High risk yet invisible: Conflicting narratives on social research involving children and young people, and the role of research ethics committees

Sarah Parsons*, Chris Abbott, Lorna McKnight, Chris Davies

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Universities have a special status in society because of the position they hold within their communities and their responsibilities for civic leadership. Consequently, there are increasing calls on universities to make their processes, teaching and finances more transparent to the general public in order to promote greater accountability. Guidance from the Association for Research Ethics Committees includes openness as one of the key principles for research ethics governance but little is known about whether universities are making information about these processes available to the public. Additionally, given the central importance of children and young people as stakeholders in education research, there is particular interest in what the available information would reveal about their inclusion in social research. A search of the websites of 33 social science research-leading institutions in the UK found that only 20 (60%) had publicly accessible information about ethics review and governance. The available information was highly variable in terms of detail, format and procedures and not very easy to locate. Information about the involvement of children and young people in social research was even more limited and variable; tending to emphasise the 'vulnerable' status of children as participants and yet providing little or no information about how to effectively support children to provide informed consent. The article concludes with discussion of the potentially concerning impact of this on the involvement of children and young people in research and the need for universities to do more to generate, share and encourage greater innovation in this area.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)709-729
Number of pages21
JournalBritish Educational Research Journal
Volume41
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2015

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