Beach watchman chair Chair in a beach without people
It's important to keep watch

Monitoring and assessing impact

Research can have unintended consequences. It’s important to monitor and assess the impact of your research, now and into the future.

During the previous step, we looked at collecting evidence that your projects have been successful. However, in ethically sensitive situations, it’s just as important to ensure you have systems in place to monitor whether or not you are causing harm.

It’s important to plan in advance when to amend or halt a research project if you find evidence that your work is harmful.

To do so, you will need to identify the risks associated with your project. Once the risks are identified, you should develop a framework for regularly gathering evidence to monitor and evaluate these risks. It also means ensuring that you have a plan in place for responding in a proportionate way to any risks that turn into reality.

You’ll also need to keep an eye on the impact of your research after you’ve completed it. Monitoring of the potential risks of following recommendations arising from your research should be built into those recommendations themselves.

It will help you to revise by looking through Why Ethics Matter.

Monitoring and assessing impact

Before you begin your project, it’s useful to build in key performance indicators (KPI) to assess the strength of the data you have collected. Building these KPIs in will help you to assess how successful your project is likely to be as your results come in.

Once you get the chance to look at your data as it comes in, occasionally you will be disappointed. Perhaps it’s becoming clear that you will not be able to support your hypothesis, or your evaluation suggests the program you had faith in isn’t as effective as you had thought it would be.

As disappointing as this is, resist the urge to salvage your results dishonestly. As a research community, we learn as much from our mistakes as we do from our successes. There have been many great advances in knowledge that have been built on negative results. An evaluation of how a program can be improved is, arguably, more useful than an evaluation that finds everything is perfect.

Your Task

If you worked through Why Ethics Matter with us and developed a portfolio, open it.

If not, create a new section titled ethics.

Brainstorm the risks that may be associated with your research aims and method. Once you feel confident you have a reasonably comprehensive list, briefly note beside each item on the list:

  • how you will monitor it
  • what you will do if things start going wrong
  • at what point you would intervene.

Share your portfolio with the group.

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This article is from the free online course:

Why Planning Your Research Matters

Deakin University