Curiouser and curiouser

Meanwhile political correctness idiocy proceeds apace. Here’s an email I received today.
Your expertise and experience . . . makes you ideally placed to inform this research. We would appreciate the opportunity to capture your thoughts . . . . The interviews will be carried out over the phone and will take approximately 40 minutes.

If you are willing to take part in an interview, you should understand that:

  • Your participation in the project is entirely voluntary and you are free to withdraw from the study at any time, without penalty and without providing a reason for doing so.
  • You will be asked whether you consent to having your answers to the interview questions recorded for transcription purposes.
  • Your name and that of your organisation will not be included in any publications from these interviews unless you provide specific permission for us to identify you as a participant in the research.
  • Prior to the reporting of the study findings, you can request that any of the information that you provide in the interview be excluded from the analysis.
  • If you have any concerns about the study or the interview process, you can contact [our] Manager of Social Responsibility and Ethics.

I’m very concerned that no safeguards have been specified if:

  • The interview takes place during a terrorist attack
  • The interviewer makes inappropriate comments
  • I make inappropriate comments
  • Animals may be harmed during the the interview whether at the place of interview or somewhere else in the organisation, or indeed further afield

You may think that this is all lighthearted. I guess it is. But it’s also serious. I actually think that it is important to resist obvious foolishness – the kind of foolishness that one would hope one could explain was foolish to anyone reasonable. Because there is no end to foolishness.  And if one can’t agree on limits at this level of foolishness, what can one agree on? Which reminds me, there was a good Background Briefing on the absurdities that this kind of thing is leading to in animal research.

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Paul Bamford (aka Gummo T)
Editor
8 years ago

The politically correct foolishness of the e-mail text is by no means self-evident. It spells out a set of quite reasonable ethical undertakings on the part of the researcher to consider your wishes in their use and publication of any information you provide. How is that objectionably foolish?

Pedro
Pedro
8 years ago

I’m with Paul (or should I say GT, what do you prefer for comments here?). I agree that there seems an ever-growing emphasis on the bleeding obvious and the down-right idiotic, but I didn’t see any of that as being foolish at all.

Paul Bamford (aka Gummo T)
Editor
8 years ago

Pedro,

GT is probably better. Preserves the precarious illusion that I can keep my public internet presence separate from my real world life.

On the ‘bleeding obvious’, I’m reminded of the justification given for stating the bleeding obvious in combat briefings by a character in Ben Elton’s Stark: sometimes it’s very important to make sure that everyone has the same bleeding obvious.

nottrampis
8 years ago

nah,this is more important

conrad
conrad
8 years ago

That’s mild. You haven’t even been given a number for which to seek counselling in case you find the entirely non-distressing questions distressing, warned that the study might be illegal in some countries (despite it being entirely harmless)….

Paul Frijters
Paul Frijters
8 years ago
Reply to  conrad

Agreed, this is nothing. You should for a laugh ask them whether they have fully conformed with all aspects of the NHMRC guidelines for this type of research. It will take them a week just to read those guidelines !

john r walker
john r walker(@annesanders)
8 years ago
Reply to  Nicholas Gruen

Nick when Anne was doing her masters on two Australian artists one of the demands of the Unis human ethics department was:

‘demonstrate that in writing about two artists you might not accidentally compare them in a way that might imply that one was inferior to the other’.

:-)

Paul Bamford (aka Gummo T)
Editor
8 years ago
Reply to  Nicholas Gruen

Why should a research survey attract that set of disclaimers?

Two words: informed consent.

The researcher has gone to to the trouble (probably because it’s a standard requirement) to let you know what your rights are in relation to the information you provide. Not your obligations which makes your counter example of conditions of entry to the MCG irrelevant. What the e-mail specifies, in detail, the obligations the researcher has voluntarily accepted towards you.

These are not ‘disclaimers’ they are undertakings.

Pengo
Pengo
8 years ago
Reply to  Nicholas Gruen

…because this blog does require Ethics Committee approval prior to publication. There’s a wide gulf between university research and commercial market research.

Pengo
Pengo
8 years ago
Reply to  Pengo

make that “doesn’t”

Paul Bamford (aka Gummo T)
Editor
8 years ago

Please tell me what part of this couldn’t be inferred by any interviewee and therefore needs spelling out.

All of it if the interviewee had never participated in a research survey before or conducted one themselves.

So why tell me now?

In case you doze off and miss that part of the telephone call. Or to give you time to think about how you’re going to respond to that question. Or…

observa
observa
8 years ago

Well they’ve obviously put a lot of thought into stratified random sampling with that little lot. Right out there in the stratosphere!

A lot like that bag of peanuts I bought from the greengrocers with you guessed it- ‘Warning this product may contain traces of peanuts’

desipis
8 years ago

[Please tell me what part of this couldn’t be inferred by any interviewee and therefore needs spelling out.]

It’s not what could be inferred, but rather what often is inferred. It’s necessary to consider the worst-case, not the common-sense, situation. Science has a history of taking advantage of the vulnerable and misinformed. I think it’s a good thing that modern science takes a proactive approach to encourage good behaviour. Being blatant about the positive ethical processes in place might also make people feel more comfortable participating and result in higher participation.

john r walker
john r walker(@annesanders)
8 years ago
Reply to  desipis

Human ethics guidelines are good and needed , but when you get to the margins/arts, so on ,they do get weird and are having effects. For example most of Annes fellow masters students stuck to safely dead artists – did not risk doing face to face, back to the eyewitness, type research at all, too hard.

Douglas Hynd
Douglas Hynd
8 years ago

Ethics processes are getting out of control. I am currently doing research into organisational change issues in the not for profit sector. Because I am doing interviews with CEOs and senior management I have to get clearance from the Research Ethics Committee at the University. Then a couple of organisations are requiring me to get a second ethics clearance from their own research ethics committee before I can interview senior management that duplicates the clearance process from the University – the process is getting seriously out of control