VULNER Common Ethics Strategy
All VULNER consortium members share a strong commitment to not harm the research participants in any direct or indirect ways. They are duly aware of the ethics challenges that are inherent in conducting research on people in vulnerable positions, such as migrants seeking protection. They commit to comply with the ALLEA European Code of Conduct for Research Integrity, and to abide with the requirements of safety, transparency, openness and integrity when implementing the research tasks. They were trained in treating the research participants with care, sensitivity, objectivity and transparency while respecting their decisions and values, and safeguarding their dignity.
A common and detailed ethics strategy was established. It was approved by the VULNER project coordinator’s ethics review board (Ethikrat der MPG, Decision of 29 November 2019 on the Application No. 2019_15), as well as by the ethics review boards of all the partner institutions involved.
The common VULNER ethics strategy includes dedicated instruments and processes, such as:
Permanent Ethics Monitoring
Anthony Good acts as the independent ethics advisor to the VULNER project. He remains at the permanent disposal of the researchers, to provide individual assistance in addressing the ethical issues and conundrums that arise when collecting data and analyzing them. He takes part to the VULNER consortium internal events, to raise awareness on ethical issues and on the overarching considerations, such as the ‘do not harm principle’, that should be considered and reflected upon when addressing them.
Consent Forms and Information Sheet
Two models of consent forms and information sheets have been established, depending on the research participants’ profiles (migrants seeking protection, or other experts and practitioners, such as NGO case workers or public servants within asylum authorities). They are translated in the various relevant languages in the field.
Data collection protocols were also established, to assist the VULNER researchers in documenting and reflecting on incidents that may occur during the data collection process, and on their consequences for the quality of the collected data
Even when the research participants waived their right to confidentiality, the VULNER researchers will keep assessing the risks linked with the disclosure of any kind of information, to avoid causing any direct or indirect harm to the research participants.
Secured Data Storage Infrastructure
To guarantee the confidentiality of the research participants, their personal data are pseudonymized and stored in a dedicated file on a secured and encrypted cloud, which the Max Planck Digital Library puts at the disposal of the VULNER researchers. Only VULNER researchers have access to the file.
Follow-Up on Incidental Findings
When research participants appear to be in need, they are provided with the contact information of trusted professionals in the field. When appropriate, the research participants are actively referred to them. Serious offences are swiftly reported to the relevant authorities.