Doing research involving children in the context of sexual exploitation raises a range of ethical questions and dilemmas. Some of these are similar for any research with human participants or vulnerable groups; but others are very specific to children affected by sexual exploitation (see‘Ethics of Research on Sexual Exploitation Involving Children’ for a review of the literature). This document provides guidance for negotiating these ethical questions for a range of people engaged in field research (from lead researchers to data collectors).
These guidelines emphasize being simple and practical.1 Research can be on a continuum from ‘not ethical’ to ‘good practice’. The guidelines will help you make improvements to move you towards that positive end of the continuum – the ‘best practice’ end.These guidelines help you to reflect about your research project as you design it. Step 1 of the guidelines is a stop/go decision about whether children should be part of your research at all. It guides you to find a balance between children’s right to meaningfully participate in potential research and your responsibility to avoid circumstances where they might be harmed by taking part. Children may take part in research in a wide range of different ways – for example, they could be simply participants, or could even be co-researchers. Sometimes you can do the research about sexual exploitation of children without directly involving children at all.
If completing step 1 of the guidelines leads you to proceed with the proposed research, step 2 includes seven ethics topics that you need to think about for the design, implementation and analysis stages of your research project.
Step 3 of the guidelines is an analysis of the possible harms and benefits of your project based on the ethical tasks you have completed in the seven topics. Once that is filled in, you will have a simple guide about things you need to do to make sure your research is ethical, and to help you monitor the ethical elements of your research project as you progress with the project.
Finally, step 4 is an important due-diligence step and ensures a third party review or vetting process. Sharing your research project with relevant external experts can ensure that others agree with your assessment of predictable harms and anticipated benefits and perhaps strengthen your strategies to enhance benefits and offset harms.
Read the full report here.