NCRM publishes guidance papers on ethics in research involving children

NCRM news
Ed Grover

A new series of papers provides valuable guidance on ethics in research involving children.

The six-part series, produced by academics from the School of Law and Social Justice at the University of Liverpool, is available now on the NCRM website.

Called The Ethics of Research Involving Children: Common Questions, Potential Strategies and Useful Guidance, the series covers a broad range of topics related to children’s rights.

These include consent, safeguarding, digital methods, recruitment and confidentiality.

The papers were written by Dr Edmund Horowicz, Dr Helen Stalford and colleagues from the European Children’s Rights Unit (ECRU), a research-intensive cluster located within the School of Law and Social Justice.

How the papers support researchers

The aim of the guidance papers is to support researchers in developing ethically robust research by addressing some of the contentious areas of ethics approval when researching with children.

To further this aim, the series was created in collaboration with the University of Liverpool’s central ethics committee to highlight the positive role that ethical review has in the development and production of research with children.

ECRU Director Dr Eleanor Drywood said: "The value of involving children and young people in research is indisputable, yet researchers and ethics committees can grapple with the challenges this presents.

"We must be mindful of the special protections that children are entitled to and that they can be vulnerable in certain situations, but it is fundamentally important that this does not have a dampening effect on research into the lives of children and young people.

"The guidance papers are an enormously useful resource to assist researchers and ethics committees in meeting the challenges of participatory research for, with and by children, which will only improve our understanding of the lives of young people and empower them to play a meaningful role in the production of this research."

Conducting robust yet ethical research

ECRU has specific expertise in progressive participatory approaches to research involving children, as well as corresponding expertise in research that attains the highest ethical standards. This puts the unit in an ideal position to provide guidance and advice on the latest issues.

Professor Helen Stalford, head of Liverpool Law School and founder of ECRU, explained that researchers often face barriers when attempting to gain approval for studies involving children.

"We know that many researchers fear that their work will be constrained and, indeed, prevented by risk-averse ethics committees and decision-makers, particularly within higher education institutions,” she said.

"That is not just a shame for the researchers concerned – it inhibits efforts to interrogate and understand the world of the most marginalised from their own perspectives and, in turn, to explore, identify and evaluate appropriate responses to their needs. Indeed, allowing research with children to only take place along narrowly prescribed lines may be, in and of itself, unethical.

"The guidance papers are examples of researchers harnessing a children’s rights-based approach to tackle such issues and support the continued production of research that improves the lives of children and young people."

Read the guidance papers