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What is ethical data collection?

This is relevant if you are collecting data from people on their experiences, personal information, children or loved ones.

When identifying data sources to support monitoring and evaluation, you need to consider ethics.

If you are collecting data from people on their experiences, personal information, children or loved ones, are you sure they will want to divulge this information? Is it ethical to collect it? Have you been given signed permission to use their data? Has the data been stored correctly? Are you complying with national or international standards such as GDPR?

Are you involving the people you want to collect data from in your monitoring and evaluation process? Do they have a say in what data is collected?

The diagram below illustrates various data collection methods.

Ethics and ethical data collection

There might be an obvious source of data for measuring the effectiveness of your intervention – for example, surveys to ask those involved to report on their perceptions of sport as a tool for change. However, what if your intervention, like many others, is aimed at young children?

Can children give informed consent to participate in the research? Usually, the answer is no and the primary caregiver must be consulted first and provide consent.

Ethics is more than just being broadly aware of the community’s needs or preferences. Monitoring and evaluation is a form of research; therefore, it may need to be approved by a local/national research ethics board. This can be time-consuming, so leave plenty of time to receive this approval before the project starts. It can be useful to partner with universities or research institutions who are experienced with ensuring data collection meets ethical standards and guidelines.

Challenging assumptions

Put yourself in the shoes of a participant of your programme. Reflect on the data he/she is asked to supply and ask the following questions:

  • Has the project and what my information will be used for been explained to me?
  • Would I be willing to provide this information?
  • Would I be able to give informed consent?
  • Are there any conditions on sharing this data?
  • Are there any risks of participation?
  • How much time am I expected to spend on providing information?
  • Could an alternative method be used that provides the same results but requires no direct contribution?
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