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Doing research safely

When planning research activities, we must consider the safety and wellbeing of participants, colleagues, researchers and others.

This guidance explains how we identify and manange potential risks.

Note that this guidance applies to all dxw staff, dxw friends, and partner and client staff doing research activities, like interviews, visits, surveys and tests.

Researching emotionally sensitive subjects #

Sometimes our research touches on difficult subjects like sickness and bereavement, or offending and imprisonment.

The Service Manual has a good guide to researching emotionally sensitive subjects, that covers preparing for, running and dealing with research.

Guiding participants to appropriate support #

Once we have built a rapport with a participant, they may ask us questions, or want to talk about things that are beyond our competency as user researchers.

These can be related to the subject of the research. But can be about suicide, trauma, discrimination, ableism etc.

While we are always sympathetic and not judgemental, we do not try to offer advice. Instead, we guide people to appropriate support.

For research with members of the public, we may recommend organisations dedicated to these topics. Such as, the mental health crisis contacts listed by Mind, or the support on issues related to disability provided by Scope.

For research with public servants, we may recommend the support services provided by their organisation. Such as their local mental health first aider, or their Employee Assistance Programme (EAP).

For research about difficult subjects, we often include links to this support in our research information and consent materials.

Doing research during a pandemic #

We have a responsibility to keep ourselves and our participants safe and comply with government guidance during a pandemic, such as the recent coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. In particular, we should carefully consider whether and how to do any face to face research.

During a pandemic we may need to get approval to do face to face research, and document our decision and our assessment of the risks in our research plan.

The Service Manual has a guide to choosing face to face or remote research, and what to document in our plans.

Last updated: 25 January 2024 (history)