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  • General Advice about Ethics and Internet Testing
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Since the introduction of the GDPR legislation things have become slightly clearer and, so as to reflect this, the Committee is now in a position to provide the following updated guidance. With respect to GDPR, and to be quite clear, the legal basis for processing personal data is 'in the public interest' and not 'consent'. Nonetheless, we seek consent on an ethical basis, and our default position is that we spell out in clearest terms what both testing and data processing entail. Where the data are not collected anonymously, we ask participants to consent to particular 'GDPR terms and conditions'. These terms and conditions are included on what we call an "adult information sheet" (see below) and included on the sheet is the link to more general terms and conditions on the public wiki regarding GDPR.

Follow this link to see the general GDPR terms and conditions

In this way, and where we are processing non-anonymous data, participants are fully informed about testing and data processing.

Useful links and forms

A link to the current Ethical guidance can be found here.

The current template for UG ethics approval and for students on taught post-graduate courses can be downloaded from **here**

The template for the ethics form includes templates for information sheets and consent forms that can be used when testing non-vulnerable adults online or in person. If you are planning to test another group (e.g., children) or if you are planning to record your participants or use EEG, please also complete and submit the corresponding information sheet and consent forms that can be found below:

Links to external ethics guidance can be found here for the BPS and for the ESRC.

Finally a link to the university's own guidance can be found here.

Internet testing

With online testing, it is possible to collect truly anonymous data. In those cases, GDPR might not apply. In other cases, however, data are collected that can identify the participants. We therefore still require use of a GDPR compliant adult information sheet for online studies (see the template above). Participants can give consent by ticking a box (see consent form template above). Therefore they will need to know what they will have to do, and in cases of questionnaires, what sorts of issues will be probed. This is particularly important if topics of a sensitive nature are to be addressed. For example, if the aim is to use the Beck Depression Inventory, then it needs to be made clear to participants before they start the survey that questions will be asked about their mood and that questions concerning suicidal tendencies will also be posed.

(note that for student project work, a useful alternative to the BDI can be found via the following link:)

link to the CSD-D  

The general idea is that participants need to be given sufficient information about the testing that they can make an informed decision about whether to proceed or not. It should be made clear that in proceeding to the survey they are consenting to the testing. Participants need to be told that they should not engage with any testing which may adversely affect their emotional state.

The committee were also clear in deciding that, in cases where it is vital that the survey is not accessed by children or other vulnerable individuals, then following the BPS guidance the work ought not be carried out over the Internet.

Link to BPS guidance regarding Internet testing


Plainly it is critically important to debrief participants properly and this may be challenging in the context of internet research. Once participants have completed an Internet test, they must be given access to information that explains fully what has been tested and why. So, for instance, if you are to use the IAT then the reasons for doing so need to be passed on. Contact details of the PI must be provided so that, if participants wish, then they can contact that person if they have further questions. 

Finally, a very useful web resource has been provided by the University and a link to this Help and Support page should be included in cases where participants may feel that having undertaken the testing, they would benefit from further help and support:

Further sources of support can be found in the debrief template (see templates above). With online studies, it is likely that people outside York take part. It is therefore important to also add resources that can be accessed (inter-)nationally.

Given such concerns the Committee felt that, before any Internet survey can be disseminated, it must first be approved by the Committee. Therefore a link to the materials/survey must be provided as part of the ethical application.   

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