MYMAVINS Research Ethics and Professionalism Code

MYMAVINS strictly adheres to The Research Society Code of research ethics and professional conduct. We are also bound by the Australian Privacy Act and comply with the Australian Privacy Principles. Key codes of conduct include;

Minimising the risk of harm

 

Research should not harm participants and actively mitigate risks where there is the possibility that participants could be harmed or put in a position of discomfort. Research should be worthwhile and provide value that outweighs any risk or harm. Researchers should aim to maximise the benefit of the research and minimise potential risk of harm to participants and researchers. All potential risk and harm should be mitigated by robust precautions.

There are a number of types of harm that participants can be subjected to. These include:

  • Physical harm to participants

  • Psychological distress and discomfort

  • Legal peril

  • Social disadvantage

  • Harm to participants financial status

  • An invasion of participants privacy and anonymity

 

In order to minimising the risk of harm we:

  • Require additional planning to illustrate how participant harm (or discomfort) will be reduced

  • Provide clarity on how informed consent is garnered and how detailed debriefing are provided

  • Take all reasonable measures to protect the anonymity and confidentiality of participants

  • Avoid deceptive practices when designing our research

  • Provide participants with the right to withdraw from our research at any time

 

Fairness and equal treatment

Research should be just as between different members or groups in society and provide equal treatment. This a further expression of the principle of respect for persons. An injustice occurs when some benefit to which a person is entitled is denied to them without good reason or when some burden is imposed unduly on them. We give careful consideration to the overall societal impact of our research both in the selection of participants and the benefits and burdens arising from it.

The selection of research participants needs to be scrutinised in order to determine whether some groups are being systematically selected simply because of their easy availability, their compromised position, or their manipulability, rather than for reasons directly related to the problem being studied. Specific groups should not be systematically denied of the advantages and benefits shred by other participants.

Obtaining informed consent

This means that participants should understand that they are taking part in research, what the research requires of them and if they are happy to then participate. Such information may include the purpose of the research, the methods being used, the possible outcomes of the research, as well as associated demands, discomforts, inconveniences and risks that the participants may face. This should also include the ability to ask questions about the research and use of data as well as the ability to withdraw at any time.

 

Another component of informed consent is the principle that participants should be volunteers, taking part without having been coerced, having undue influence or are deceived. Coercion occurs when an overt threat of harm is intentionally presented by one person to another in order to obtain compliance. Undue influence, by contrast, occurs through an offer of an excessive, unwarranted, inappropriate or improper reward or other overture in order to obtain compliance. Also, inducements that would ordinarily be acceptable may become undue influences if the participant is especially vulnerable. Unjustifiable pressures usually occur when persons in positions of authority or commanding influence – especially where possible sanctions are involved – urge a course of action for a participant.

Researchers must take special care when collecting information from children and young people. The consent of a parent or responsible adult must fist be obtained before collecting information from: a) children, defied as under 14 years, and b) young people, defined as 14-17 years, when sensitive information is being collected. Researchers must also take special care when collecting information from people in vulnerable circumstances in the community.  Participants must be informed before observation techniques or recording equipment are used for a project, except where these are openly used in a public place and no identifiable research information is collected.  

Protecting anonymity and confidentiality

Individual research participant and group preferences regarding anonymity should be respected and participant requirements concerning the confidential nature of information and personal data should be respected.

Protecting the anonymity and confidentiality of research participants is a practical component of research ethics as harm can be caused once data has been collected if it is not treated confidentially, whether in terms of the storage of data, its analysis, or during the reporting process. Management of identifiers and data access is critical.

However, this does not mean that all data collected from research participants needs to be kept confidential or anonymous. It may be possible to disclose the identity and views of individuals at various stages of the research process (from data collection through to publication of your dissertation). Nonetheless, permissions should be sought before such confidential information is disclosed.

 

Participants must be informed of the research privacy policy which contains information about;

  • How they may access their identifiable research information being collected and seek to have it de-identified or destroyed

  • Awareness of the purpose of the collection

  • Awareness of any quality control activity involving re-contact

  • The process of handling complaints of a breach of the Australian privacy principles

  • The extent to which the participant’s identifiable research information may be disclosed overseas

 

The Privacy Act 1988 has strict rules about how an organisation or agency handles your personal information. If you think we’ve mishandled it, you can lodge a complaint with the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) for free here –

https://www.oaic.gov.au/privacy/privacy-complaints/

Reporting a data breach

When an organisation or agency the Privacy Act 1988 covers has reasonable grounds to believe an eligible data breach has occurred, they must promptly notify any individual at risk of serious harm. They must also notify Australian Information Commissioner of an eligible data breach. An eligible data breach occurs when the following criteria are met:

 

  • There is unauthorised access to or disclosure of personal information held by an organisation or agency (or information is lost in circumstances where unauthorised access or disclosure is likely to occur).

  • This is likely to result in serious harm to any of the individuals to whom the information relates.

  • The organisation or agency has been unable to prevent the likely risk of serious harm with remedial action.

  • If you want to notify us about a data breach involving your own personal information, please make a privacy complaint.

 

The notification must include;

  • organisation or agency’s name and contact details

  • a description of the data breach

  • the kinds of information involved

  • recommendations about the steps individuals should take in response to the data breach

 

A data breach is an unauthorised access or disclosure of personal information, or loss of personal information. Data breaches can have serious consequences, so it is important that entities have robust systems and procedures in place to identify and respond effectively. A data breach incident may also trigger reporting obligations outside of the Privacy Act. A data breach occurs when personal information that an entity holds is subject to unauthorised access or disclosure, or is lost. A data breach may be caused by malicious action (by an external or insider party), human error, or a failure in information handling or security systems.

An entity can reduce the reputational impact of a data breach by effectively minimising the risk of harm to affected individuals, and by demonstrating accountability in their data breach response. This involves being transparent when a data breach, which is likely to cause serious harm to affected individuals, occurs. Transparency enables individuals to take steps to reduce their risk of harm. It also demonstrates that an entity takes their responsibility to protect personal information seriously, which is integral to building and maintaining trust in an entity’s personal information handling capability.

Avoiding deceptive practices

Deceptive practices contravene informed consent so must be avoided unless specifically justified by the research design. There are two exceptional scenarios that then required additional planning and efforts to complete thorough debriefing post data collection where possible;

  • It is not feasible to let everyone in a particular research setting know what you are doing. This is most likely to be the case where research involves observation, rather than direct contact with participants, especially in a public or online setting. E.g. Observing what users are doing in an Internet chat room or when going about their business (shopping, going to work, etc.).

  • Deception is sometimes a necessary component of covert research, which can be justified in some cases i.e. where overt observation or knowledge of the purpose of the research may alter the particular phenomenon that is being studied. Covert research reflects research where the identity of the observer and/or the purpose of the research is not known to participants. This scenario requires thorough debriefing of participants to remove element of deception or obfuscation at the completion of the study.

Providing the right to withdraw

With the exception of those instances of covert observation where is not feasible to let everyone that is being observed know what you are doing, research participants should always have the right to withdraw from the research process. Furthermore, participants should have the right to withdraw at any stage in the research process. When a participant chooses to withdraw from the research process, they should not be pressured or coerced in any way to try and stop them from withdrawing.

Respect for persons - protecting those with diminished autonomy

All participants in research must take part voluntarily, free from any coercion or undue influence, and their rights, dignity and autonomy should be respected and appropriately protected. An autonomous person is capable of deliberation about personal goals and of acting under the direction of such deliberation. To respect autonomy is to give weight to autonomous persons' considered opinions and choices while refraining from obstructing their actions unless they are clearly detrimental to others. By contrast, when a potential research participant may lack capacity to make autonomous decisions, respect for persons requires that they be protected against harm. The capacity for self-determination matures during an individual's life, and some individuals lose this capacity wholly or in part because of illness, mental disability, or circumstances that severely restrict liberty. Respect for the immature and the incapacitated may require protecting them as they mature or while they are incapacitated. Some persons are in need of extensive protection, even to the point of excluding them from research that has a risk of harm.

Integrity

Research should be designed, reviewed and undertaken to ensure recognised standards of integrity are met, and quality and transparency are assured.

Researchers must be honest and objective when conducting their professional activities and ensure that their professional activities are carried out in accordance with appropriate scientific research principles, methods and techniques. Researchers must not act in any way that could bring discredit on the profession, The Research Society or its Members, or lead to a loss of public confidence in the profession. Researchers must not make false or otherwise misleading statements about their skills, experience or activities, or about those of their organisation.

Examples of unacceptable practices include: fabrication by the creation of false data or other aspects of research, including documentation and participant consent; falsifications by the inappropriate manipulation and/or selection of data, imagery and/or consents; plagiarism by the misappropriation or use of others’ ideas, intellectual property or work (written or otherwise), without acknowledgement or permission; misrepresentation of data, for example suppression of relevant findings and/or data, or knowingly, recklessly or by gross negligence, presenting a flawed interpretation of data, material interests, involvement or qualifications and improper dealing with allegations of misconduct by failing to address possible infringements including attempts to cover up misconduct or reprisals against whistle-blowers.

We never undertake any activities, under the guise of research, that aim to manipulate, mislead or coerce individuals. This applies throughout the research process including proposal, data collection, analysis and reporting. Examples of this activity include, but are not confined to:

  • Selling or marketing under the guise of research

  • Fund raising under the guise of research

  • Lobbying for political purposes under the guise of research

  • Creating false media content and commentary under the guise of research

 

Conflict of interest

The independence of research should be clear, and any conflicts of interest or partiality should be explicit. A conflict of interest arises where a researcher’s obligation to the institution or a funder to conduct research independently is likely to be compromised, or may appear to be compromised. This can be because they may:

  • Obtain a personal gain, or a gain to a member of their family or another person to whom they have a close personal relationship arising from the research. This gain may be financial or otherwise and/or,

  • Have commitments and obligations to another person or body that may appear to act as a potential influence over their independent conduct of the research.

  • There may be an appearance of conflict of interest even when no conflict actually exists. Researchers must disclose anything that may be perceived by others as a potential conflict of interest.

 

Complaint procedure

Under The Research Society Regulations, anyone can make a complaint against a Member if they believe the Member has breached the Code, Constitution or Regulations. The Complaints Procedure for breaches against the Code can be found in the Regulations. If a complaint is made against a Member, the Member is required to cooperate with The Research Society to assist in the early resolution of the complaint. Possible penalties include reprimand, counselling, suspension or expulsion from the Society.

 

The Regulations also allow for a complaint to be made against a Company or Client Partner for an alleged breach of the Code or Quality Commitment. Details of the Complaint Procedure for Company and Client Partners can be found in the Regulations. 

 

Members’ professional activities must be legal, and conform to all relevant legislation, including in particular the Privacy Act 1988 and the Australian Privacy Principles (APPs).

Participants must be able to check the identity and bona fides of the researchers without difficulty. These include making the name and contact details of the researcher’s organisation available to participants, without difficulty or expense, during data collection.

 

If you have any further queries or concerns about the purposes of the research and the confidentiality of the data you provide please don’t hesitate to contact MYMAVINS.

Contact  – 

Tai Rotem

Tai@mymavins.com.au

Jason Andriessen

Jason@mymavins.com.au