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Becoming an ethical researcher
Becoming an ethical researcher

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3.2 Safeguarding

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Figure 6 Can we keep everything we are told confidential?

Offering confidentiality has already been mentioned as important for showing respect. If you are a professional and know the professional code to which you are beholden, then you will be aware of the limits to confidentiality professionals can offer. Professionals have legal responsibilities related to safeguarding and protection of both children and vulnerable adults to help protect their rights under the Care Act (HM Government, 2014) and the Children Act (HM Government, 2004). In terms of their protection, this means that there is a collective responsibility to share information about criminal activity or circumstances which appear to threaten a minor or vulnerable adult’s safety or wellbeing, if this is disclosed. This legal obligation affects us all as we work as researchers collecting data from human participants; for example, as encapsulated in the UK government advice for children:

16. Everyone who works with children has a responsibility for keeping them safe. No single practitioner can have a full picture of a child’s needs and circumstances and, if children and families are to receive the right help at the right time, everyone who comes into contact with them has a role to play in identifying concerns, sharing information and taking prompt action. (HM Government, 2018, p. 10).

Activity 6 Maintaining confidentiality

Timing: Allow approximately 20 minutes
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As will be covered more fully in Session 6, when looking at reporting and disseminating research, confidentiality (and associated anonymity) is sometimes found to be in tension with copyright laws and the rights others have for their original work to be acknowledged. This mainly affects published work, which researchers draw on and want to cite. A summary of these rights can be found at the University of Nottingham’s copyright basics webpage [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] and the implications for researchers, especially aimed at doctoral researchers, can be found at the University of Nottingham’s copyright and research webpage. (Open the links in a new tab or window by holding down Ctrl [or Cmd on a Mac] when you click on the link.)