Antti Ketola

Informing Research Participants - new guidelines published

The Finnish Social Science Data Archive has updated and extended its guidelines for informing research participants. The aim is to provide more detailed information for researchers on what to tell participants about their study and the data to be collected. The guidelines enable researchers to plan the information process and content according to the requirements of their own study. The guidelines provided refer to the situation in Finland and may not be wholly applicable in other countries due to differences in legislation.

Informing research participants is always a balancing act. Participants need to be given sufficient information so that data collection and analysis can be done in an ethical and legal manner. On the other hand, it is not good practice to swamp participants with excessive information. The updated guidelines will help researchers to distinguish what information is essential to provide and what information researchers themselves can consider whether to supply or not.

One essential part of the informing process is to supply information on archiving and further use of the data. Particularly in cases where the data collected are sensitive, reuse of the data is possible only if this information has been provided. The guidelines provide clear and simple instructions on how and what to inform on this issue, if the data are to be archived for reuse at the FSD.

Examples of information content

The guidelines also provide concrete examples for informing research participants in different cases and different kinds of studies, for instance, questionnaire surveys, qualitative interviews, writing requests, observation, combining register data with data collected for the study etc. Researchers can use the example information texts as a starting point for planning their own informing process and content.

Another service provided is a PDF brochure on the FSD, its archiving practices, and reuse of the archived data. The brochure is available both in Finnish and English, and can be printed out and given to participants, if the data are to be archived at the data archive.

More information