Do it right
Ethics are principles based on values. They help us distinguish between acceptable and unacceptable behavior and action.
At least three ethical standards apply when you collect evidence:
- Your own values, beliefs and traditions.
- Institutional requirements prescribed by your funder, organisation and/or ethics committees.
- The ethical values of the people you collect evidence from and with.
USEFUL QUESTIONS TO ASK
- What guidelines does my organisation require me to follow?
- Has my funder prescribed ethical requirements?
- Who am I collecting evidence from, what do I know about their social and cultural values and what do I need to know?
- Evaluation Standards for Aotearoa New Zealand
- Royal Society of New Zealand Code of Professional Standards and Ethics
- Guidelines for ethical conduct of evaluation – Australasian Evaluation Society
- Research Methods Knowledge Base
- World Association of Non-Governmental Organizations (WANGO) “Compliance Manual“
The Main Ethical Issues
It’s important to identify the kinds of ethical issues that might arise during evaluation. Below are some common issues to consider.
Participation must be voluntary. Every person has the right not to take part in research or evaluation.
Participation should not be enticed (eg offering to pay Hone’s mechanics bill) or threat (eg denying Kahu access to services in the future).
You might ask:
Could my method be seen as inducing participation? Did I threaten, coerce or offer a bribe? A bribe is different from an incentive to take part, such as offering lunch or a petrol voucher.
Informed consent means getting a person’s permission to use information you collect about them. If you don’t get informed consent, then you can’t use the information you have collected about or from that person.
A good informed consent process would involve making sure participants understand:
- Which organisation is carrying out the research or evaluation and the names of the researchers or evaluators.
- The purpose of why the information is being collected and how the information will be used.
- What’s required of them (eg survey, interview) and their responsibilities (eg do you require them to sign a confidentiality statement?).
- If their involvement might attract any risks, and the nature of those risks.
You should also consider:
- Age – is the participant a minor (if under 16 years then special considerations are necessary)?
- Language – has the process been explained to the person in their language and in a way they can clearly understand?
- Culture – has informed consent taken into account any cultural factors that might conflict with the participants culture?
- Capacity to consent – is the participant under the influence of any drugs, alcohol or medication? Does the participant have a cognitive disability eg dementia, or autism?
Technology, Confidentiality and Privacy
Advances in technology like email, cloud storage, hard drives and the Internet, erode confidentiality and privacy.
You will need to make sure the participant is aware of:
- How you’ll manage information exchanged online.
- What, how and where you’ll store information.
- Who will have access to it and why.
- When or if you’ll destroy it.
Aotearoa New Zealand Standards for Research and Evaluation
Evaluation Standards for Aotearoa New Zealand
ANZEA (Aotearoa New Zealand Evaluation Association) has worked in partnership with SuPERU to develop a set of Evaluation Standards for Aotearoa New Zealand. The standards set out the expectations of the evaluation process, practices and products. They provide guidance on what should happen at all stages of a high quality evaluation. Setting standards should promote good evaluation practice. It should help to develop and implement policy and programmes. The standards are part of a wider plan to lift the performance of evaluators, as well as ethical guidelines.
Community Research Code of Practice
A range of researchers and others from communities, government and academic sectors from New Zealand contributed to a Code of Practice.
Published in 2007 by Community Research and updated in 2020, the code contains a benchmark for principles and standards for community research. It describes values, models and methods.
If they follow the code, researchers should ensure minimal risk and maximum benefit to research participants.
New Zealand Ethics
The New Zealand Ethics Committee is a national ethics advisory committee, based in Dunedin. It serves any researcher who’s ineligible for ethics review from the institutional or health and disability ethics committees. Many research projects from professional, community and government researchers fall outside this narrow realm of health or university-based research. The committee meets regularly and usually reviews applications received by the first of any month, within that month. Send all queries or completed applications to Martin Tolich, the convener of the NZEC.
A guide for cross-cultural evidence-building with people from diverse backgrounds.