Social Media Ethics Event at SAGE on Feb 21st

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    Katie Metzler

    New Social Media, New Social Science… and New Ethical Issues!

    We held a small event on Friday 21st February 2014, our goal was to have a series of focused discussions around the ethical dimensions of social media research and to come up with a series of action points for the network to take forward. The day also included two presentations of related research by network members. You can read a a storify of the day –

    We will post more about the outcomes and discussions shortly but we want to kick off by sharing links to the two reports and presentations. A team from NatCen has been researching the views of social media users on how their posted data should be handled by researchers. The findings are illuminating and will help to inform how we consider we should work with social media data in the future. Visit the blogspot to find out more!

    Now Janet Salmons introduces the research she has undertaken on what researchers need to help support their ethical practice when conducting social research online:

    Our NSMNSS network has convened researchers from the UK and around the world in thought-provoking dialogue on topics related to scholarly use the Internet and social media. Recurrent matters related to research ethics demonstrate that there are many questions and concerns about how to adapt conventional guidelines to kinds of online research. In the atmosphere of collaboration and exchange NSMNSS encourages, resources are often suggested. My curiosity led to two questions: to what extent do the resources suggested by the NSMNSS network address the concerns and questions raised by the NSMNSS network? What are the gaps and how can or should they be addressed? The report, “New Social Media, New Social Science… and New Ethical Issues!” is the result of this exploration.

    Numerous concerns and queries emerged from network discussions, classified here as seven interrelated themes:

    • Participants: Issues related to online sampling and recruiting to find, screen, and select appropriate and verifiable research participants.
    • Identity: Issues related to the identity, anonymity and/or privacy of the participant andthe researcher.
    • Research site: Issues related to the setting for the study or source of data.
    • Informed consent: Issues related to the determination of when consent is needed and what type of consent is adequate.
    • Data: Issues related to user-generated content and ownership and protection of data.
    • Research guidance: Issues related to the academic institutions and committees that prepare the next generation of researchers and must approve researchers’ proposals or decide whether their research is adequate for tenure or promotion.
    • Methods and methodologies: Issues related to implications of social media research for the ways we think about research methods and methodologies.
    • The first five themes relate specifically to the designing, conducting and reporting on research. The final two themes raise larger issues for the field—a field NSMNSS members characterize as multidisciplinary.

    Many of the recommended guidelines and materials offered little or no advice about online research ethics. However, a few professional societies and organizations have made the effort to either create a set of guidelines specific to research on the Internet, or have created supplementary materials that focus on how to apply that profession’s ethical standards when conducting studies online—and reporting on the findings. Examples of the latter were chosen for this review including materials from the Association of Internet Researchers(AOIR), British Educational Research Association (BERA), British Psychological Society (BPS), CASRO, European Society for Opinion and Marketing Research (ESOMAR) and Market Research Society (MRS), and Association (MRA).

    As you can see, in some cases the profiled guidelines make recommendations aligned with NMSNSS network needs and in other cases they instead identify other risks and concerns.

    Visit the blogspot to read the full report and watch the video!

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