1 – General Experiment Guidelines (incl. Lab, Online, and Lab-in-Field)

1.1 – Protection of Participants and Their Rights

All subjects have the right to not participate in any investigation and this right must be respected. You may not coerce potential subjects into participating in any research project. Students and others in a dependent relationship with any of the investigators must be assured that any decision to participate or not participate will neither help nor harm their academic or other progress in any way. Each participant must have the right to withdraw easily from the any research project whenever and for whatever reason without penalty, and without needing to provide an explanation. For example, if a participant in a lab experiment wishes to leave the session, they should be free to do so. All participants and research assistants have the right to expect protection from physical, psychological, social, legal and economic harm at all times during the investigation. Participants and research staff must be fully informed in advance and protected against any hazardous, stressful or uncomfortable contexts and procedures. In addition, researchers should attempt to avoid harm not only to an immediate population of subjects but also to their wider family, kin and community. Should any adverse reaction or event occur, the researcher must report this immediately in writing to the CESS Ethics Review Committee. The report should describe fully the adverse reaction or event, the action taken and the date, time and place of the event.

1.2 – Informed Consent

All participants must make a statement of informed consent prior to their participation in an experiment. This statement should clearly indicate the potential risks and expected benefits of participating in the research investigation and should provide subjects with contact information should they have concerns or questions following the experiment. Participants will usually sign a written statement. CESS has created a standardized consent form that can be used as guide or template.

However consent does not always have to be in written form and the manner and context in which information is conveyed is as important as the information itself. For example, written information should not be used in the case of illiterate subjects. Where the researcher considers that oral consent is appropriate, the researcher needs to record evidence (for example, in their interview notes or as part of an audio recording) that this was obtained.

If consent is not to be secured, an explanation and justification must be provided by the experimenter, and approved by CESS. The primary objectives of informed consent are that experimenters conduct their research openly and transparently and so that subjects may make good decisions about their participation.

If a participant is not capable of giving informed consent on their own behalf, or is below the age of 18, then consent must be obtained from a carer, parent or guardian. The ability to consent depends upon having sufficient understanding and intelligence to make that decision; it does not depend on a fixed age limit. However, even when a child under 16 years of age is judged able to consent, approval from a carer, parent or guardian must be sought, and it may also be useful to consider seeking it for older adolescents. In the case of incompetent adults, the law in the United Kingdom, for example, does not recognise proxy consent by a relative. However, the views of a relative and / or a carer should be sought. In addition, the assent of the incompetent person him/herself should be sought. In general, CESS discourages the use of subjects who cannot consent on their own behalf, except when such a group is the focus of the study.

1.3 – Deception

CESS does not permit the use of deception. This includes but is not limited to: explicitly or implicitly false statements, misleading statements, and deliberate omission of information so as to encourage subjects to have a false impression of their situation or the experiment. If you have concerns as to whether or not an aspect of your experiment is considered deception, please contact CESS for clarification. CESS strives to develop and maintain a reputation for honesty among our subject pool and the greater community. This rule of no deception applies to the recruitment process, the instructions provided during the experimental sessions, and the economic compensation subjects receive for taking part in the experiment.

CESS may permit a minimal amount of deception provided that the reviewers unanimously agree with the specific use of deception. Deception will only be considered in exceptional circumstances: the use of deception must be essential to the study; there must be no plausible alternative to employing deception; and the deception must not cause any damage to the integrity and reputation of CESS. Experimenters who consider the use of deception must provide information regarding the contents and potential influence of the deceptions, the method of debriefing, and a justification for employing deception. No deceptions may be used without explicit CESS approval.

1.4 – Data Storage

Researchers should be aware of requirements with respect to personal data laid down in the Data Protection Act 2018. More information can be found on this link: https://ico.org.uk/for-organisations.

All participants have the right to expect that any personal information supplied by them will be treated as confidential and will be protected as such. Researchers should ensure that data is stored in an appropriate way, protecting the confidentiality and anonymity of participants. All participants have the right to expected that their identity will be protected. Researchers using commercial online recruitment platforms (e.g. Mturk) should provide participants with a reference to that platforms privacy policy. CESS does not provide any data from our recruitment database to experimenters, and no link will be established between the personal data in the participants database and the data collected during a study.

CESS does maintain recruitment databases. These consist of participants who have given their informed consent to participate in either lab or online experiments. The informed consent for lab experiments is available here and the informed consent for registered online subjects is here.

Subjects can at any point request that their individual registration records be permanently removed from the CESS databases. For CESS Online, permanent removal requests can be processed by logging into your CESS Online account and indicating that you would like your data records permanently deleted. If you would like your records to be permanently deleted from the Nuffield CESS Experimental Lab database, please send an e-mail to cess-lab@nuffield.ox.ac.uk. Please allow 7 working days for us to permanently deleter your records and send you a confirmation.