By Sarah Weakley, Research and Knowledge Exchange Lead, College of Social Sciences
Policy Scotland and the Third Sector Research Forum (TSRF) organised this online seminar focussed on understanding and implementing ethical research principles in the context of third sector research.
The event focussed firstly on sharing the Third Sector Research Forum’s new publication Guide to Applying Ethical Research Principles. This resource was created to help third sector organisations interrogate aspects of their research and evaluation practices using an ‘ethics’ lens in order to ensure that both researchers and participants are safe.
Unlike research undertaken in an academic setting like a university, there are no ethics committees or ethical approval procedures that researchers must undertake before research can begin in third sector organisations. These procedures, while formal, can ensure that ethical practices are maintained and most importantly can ensure that researchers ask important questions of themselves and their process. The TSRF Guide is one way to bring some of those questions to the fore for researchers in third sector organisations, focusing on five core principles of: need, integrity, accountability, confidentiality and safety. Rather than the guide being a prescriptive tool, it focuses on these principles and the questions researchers can ask of themselves around these principles, and provides examples of ‘good’ and ‘not so good’ examples of these principles at work.
In the webinar Jane Marryat (TSRF) shared more about these principles and we heard from two organisations who have used the guide in their own work. Researchers from the Poverty Alliance shared their experience researching low income families during the pandemic and how they considered need, integrity and safety (of participants and researchers) throughout their research process. And finally a researcher from YouthLink Scotland and a researcher from the Scottish Government shared how they worked together on the Scottish Government’s Analytical Exchange Programme to create a new ethics policy for YouthLink foregrounded by the principles in the TSRF Guide.
Together these presentations provided practical tips for implementing the guide and areas to reflect on for both researchers and evaluators in third sector organisations and those in universities who work with third sector organisations for their research.