Social Media, Social Science and Research Ethics


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Presentation by Kandy Woodfield at 3rd Annual Social Media in Social Research Conference 24th June 2013

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Social Media, Social Science and Research Ethics

  1. 1. Social Media, Social Science &Research EthicsDr Janet Salmons,Kandy Woodfield
  2. 2. Kandy WoodfieldHead of Learning &DevelopmentNatCen Social ResearchNSMNSS Network leaderJanet Salmons, Ph.D.Network memberCapella University CoreFaculty, Researcher, Writer& Consultant throughVision2Lead. Author, OnlineInte rvie ws in Re alTim e andCase s in Online Inte rvie wRe se arch.
  3. 3. New Social Media, New SocialScience - Blurring theboundaries?InnovationCollaborationInspirationFresh thinking Network of methodologicalinnovation Funded by NCRM May 2012-May 2013
  4. 4. Aims of the network InnovationCollaborationInspirationFresh thinking On & off line community of practice Forge links between academics, practitioners& across disciplines Catalyse debate - address challenges social mediapresent for social science research Share approaches, tools & experiences of usingsocial media Identify good practice: co-created content &guidance to be shared with the wider community
  5. 5. 76%employed34%students75% HE sector25% other65% in UK35% worldwide58% female42% male461members20 disciplinaryfields
  6. 6. How it works?InnovationCollaborationInspirationFresh thinkingNetwork activities across a rangeof platforms: Home page: Methodspace: Twitter: @NSMNSS, #NSMNSS Blogs: You Tube: Face to face events
  7. 7. Over 3,500minutes ofvideo watched3 0nline seminars2 conferences4 knowledge exchangeseminars7 themed twitter chats56 blog posts12months…1,194video viewsonYou Tube23,234 blog page views
  8. 8. Ethical issues in social mediaresearchPersisting uncertainty ‘getting it right’ethically Ethical dilemmas - lack of consistent, relevantguidance, conflicting opinions What are the key political, ethical, legal issues? Are they different for online to offlineresearch? Do we understand the digital world well enough tomake these choices? Lack of research with users of social mediaplatforms or engagement with platformproviders
  9. 9. Survey of NSMNSS membersN:67
  10. 10. How do you make decisions about researchethics?68%59%56%39%33%
  11. 11. Do you feel the guidelines you use areup-to-date and adequate for onlineresearchers?YESNONOT SURE33%30%37%
  12. 12. Issues?Privacy &anonymity ofparticipantsSampling &recruitmentInformed consentResearcheridentity, rapport &relationshipsUser-generatedcontent (text &images) as dataDate ownership& data security
  13. 13. What is public & private?What is your responsibility as researcher?Do ethics differ between ‘public’platforms/spaces & ‘walled gardens’?What does online informed consent looklike?Is it wrong if I lurk and observe?Twitter chats
  14. 14. Resolving ethicaldilemmas requires“holistic” approachengaging views of manydisciplinesResearch ethics = one tilein mosaic of technological,political, cultural &individual complexityCultural competencies& flexibility neededwhen dealing withmulticultural participantsNeed for cross-institutional‘standardization’ of IRBboards?Social media areplural, no singlemethods – ethicsdecisions must becontext andmethod specificEncouragementfor researchers topublish methods/ethical casestudies, failures &successes
  15. 15. What are the main gaps, areas needingclarification?“ I think they would all benefit from attention and clarity”74%75%72%68%65%62%60%57% 51%46%43%42%35%32%32%
  16. 16. What research ethics resources would be mostuseful?72%69%48%39%38%36%33%28%25%
  17. 17. Preliminary observations Multi-disciplinary, multi-method approaches to researchethics are needed, while respecting the influence ofdisciplinary codes and work of associations Ongoing development is needed as approaches will evolvewith changes in technology and usage – static codeswon’t work Need to engage those who teach, review & edit: the“gatekeepers.” Need to encourage scholars to explain & discuss theirmethods, so we can learn from each other about the “how”and “why” of research with online and social mediamethods.
  18. 18. Resources suggested bynetwork membersGovernmentDoing the right thing(DWP guidelines)Professional Associations• AOIR• BERA• MRS/MRABooks & articlesMarket research•ESOMAR•CASRO
  19. 19. Most mentioned issues & resourcesAOIR EthicsGuidelines(Markham, Buchanan, & Committee,2012)British EducationalResearch Association(Jones, 2011)Esomar: Market andSocial Research(ESOMAR, 2008; Phillips et al., 2011)Collecting data from Tweets, blogs, social media communities:consent or disclosure?What are public versus private spaces online?Protecting anonymity when using online quotations in researchreports
  20. 20. Collecting data from Tweets, blogs, socialmedia communities: consent or disclosure?AOIR EthicsGuidelines(Markham,Buchanan, & Committee,2012)British EducationalResearch Association(Jones, 2011)Esomar: Market &Social Research(ESOMAR, 2008; Phillips et al.,2011)Collectingdata fromTweets, blogs,social mediacommunities:consent ordisclosure?Because all digitalinformation at some pointinvolves individualpersons, consideration ofprinciples related toresearch on humansubjects may benecessary even if it is notimmediately apparenthow and where personsare involved in theresearch data. (p. 4)Social networking and otheron-line activities, includingtheir video-basedenvironments, presentchallenges for considerationof consent issues and theparticipants must be clearlyinformed that theirparticipation and interactionsare being monitored andanalysed for research.If consent has not beenobtained researchers mustensure that they report onlydepersonalised data fromsocial media sources. Ifresearchers are usingautomated data collectionservices, they arerecommended to use filtersand controls to removepersonal identifiers such asuser names, photos, links tothe user’s profile, etc.
  21. 21. What are public versus private spaces online?AOIR EthicsGuidelines(Markham, Buchanan, & Committee,2012)British EducationalResearch Association(Jones, 2011)Esomar: Market andSocial Research(ESOMAR, 2008; Phillipset al., 2011)What arepublicversusprivatespacesonline?Individual and cultural definitionsand expectations of privacy areambiguous, contested, andchanging. People may operate inpublic spaces but maintainstrong perceptions orexpectations of privacy. Or,acknowledge that thecommunication is public, but thatthe specific context in which itappears implies restrictions. (p.6-7)Not addressed. Public social media:This covers the majorityof social media. Itincludes all placeswhere entry is withoutany form of barrier.Private social media:This covers areaswhere the user or thewebsite do not want thedata to be publicallyaccessible. All requireusername identificationfor access
  22. 22. Protecting anonymity in reportingAOIR EthicsGuidelines(Markham, Buchanan, &Committee, 2012)British EducationalResearch Association(Jones, 2011)Esomar: Market &Social Research(ESOMAR, 2008; Phillips etal., 2011)Protectinganonymity whenusing quotationsinresearch reports?• How are findingspresented?• What immediate orfuture risk might occurby using exact-quotedmaterial in publishedreports?• Are individualsadequately protected inpre-publication reports,such as workshops,conferences, orinformal meetings?• Is the data easilysearchable andretrievable?In qualitative researchone way to protectparticipants is throughnarrative and creativemeans, which mightrequire the fictionalisingof aspects of theresearch or the creationof composite accounts,such as in vignettes,providing generalizedfeatures based on anumber of specificaccountsWhere [consent] is notpossible their analysismust only be withdepersonalised data.If researchers wish toquote publicly madecomments they must firstcheck if the user’s identitycan be easilydiscoverable using onlinesearch services. If it can,they must makereasonable efforts toeither seek permissionfrom the user to quotethem or mask thecomment.
  23. 23. Ethics – interim thoughts Are the ethics of social media researchthat different really? Do we need separate guidelines? Paper written up, including comparisons ofthe codes by the end of the summer Working with SRA ethics group aroundguidance More research with users of social mediato better understand what peoplewant/expect or need in regard to ethics
  24. 24. Thank youIf you want further information orwould like to contact the us @nsmnss