On Friday 14 November 2008, Stuart Geiger wrote:
specific protocols and techniques. Most importantly, I
have to get the
permission of my university's Institutional Review Board before I
begin this research, and they require that I perform a good amount of
ethical "due diligence" with the community beforehand.
As did I. I basically divided the problem in two categories: pre-existing public
communications, and non-public communications (emails/discussions), as I explain in my
"Exempt Justification Statement":
This research is concerned with the development and understanding of the collaborative
culture of the Wikipedia, an online encyclopedia. I will rely upon public communications
which I will cite as publications. "At risk" populations are not relevant or
necessary to my research though it is possible they are present in the population at large
even if not perceptible as such. (Wikipedia can be edited by anyone and has been edited by
thousands.) Any nonpublic communication, such as clarifications from or conversations with
sources, if used, will be attributed according to the source's preferred identity
(their online identity, which may or may not be personally identifiable, or a made-up
identity of my choosing). No citation on my part of existing public documents can expose a
source to liability or harm; citation of non-public information is very unlikely to expose
sources to harm and will be governed by consent. Consequently I am requesting exemption
under 4 (citation of existing documents) and 2a (non-sensitive nor harmful
"interviews" (non-public communications)).
For any non-public statements, in terms of risks and procedures I wrote:
For any non-public communications, the only risk to the source is that someone could find
out what he or she said to me. To avoid this risk, I will keep conversation private and
confidential unless he or she gives me permission to use the conversation (see below).
Any non-public communications will consist of oral or e-mail conversations between the
source and myself. I do not expect an oral conversation to last more than an hour or email
to exceed more than three or four rounds, but this is at the source's discretion. If I
am not present to administer this consent form in person I will refer the source to an
online copy prior to our discussion and ask for an e-mail agreement. No incentives are
It further helped that I was not focussing on "sensitive" issues with "at
You can see my discussion of this in the Methods/Ethics section(3.2) of my dissertation
proposal, which addressed "questions to ask when undertaking Internet research"
as compiled by the AoIR Ethics Working Committee (Ess et al. 2002).
and my on-line consent form is still available: