Consent for researchers

Researchers have slightly different requirements because the people whose consent they need are not expecting much in return – they are volunteering their time to help others.

Once upon a time, participants in research studies were called ‘subjects’ and they were mostly undergraduates so a certain amount of savvy about the research process could be assumed. These days, research recognises the benefits of recruiting people who have lived experience of something,  especially in health-related research, and this means many more people with vulnerabilities are likely to be joining studies.

Sometimes it’s that most vulnerable population you want to have on board and many of them will be able to consent if you get it right. But most often, you won’t know who those vulnerable people are unless something goes amiss.

Fortunately, getting it right for them means you will get it right for everyone, and it will not be that difficult. The basic requirements are:

  • a comprehensive and accessible information leaflet,
  • a comprehensive and accessible consent form, and
  • a bit of time with a properly trained research assistant who knows how to ask questions effectively.

The method then is the same – ask the participant for their account of what they are being asked to do (without interrupting!), then probe key pieces of information where you need to be clear about understanding, using the non-leading techniques outlined on this site.

Our demonstration video is here. We used consent to participate in making the video as our topic. The principles are similar to consent to participate in research as each requires understanding of an information leaflet.

You can check your judgement against the same standards outlined here and in the Looking for Evidence document here.

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