“Can you help us with our research?”
Is that a question your u3a is often asked? Are you aware of the guidance provided by the u3a Ethics Working Group on how to respond? This short article summarises steps to take when approached for help in research and provides links to fuller guidance.
Requests for help in research, most often in the form of a survey, come to u3as from a variety of sources and may come direct to a u3a or centrally to the Third Age Trust. These should not be passed on to members without first considering the ethics of the proposed research.
This is the overarching principle by which any research project should be judged – that it does no harm to the individuals or organisations contributing to it and involved with it.
For local studies, such as requests from schools or universities in your area, your u3a may wish to make its own judgement as to whether or not to forward details to members. This judgement should be based on this overarching principle. There is also a handy checklist of other considerations here (read more: u3a – Ethics, safety and research) including the need to consider GDPR, that can be used when making this assessment. If you have any doubts and want another opinion you should contact your local Research and Shared Learning coordinator (read more: u3a – Contact Research and Shared Learning)
Where a request for research comes centrally from the Third Age Trust or your local Research and Shared Learning coordinator, it will already have been subject to ethical scrutiny and it is then up to your local u3a to decide whether to send it on to members.
Researchers on national, or large regional, projects often send out requests for participation to individual u3as and sometimes, also, centrally the Third Age Trust. This can lead to inconsistencies in response if each body approached makes its own decision. In these cases, we ask that you refer the request to your relevant Research and Shared Learning contact who will ensure that consistent advice is given across u3as. The coordinators should, in most cases, be able to agree a response but for requests where the ethical issues are more complex, the national Ethics Working Group (EWG) can provide guidance.