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and recruitment begins

The Selfies & Health project recently received approval from the Western Sydney University Human Research Ethics Committee. The Committee, made up of academics from a variety of disciplines across the University, considers that the project meets the standards of the National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research. Receiving ethical approval is an important milestone for a researcher for a couple of reasons. 

Firstly, receiving approval from the Ethics Committee is an indication of the quality of the project. One of the key values informing the National Statement on Ethical Conduct is that of research merit and integrity. In brief, for a research project to have merit, it must justify its potential benefit. This benefit can be a broad contribution to knowledge or more specific, for example, by benefitting individual wellbeing or expertise. For a research project to have integrity, it is carried out by researchers with a commitment to searching for knowledge and understanding. Furthermore, the researcher must follow recognised principles of conduct, conducting research honestly, and disseminating and communicating results in ways that permit scrutiny and contribute to public knowledge and understanding. 

The second reason this is an important milestone is that ethical approval opens the door to the next stage of the research process, data collection. The first stage of any research project is planning. Deciding the research aims and scope, the themes or questions the researcher is interested in, and refining the methods or the tools the research will use to answer the research questions. The data collection stage encompasses, recruitment of participants, seeking voluntary and informed consent, and working with participants to collect data that, once analysed, will contribute to knowledge and understanding. 

The Selfies and Health project is interested in young people's experiences, and I am using the United Nations definition of a young person as one between 15 and 24 years of age. This is a relatively arbitrary range as the experience of being a young person varies with context; however, setting an age range is a necessary step in defining the research scope. Working with young people brings additional responsibilities from an ethical perspective, particularly in regards to informed and voluntary consent, and ensuring the research activities are appropriate for the age and maturity of participants.

These matters relate to another key value outlined in the National Statement, being respect for human beings. Respect is about recognising the intrinsic value in each individual, having due regard for their welfare, beliefs, customs, and cultural heritage. It also includes respecting the privacy and confidentiality of participants, their capacity to make their own decisions (consent) and empowering and protecting individuals as necessary. In this project, we request those under 18 years of age seek parent or guardian co-consent for their participation in the project. We have also developed the research activities in consultation with educators at high school and tertiary levels to ensure the suitability to the age range. 

If you, or someone you know, are interested in participating in this project, please register your interest with me via email. You can also access the participant information and project consent forms on the Selfies project page. 

National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research 2007 (Updated 2018). The National Health and Medical Research Council, the Australian Research Council and Universities Australia. Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra

Image credit: Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash