Today I received the notification that the Research Ethics Committee for my department at the University of Kent have granted me approval to conduct oral histories with people in and around the youth clubs I am researching for my PhD. This committee assesses proposals from staff and students planning to undertake research involving members of the public to ensure that the research can be undertaken safely and ethically by all involved. In my submission to them I considered issues like lone working, making sure interviewees understand what it means to give informed consent, and how to make sure the information I gather is kept securely.
Going through this process involved a lot of paperwork: a comprehensive form, sample interview questions, sample consent forms, and sample information sheets. (All of these will be up on the blog soon.) However, the paperwork, though onerous, was necessary and the more work I did on it, the more I realised this. An interviewee will be sharing valuable experiences with me. Many of these will be comfortable memories, but there is a chance some of them will not be. It is my responsibility to be trustworthy, to have considered all possible risks in the research, and to have the highest respect for people who give their time freely to aid my research. Having my research cleared in this way means I can reassure my interviewees that the research is being conducted to high ethical standards and that I have considered their needs extensively. Hopefully it also means I have flagged up and resolved potential issues before getting started.
I am glad that I can now move on to the next phase of the oral history project; finding participants and arranging interviews. I have plenty ideas about who I am looking to talk to and what I want to ask them, and I am excited to now put some of these plans into action. I can do this knowing that my university have considered my consideration of the above issues ‘exemplary’. Watch this space for information about the participants I am looking for, as well as an event I am organising which aims to bring researchers like myself together to talk about doing oral histories of voluntary action.