Research ethics of data use and reuse

Thanks to Debbie Knight, Di Hopkins and Becky Case for another interesting Research Bites session on the theme of Research Ethics and Ethical review process at Lancaster University.

The slides are available, courtesy of the presenters.

If it’s out there, can I use it?

The primary question raised in this session was whether data relating to human subjects which is in the public domain – whether shared via a data repository, presented as open data, or online, e.g. on social media – can be reused in research simply because it’s available.

The answer was, ‘Not necessarily’.

Ethical review is still necessary as the participants or subjects may not have given their consent to the research.

Primary data

For studies using primary data, such as social media posts, interviews or survey responses being collected for the first time, it will be necessary to provide as much supporting information as you can, such as information sheets for participants, and a sample of the questions being asked.

Applications should be made to the Faculty Ethics Committee, and will likely be reviewed by a sub- or full committee as cases can be complex.

Secondary data

It is still necessary to submit your research through ethical review when re-analysing existing data, e.g. reusing data which has already been made available. This is mainly to ensure that the researcher has applied the principles of:

  • informed consent
  • anonymity
  • security

While anonymity is a principle, it may not necessarily be a requirement, depending on your context. Also, consider whether combining and re-using two datasets may unintentionally expose participants.

[Aside: Research Bites readers might also be interested in this write up of the Sharing Qualitative Data workshop, from April 2017]

Consent

There is a need to potential reuse of the data generated in your research at an early stage. Ideally, participants will be fully informed of the potential reuse of the research data on the information sheet which is available before they are asked to consent.

You might also find this guidance on writing Data Management Plans useful.

It was acknowledged during the session that best practice in data management includes planning for re-use and sharing of research data, and this should be done with consideration of the ethical implications of doing so.

Example questions

Every question is better understood the full context of the research being proposed, so please seek advice from your Faculty Research Ethics Committee key contacts if you have questions.

It is helpful to the committee to supply any supporting information such to highlight any issues, and help them to understand how you have considered them.

Can I include Terms & Conditions of online platforms (e.g. Twitter) in an ethics application?

Does  it make a difference if the platform is open or closed?

How can I gain consent from people unable to read, in other languages, or from people of different cultures?

Can I re-use data from news or published sources? This is considered as ‘the literature’, so yes, but if in doubt, ask!

Do I need ethical approval if I’m using data from leaked documents in my research? Yes!

Lancaster Data Conversations: data security and confidentiality, Thursday 4th May 2017

Readers may also be interested in Lancaster Data Conversations this week on the topic of data security and confidentiality.

 

 

Social media: Insights from an academic department

It’s taken a while to write up this session from June! Many thanks to Dr Tom Webb for sharing his insights from managing the Law School blog and social media presence of the Law School at Lancaster University.

The staff blog is currently used as a vehicle for writing up short articles (500-1500 words) following conferences, reflections on current topics, and writing articles which can be understood by wider audiences.

Why blog?

  • Raise the profile of the research
  • Speak to a different audience
  • ‘open up pathways to impact’
  • ‘claim an idea’ early on

Twitter broadens the network to other scholars, students, other institutions and beyond to reach a more mixed audience.

Analytics

Tom has found using Twitter and blog Analytics a useful way to provide feedback to colleagues on how many people are interacting with their social media posts/tweets. Unfortunately,  blog posts aren’t eligible to be included in the REF, though they can/do contribute towards generating broader impact.

Benefits

  • Quick publication
  • Attention from the media
  • Raise profile
  • Student recruitment

Recording

You can now view the slides and listen to Tom’s presentation.

Questions

Do author’s have to choose between writing for the Law School blog and writing for The ConversationYes and no. The Conversation uses Creative Commons licences which allows you to reblog their content. The Law School blog offers more editorial freedom than the Conversation (e.g. posts can be in ‘Legalese’).

Is there any editorial control? Authors send copy, and Tom will edit formatting (e.g. inserting paragraph breaks) to make the content more readable online. Otherwise not.

Do you get credit within the department for the work you do with social media? Yes to an extent. This will probably grow as Departments recognise the potential benefits and engagement that can result from taking part. 

Maximising your digital impact

socialmagnifying

Many thanks to Russell Reader, Head of Media Engagement in the Press Office here at Lancaster University. Russ gave a well informed talk full of good reasons and practical tips on how to make the most of online services to raise your academic profile and reach out to audiences inside and outside academia.

The session focussed mainly on:

  • Twitter
  • Blogs especially The Conversation
  • News and current affairs e.g. BBC Radio 4

Russ has kindly supplied his presentation slides for anyone who wasn’t able to get to the session.

He included a video of PhDs and researchers who had found publishing with The Conversation beneficial.

Questions 

What amount of time should I commit to Twitter? Initially spend an hour a week building your network, following other accounts and re-tweeting interesting tweets. Over time allow 10 minutes a day to look at it, then gradually when you’re more confident start to engage with others, chip in your thoughts and ideas.

Are there any apps I can use to help me manage Twitter? Yes, there are many apps. A good one to use is Tweetdeck which allows you to create different ‘stacks’ or columns to filter your Twitter stream, conduct and save searches and schedule posts in advance.

Top Twitter Tips

twitter

Thanks to everyone who came to the Top Twitter Tips session! I hope it was useful. There have been some follow-up tweets of things I forgot to say, so please check out my Twitter account @TanyaLibrarian and feel free to follow!

The recording is now available to view, and you can see the slides below and on SlideShare.

If there are any further follow-up questions, please leave a comment here.

Questions

If a conference has a Twitter account (e.g. @BrilliantConference2015) and an associated hashtag (e.g. #BrilliantConference2015) what’s the best way to tweet about the conference? It’s probably best to use the hashtag so that the organisers and other delegates can easily pull together all tweets related to the conference by searching the hashtag. It will make your tweets more visible. If you mention the account using the @ username your tweets will also be visible, and would show up in a keyword search. If you use the @ username at the start of your tweet (as you would in reply to that account) the tweet will only appear in the conference account’s mentions timeline, so other delegates would miss it, unless the conference account retweeted it.

Is there a quick way of finding someone’s username? Search in Twitter and check profile and picture if there is more than one person. However people may not use their name, or may tweet from multiple accounts, or have a common name, so you might need to do Google search for them.

Can you have private lists for a group of people? Yes you can! When you set up the list, you can choose Private. I believe that people are not notified when you add them to a private list (I couldn’t see the definitive answer to this on Twitter’s own page, but I believe Wired), so technically you could create a list of rivals, or job prospects, and no-one else would know!

twlists

Twitter’s Help centre is a really useful place to learn more about how Twitter works, and the advanced features. There are also tons of apps which can enhance how you use Twitter, but perhaps that’s for another time…

Beyond the Impact Factor: Altmetrics

Many thanks to Hardy Schwamm for today’s Research Bite introducing altmetrics, and also to those of you who came along and contributed your questions and thoughts to the discussion.

Context

In the context of huge increases in publication output, the Altmetrics manifesto claims that we need new ways to filter for quality. The development of altmetrics is also an attempt to catch up with the changes in scholarly communication. Altmetrics are a reaction to the fact that the impact factor is often incorrectly used to assess the impact of individual articles, when in fact it just evaluates the impact of the journal. Altmetrics also acknowledge that research outputs are broader than just journal articles, and encompass datasets, software, blog posts, presentations and so on.

Altmetrics are:

Metrics based on the social web

Among the most promising and influential Altmetrics services are:

  • Altmetric – UK based, not affiliated to a publisher, focusing on article-centric or article level metrics
  • PlumX – gather metrics on different ‘artifacts’, but also on individuals, groups and institutions
  • ImpactStory  – focusing on individuals

The key audiences are:

  • Individuals can use altmetrics to understand their own impact, or influence.
  • Publishers can use it to inform readers, marketing and identify strengths
  • Institutions can use it to gauge impact, inform REF and funding bids and recruitment?

Not everyone is happy with incorporating the Almetric score. Can you really compare across disciplines? Is an article with a score of 2000 really that much ‘better’ than one scoring 25? Altmetric does include percentile information when you click through to the detail. This ability to click through to the detail, and actually delve into those ‘mentions’ is a useful feature.

Questions

How do they track your output (e.g. article)? Altmetric use the DOI (Digital Object Identifier), PubMed ID and ArXiv ID to track mentions.

Does it count mentions of your name? Altmetric just looks at articles, not the identity of the researcher. ImpactStory and PlumX do focus more on the individual, but it would be in association with a particular work, as far as we understand. So an appearance on TV wouldn’t be counted (unless the broadcaster had a link on their website too).

Does it only measure positive mentions? No. There’s no discrimination, so like traditional citation counts, others could be denouncing your research, but you’d still benefit from the stats!

Is there going to be an institutional licence to the product? The Library and RSO are aware of altmetrics and inviting providers to visit and tell us more.

Hardy: Would this kind of product be useful? Is the score useful? Participants: It’s all ‘grist to the mill’. If you can provide your line manager with some data like this it could contribute to them understanding your performance. The score seems pretty meaningless though. It’s good to have a service which aggregates all this data in such a timely way. Citations can take a long time to accrue. It bridges the gap between informal discussions and citations in journal articles. Though it can never be a complete measure. Altmetrics could inform the REF in terms of impact of research in the community or public engagement outside of the academy.

Is it just a snapshot in time (i.e. does it only provide data from Twitter for 30 days?) It appears that it is not just a snapshot in time, but a record of mentions, though data collection would presumably have to start somewhere, so may not be accurate for older papers (by older, I mean pre-2011!).

Do altmetrics cover patents? Plum covers citation in US patents.

What’s our definition of impact? Is it just getting your research out there and generating a buzz? Some disciplines view this kind of attention as public engagement. Impact is making a change to the world, e.g. through policy change or a technological advance. Altmetrics contribute to a multi-faceted view of impact, including non-academic engagement.

Can you track the geographic element? Yes, with Altmetric. When you click through to the detailed data. e.g.

altmetriceg

Is it performing as a filter? Ranking efforts and scores like in Altmetric are difficult to interpret and shouldn’t be compared across disciplines. However, if you see that an article was discussed in the (social) media it might be worth seeing why it got mentioned so often.

Won’t it be open to scholars artificially inflating scores? Yes, just like traditional citation practices! It also favours researchers who are active on the social web.

The Altmetrics manifesto disagrees:
Some have suggested altmetrics would be too easy to game; we argue the opposite. The JIF is appallingly open to manipulation; mature altmetrics systems could be more robust, leveraging the diversity of of altmetrics and statistical power of big data to algorithmically detect and correct for fraudulent activity.

This post was amended on 24/09/2014 following feedback from Hardy.

Social media for researchers: ResearchGate and Academia.edu recording available

Thank you to everyone who came to last week’s session Social media for researchers: ResearchGate and Academia.edu. There was a lot of discussion in the session, so if you missed it, take a look at the recording. If you have any experience of using these social networks, please add your comments.