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Challenges, Practices, and Beliefs in the Online Data Research Community

Ethics Survey

Note: Below is the consent information required by the University of Maryland's Institutional Review Board.
Purpose of the Study: This research is being conducted by Drs. Jessica Vitak and Katie Shilton and doctoral student Zahra Ashktorab at the University of Maryland, College Park. We are inviting you to participate in this research about online community data collection and analysis, and the role of researchers in making decisions about user data.

Procedures: The procedure involves completing an online survey, which should take approximately 15-20 minutes to complete. Examples of questions you will be asked include questions about the research methods and analyses you commonly use to conduct your research, as your attitudes toward data collection and research done with publically available data.

In order to participate, you must currently be a doctoral student, postdoctoral scholar, research scientist, faculty member, industry researcher, or in a field/organization/position that involves research with online data/large datasets (broadly speaking). You must be at least 18 years old.

Potential Risks and Discomforts: There are no obvious physical, legal or economic risks associated with participating in this study. Some participants may feel embarrassed if they report research practices they consider to be unethical, and may face sanctions by university IRBs or funding bodies if they report research practices the community feels to be unethical. To encourage honest disclosures, we will not ask you to provide any identifying information in they survey.

Potential Benefits: Participation in this study does not guarantee any beneficial results to participants. However, many people enjoy answering questions about themselves. As a result of participating, you may gain a better understanding of your own research practices. There are also likely to be benefits to the broader research community. Benefits include a better understanding of the social and ethical challenges of doing research with online community data.

Confidentiality:   You will have the option to provide your email address at the end of the survey if you would like to receive a summary of findings once the survey has been concluded. This data is collected separate from the survey data to ensure confidentiality of responses.

Copies of survey data will be retained by the researchers and their research assistants for three years after publication of any results. Survey response data will be stored by the researchers in password-protected files and password-protected email accounts that are only accessible by the researchers. All collected written documents or written notes will be stored in a locked cabinet in a locked office (Hornbake Building Room 2117G) at the University of Maryland. Only the researchers and student investigators will have access to this cabinet.

Your privacy will be protected to the maximum extent allowable by law. No personally identifiable information will be reported in any research product. Moreover, only trained research staff will have access to your responses. Within these restrictions, results of this study will be made available to you upon request. Your information may be shared with representatives of the University of Maryland, College Park or governmental authorities if you or someone else is in danger or if we are required to do so by law.

Right to Withdraw and Questions: Your participation in this research is completely voluntary. You may choose not to take part at all. If you decide to participate in this research, you may stop participating at any time. If you decide not to participate in this study or if you stop participating at any time, you will not be penalized or lose any benefits to which you otherwise qualify. Participating in the survey will not have a positive or negative effect of the your grades, employability, or standing at UMD. If you decide to stop taking part in the study, if you have questions, concerns, or complaints, or if you need to report an injury related to the research, please contact the researchers:
Drs. Jessica Vitak and Katie Shilton

Doctoral Student Zahra Ashktorab

College of Information Studies, University of Maryland
Dr. Vitak: (301)-405-8617 or

Dr. Shilton: (301) 405-3777,

Ms. Ashktorab: (301) 787-1012,
Participant Rights: If you have questions about your rights as a research participant or wish to report a research-related injury, please contact: University of Maryland College Park Institutional Review Board, Office 1204 Marie Mount Hall College Park, Maryland, 20742, E-mail: Telephone: 301-405-0678.

This research has been reviewed according to the University of Maryland, College Park IRB procedures for research involving human subjects.
Statement of Consent: You indicate your voluntary agreement to participate in this research and have your answers included in the data set by completing and submitting this online survey.
1. I verify that I am at least 18 years old and am currently a doctoral student, postdoctoral scholar, research scientist, faculty member, industry researcher, or am in a field/organization/position that involves research with online data/large datasets (broadly speaking).  *This question is required.