Art Of Guerrilla Research Workshop

'Ethical Use of New Technology in Education'

'Guerilla Research'

Open Research Ethics - The Puppy Killer Scenario

An initial exploration of ethical research practices regarding automated data extraction from online social media user profiles


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