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BPS publishes revised guidance on internet-mediated research

10 April 2017

Conducting research over the internet can pose challenges in abiding by the ethical principles that are accepted in more conventional studies.

The Society's revised Ethics Guidelines for Internet-mediated Research (IMR) outlines the key ethical issues researchers and research ethics committees should keep in mind when planning or evaluating an IMR study.

The guidance considers each of the four main ethical principles outlined in the Society’s Code of Human Research Ethics – respect for the autonomy and dignity of persons, scientific value, social responsibility, maximising benefits and minimising harm

It highlights issues which may need special consideration in an IMR context, using illustrative examples to explain why.

Those issues include:

  • the public-private domain distinction online;
  • confidentiality and security of online data;
  • procedures for obtaining valid consent; procedures for ensuring withdrawal rights and debriefing;
  • levels of researcher control;
  • implications for scientific value and potential harm.

The emphasis throughout is on offering advice on how to think about and apply existing ethics principles in an IMR context, while recognising that issues need to be assessed and decisions made within the context of a particular piece of research.

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