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Data management for students: Ethics

Responsible research

When you are handling research data, ethical considerations, and legal obligations are important. Always check with your supervisor if you need to apply for ethical clearance at the Research Ethics and Data Management Committee of your school before you start collecting data. Nonetheless, being aware of how to do responsible research is an integral part of a research project, from the conceptual stage of the research proposal to the end of a research project for three reasons:

#1 - Being a good researcher

Researchers should always seek to consider ethical issues regarding (consent) procedures, manipulations, targeted population, or type of data collected. This means in practice that researchers should ensure that when they are formulating their research questions, designing surveys, questionnaires or interviews, they do not predetermine or prejudice the outcome through their choice of questions or actions. This checklist may be of help when self-evaluating your research design.


#2 - Comply with the law

Researchers need to ensure that they know all the relevant national and international laws that may affect their research project. With collaborative projects which cross legal borders, this may involve various laws. Of particular relevance are regulations with respect to data protection and intellectual property.


#3 - Avoidance of social and personal harm

Researchers should aim to avoid or minimise social harm to groups or individuals when conducting their research projects. This means that the research project should be designed responsibly and consider participants throughout. For example, participation in the research project should be voluntary and based on fully informed consent. This checklist may be of help when self-evaluating your research design.