Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Digital Debate Session two: research findings: Getting the ethics of social media research right – learning from NSMNSS project Janet Salmons



Join in the live discussion in our comments thread below, or on Twitter at #NSMNSS

47 comments:

  1. A handout is posted here: http://bit.ly/YqVwzt

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  2. These 6 broad areas of ethical concern emerged: • Privacy and anonymity of participants
    • Sampling and recruiting
    • Researcher identity, rapport & relationship
    • User-generated content
    (& photos) as data
    • Informed consent
    • Data ownership & data security

    What would you add? Particular questions within these areas?

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  3. Several people mentioned that we should address issues "holistically" -- do you agree? What does that mean to you?

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  4. Janet that's great I've also posted it to the Methodspace forum along with the video. Ethics has been such an important and persistent theme I'm sure people will have lots of questions for you.

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  5. Also in the comments: "Cultural competencies and flexibility." What does that mean to you in the context of ethical decision making in social media research?

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  6. @TheCyberPsyche23 April 2013 at 13:55

    Thanks for providing a handout - very useful for people stuck in an office with no headphones :)

    I would echo concern over ethics regarding privacy of data and whether public data can be used for research (some argue that public data is free game, others argue that even though it is public, the people posting that information did not intend for it to be used for any other purpose - including research!). Of course this ties in with a lot of the other highlighted issues - informed consent, right to withdraw, data ownership etc.

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    1. You can listen later! http://bit.ly/YKg1ao

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    2. I agree, there are myriad issues. Do those posting feel the data is fair game?

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  7. As Kandy mentioned, we've heard from participants who have encountered biases from "gatekeepers." How can we "educate" supervisors, review boards, editors etc.? Does this question relate to development of some standards for "quality"?

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  8. What do you most need in terms of resources on e-research ethics? We've heard about the need for an updated e-research ethics website or wiki, and guidelines that institutions can adapt. Training and webinars. What else? Ideas?

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  9. @TheCyberPsyche23 April 2013 at 13:57

    I also would like to raise potential for concern over the credibility and truthfulness of information that is gathered online. Some research suggests that it is very truthful (due to less powerful social norms, a degree of anonymity etc making the individual feel more comfortable being honest and open), whereas other research suggests that people may not be truthful, may dramatise things online or may deliberately engage in trolling or deceipt. A question for researchers is how do we determine the credibility of an online source?

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    1. I would follow with a question: what kind of data are you collecting and how?

      As a qualitative researcher, my immediate thought is: ask them! Interview participants (using social media tools!) to dig deeper.

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    2. Yes that often comes up and one response is that we do it in the same way we do for offline research by triangulation, probing and careful sampling which is fine for generated data but not a solution for naturally occurring data. How we can determine credibility is a really important question.

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    3. @TheCyberPsyche23 April 2013 at 14:06

      At the moment, I am gathering data through a large scale, mainly quantitative, study. However, I will be following this up with some qualitative research which may involve online interviews and/or focus groups so I can certainly do that then.

      As I'm researching online risk, its an area where you really do need participants to be open and honest! For various reasons participants may wish to hide their risk behaviour or alternatively some may wish to exaggerate it.

      That said, I do think that social media generally seems to help people be more open to discussion over sensitive topics, so I do feel it has many benefits to offer researchers and exciting opportunities for the future...

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    4. Sounds interesting? You make a great point: social media research can...should? blur the boundaries between quant and qual. Mixed and multi-methods may allow for member-checking and triangulation, resulting in more credible findings.

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    5. @TheCyberPsyche23 April 2013 at 14:14

      Absolutely, my research is going to involve a mixed-methods approach for that very reason - and also to allow deeper investigation of key issues highlighted by the larger quantitative data collection.

      Thanks, my study is all about social media use and the motivations behind user engagement in online risk, including their positive and negative experiences (details on twitter @TheCyberPsyche for anyone who's interested in hearing more) :)

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    6. You may also be interested in these "Tips" for online interviewers and other resources: http://bit.ly/t7Ffc9

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  10. A comment from our session one thread from Kelsey: Interesting video via Janet Salmons on outcomes from the survey. It seems like the NSMNSS blog is best placed to serve as a hub of ethical best practice sharing and dialogue. PArtly because many case study blogs here dip into ethical reflections. More case studies and reflections on what people have done to overcome or rationalise ethical challenges would be helpful.
    What do other's think? Anything surprising from Janet's findings?
    -kelsey

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    1. The NSMNSS blog as a "hub"....what do others think in terms of the resources such a hub should contain? Should there be a linked wiki where more posts could be made by members?

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  11. If you've enjoyed our digital debate so far, join the network: http://www.research.net/s/NSMNSS

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    1. @TheCyberPsyche23 April 2013 at 14:16

      Done :) I attended your ethics workshop in Oxford last year but I think I somehow overlooked signing up for your network (either that or I've just done it for the second time!)

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    2. Not to worry better safe than sorry!

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  12. It feels like ethics is very much a work in progress, does anyone have experiences they would like to share?

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  13. Janet, I'd be interested for comments on today's poster session (http://nsmnss.blogspot.co.uk/2013/04/digital-debate-poster-session-anita-van.html) - I found this an interesting approach to using closed networks: i.e. using a closed Facebook network but accessing feedback from that group via connected friends. What are your thoughts on the ethics of this approach?

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  14. One area we'd like to know more about is what the users of social media platforms think about their data being used for social research, we are making some assumptions here about what users think about privacy etc based on offline research but they may not be right. A team of NatCen researchers are researching that right now and will be providing interim findings on their research at the forthcoming SRA conference see http://the-sra.org.uk/

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    1. Agreed, very important. Within this broad question: does it matter whether it is a site where registration, membership or "friendship" restricts some kinds of interactions?

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  15. Did participants understand that what was posted would be used for research purposes? If so, that seems like an interesting way to use FB to collect data. Did the researchers "bracket" other info posted by participants on their own pages?

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    1. That's a good question, we're posting this to the @buzzmij team for their feedback

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  16. Can you ever have true "informed consent" unless the participants know every detail of the data collection process and what their data may or may not be used for in the years to come?

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    1. Yes good question, that's the conventional wisdom isn't it? What do others think?

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    2. Some thoughts on consent & examples (for qual studies):
      http://bit.ly/t7Ffc9

      A good practice is to share transcripts/findings with participants for their verification. For some studies that may be best.

      Comments to our questionnaire mentioned the need to be "moral" as researchers. I think to some extent we need to be honest and respectful as we can, not only during the study but later when considering ways to "re-purpose" data.

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  17. What do people think we should be asking social media users about in our primary research at NatCen, we know privacy and anonymity are issues we want to address. We'll be trying to gauge if users think their comments are 'fair game' given they are posted on public forums, but other ideas would be welcomed.

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  18. What about historical data to do with social media interactions? How would the longevity of information be affected by its dispersal over different platforms/servers?

    There are now ways of capturing websites at moments in time, but in the future I could foresee people referencing twitter accounts/Facebook accounts that no longer exist (or only so in proprietary archives) or even posts that people later delete. I think this would be one of the challenges facing social media research.

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    1. Really interesting points, I don't think the community has even started to grapple with the historical data capture and reliability issues.

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    2. Thanks Further, I will make a note of that. Using posts someone has deleted sounds dodgey ethically...

      One point we haven't discussed is about HOW posts are analyzed and used-- whether identifiable info is used. The AOIR guidelines discuss the "distance principle" that may be relevant. See: http://bit.ly/YKoR89

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  19. We're starting session three with Ask for Evidence right now: do join in on the comments http://nsmnss.blogspot.co.uk/2013/04/digital-debate-session-three-research.html

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  20. Information for new researchers on how to use social media, I think, is fairly limited. If we are new to using social media for research, where would you say is a good starting point?

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    1. Naturally, if you are thinking about using interviews I hope you will read my books ;-)

      I'd also point to AOIR-- the guidelines and members' email list: http://bit.ly/YKoR89

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    2. I'm biased I'd say have a good look through these blog posts from the last year which have some great advice and references in them. We'll post more references here and on the Methodspace forum.

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    3. Anonymous, you may have missed this link: http://bit.ly/YqVwzt. The handout has links to guidelines and resources collected so far. More to come!

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    4. If you're looking for a book on research ethics generally, you could try:
      Israel and Hay, Research Ethics for the Social Sciences http://www.sagepub.com/books/Book227156?siteId=sage-us&prodTypes=any&q=israel&fs=1

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  21. Are you aware of, or how do you feel identifying yourself as a researcher from the beginning would affect participants' responses in data collection through social networks?

    - Might their responses be more polarised and less "natural" as they know you are collecting their opinions
    - or do they respond the other way and show more conservative responses?

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    1. Don't think there is a blanket answer to that question.

      I advise my doctoral student researchers to create an online introduction, a "researcher's blog" that explains the study purpose and links to our university, so participants know the researcher is real and will respect ethical guidelines. I think that kind of approach builds credibility-- needed for qual research especially.

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  22. You can join us in session three or stay on for a bit and chat with Janet, don't forget to tell us your views about the key ethical issues by taking part in our survey:
    https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/e-ethics

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  23. Thank you everyone! Keep in touch and share any priorities, questions, or ideas for moving forward! Tell us your success (or horror) stories. Let's keep thinking and learning together.

    Find me at www.vision2lead.com or #einterview

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