Code of Ethics

Overarching Principle: Act with Integrity

Researchers and evaluators will act with integrity towards research and evaluation participants during all phases of a project from concept to design, undertaking and reporting.

Researchers and evaluators will be familiar with legislation for research and handling of information:

  • the Privacy Act
  • the Human Rights Act
  • the Official Information Act

Cultural Competence
Researchers and evaluators will take all reasonable steps to ensure that research design is appropriate to the values, culture/s and circumstances of the participants.

Principles Relating to Research Participants

Informed Consent
Participants will be informed verbally and in writing about:

  • the purpose of the research;
  • the names of the researchers/agencies conducting the research;
  • contact details of responsible persons for questions and/or complaints.
  • what involvement entails;
  • their right not to participate and to withdraw their consent at any stage without explanation;
  • their access to the information they provide and feedback on the results of the research;
  • the likely risks and benefits resulting from their participation;
  • what will happen if they report participating in illegal activity - e.g. child abuse or criminal offences.

 

When people are unable to give consent, perhaps because they are young children or have limited decision-making skills, consent should be given by the appropriate caregiver as well as by the participant.

Children will give informed consent on their own behalf, subject to the limitations of the age and maturity of the child, in accordance with Article 12 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Normally parental consent is also sought, except where the refusal of consent by a parent or caregiver is not in the best interests of the child. In loco parentis situations such as schools and formal care situations will have additional permission requirements which will need to be followed. (e.g. School Principal and School protocol, Research Access Committee.

Freedom from Coercion to Participate
Undue pressure will not be used to persuade people to participate, or to continue participating, in the research.

Individual’s Privacy
Only necessary personal information will be collected.

Confidentiality and Anonymity
Confidentiality involves ensuring that information is not linked to particular research participants, by the use of codes and pseudonyms. Codes provide the researcher with a link back to the identity of the participant. Anonymity in research is where respondent details are not known to the researchers or anyone else. e.g. an anonymous questionnaire. Guarantees of confidentiality and/or anonymity given to research participants will be honoured, unless there are clear and overriding reasons to do otherwise. Researchers will not breach the 'duty of confidentiality' and not pass on identifiable data to third parties without participants' consent. However, research data given in confidence do not enjoy legal privilege and may be liable to subpoena by a court. In relevant circumstances research participants should be made aware of this fact. If the confidentiality of personal information cannot be guaranteed then participants will be informed at the earliest possible time.

Sensitivity to Participants’ Circumstances
Physical and mental harm to the participant will be avoided, and sensitivity given to individual circumstances - e.g. age, gender, cultural background, disabilities, and values.

 

Principles Relating to Research Personnel

Research personnel may be people employed or contracted by the researcher(s) to undertake specific parts of the research, such as conducting interviews or surveys, and includes support staff.

Preliminary work
Prior to undertaking any research, researchers have a responsibility to survey relevant literature and information to determine the research focus.

Selection
The selection of research personnel conducting fieldwork will take account of their acceptability to, and ability to communicate well with, the research participants.

Awareness
Research personnel will be fully informed of their responsibilities as part of the research, and under the code of ethics used for the research.

Training
Research personnel will be trained in all aspects of the work required of them.

Supervision / Support
Supervision will be provided to ensure that research personnel understand what is required of them, and that they are supported in their work. In special circumstances, additional counselling or debriefing sessions may be required.

Confidentiality
Research personnel must maintain the confidentiality of personal information and no identifiable information (e.g. about individuals, programmes or organisations) will be passed on to other agencies.

Accountability
Principal researchers are responsible for taking all reasonable steps to ensure that research personnel conduct their work in a professional manner.

 

Principles Relating to Researchers Commissioned to do the Research

Before research commences, the principal researcher will clarify the following:-

Use of the research
The right of the researcher to use the research results commercially or otherwise, or to publish research and information independently from the client. When research results are published independently by the researcher, the institutional context within which the research took place will be made clear. This includes the objectives of the organisation commissioning the research, the nature and extent of funding, and the role of the organisation in framing and defining the research.

Multiple clients
When working for a multiplicity of clients who can be, or are in competitive positions, the right to use information and results across projects will be carefully defined.

Principles Relating to Research Reports

Confidentiality
Any information which might lead to the identification of participants will only be published with their permission.

Acknowledgement
Researchers will acknowledge the due contributions of all people and organisations associated with the research project or publication.

Peer Review
Researchers will make draft research reports available for objective peer review.

Feedback of Results
The client/s, participants and research personnel involved in the research, will normally be given a report or a summary of the research findings, or be informed as to how they can access the research findings.

Principles Relating to the Storage of Information

Confidentiality
Information will be stored in a way which protects the identity and confidentiality of the participants, programmes and organisations, (e.g. use of a code number or pseudonym) and ensures safe custody of the data. Only the researcher will have access to identifying information and any cross matching list will be stored securely in a separate location to the research information.

Destruction of Information
Information will be destroyed by the researcher in a manner which will maintain confidentiality of information. E.g. shredding paper, professionally wiping video and audio tapes, re-formatting computer disks. Where it is proposed to retain information beyond the life of the project, potential participants will be informed of this as part of the informed consent process at the beginning of the project.

Computer Information
Files containing confidential information will not be stored on shared directories nor be accessible by Internet. Computer disks, CD ROM and backup tapes will be securely stored. Passwords may be used but extreme care will be taken to keep any record of a password in a completely separate secure location. Identifying information and cross-matching lists will be stored securely in a separate location to the data itself.

Archiving and Data Warehousing
Researchers will ensure that information is not archived in such a way that participants can be identified at a later stage. Where possible, archived information from the research will be made available to the research community for use in future work.

Future Access to Information
Archived information will be fully documented including methodology and rationale.


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