Declarations of consent
When you collect personal data (sensitive and non-sensitive) as part of a research project, informants’ participation should preferably take place on the basis of so-called informed consent. Consent will usually consist of (written) participant information, a document in which you set out the project followed by the actual consent form signed by the informant and, preferably, also by you.
If you are collecting information about children and adolescents (under the age of 18), you need the consent of their parents. It is generally only necessary that both parents or guardians consent if the investigation is "particularly intrusive"- e.g. in connection with medical treatment.
You should be able to document that the participant information has been delivered and that the informant has given his/her consent either by written consent or, for example, by recording the process of information and consent.
If you submit your project for approval to the Research Ethics Committee, the Committee will also assess the arrangement of the consent form that you have prepared for the project.
As a general rule, observations in the public space do not require informed consent. The same may apply to observations on online media and internet forums as long as they are on an equal footing with the public space.
Furthermore, it is possible to carry out research projects without obtaining the consent of the data subjects in the case of register-based research. This exception applies on the condition that the research project is of major scientific importance and that the project would not be possible without processing the personal data in question.
You should structure your information to informants in a way that makes it understandable for the recipient. As a general rule, you should provide information in writing, but the information may also be supplied in writing.
You should include information about:
- the purpose of the study
- the concrete procedure for data collecting and data processing in the project (method)
- the results/product of the study, e.g. scientific article, PhD dissertation, report to governmental authorities, exam paper, master's thesis
- the possibility of the informant being cited or referred to in anonymised form in the finished product
- possible risks and disadvantages of participating
- possible benefits of participating
- the right to withdraw from the study and to withdraw consent.
You can also state that you would like to use the data in future research to ensure that you can reuse the data in another context. The wording regarding the use of data for future research purposes may be problematic, however, as it conflicts with the requirement that consent applies for a specific purpose.
You should make the actual consent form short and precise in order to ensure that it is understandable to the receiver.
It is a good idea to begin with a section briefly summarising the project.
You should include statements that ensure the following:
- The informant is informed of the project's purpose and method.
- The informant is informed that he or she may, at any time, withdraw his or her commitment to participating in the project.
You may want to ensure this by using yes/no check boxes.
You should make room for the informant’s signature, preferably with an indication of place and date.