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School of Technology Research Ethics guidance

This site offers guidance on ethical issues that may arise when technology research involves the participation of people outside the research team. Even where research questions are purely technological, the dignity, rights, health, safety or privacy of human participants may still be affected by research. We address these issues in the context of the most common methods employed in technology research with human participants, including experiments, field studies, action research and surveys.

We do not consider research involving biological materials and animals (subject to the Animals Scientific Procedures Act) or medical research (for which it is necessary to consult a local committee of the NHS Research Ethics Service). Nor do we attempt to address research governance or research ethics more broadly.

The University of Cambridge Research Integrity website has a wealth of information on all types of research ethics, particularly research involving human participants and personal data.

What kind of research are you doing?

This site currently offers guidance on:

controlled experiments for technology evaluation

Which typically involve recruiting participants from outside the research team, asking them to come to your office or laboratory, and collecting data while they perform experimental tasks that you have defined.

ethnographic and field study techniques

Which typically involve observing people in the place where they live or work, as they go about their normal activities.

action-based management research techniques

Where your research involves trying to change things in another organisation, most often through a consultancy-style arrangement.

survey methods

Where your research involves collecting data from people with questionnaires or interviews.

data research

Where your research involves analysing personal data that has been collected indirectly.

release of instrumented software

Where your research involves releasing software that collects data about its usage.

diary and probe studies

Where your research involves asking people to collect information about their everyday lives.

collaborative and participatory design

Where your research involves recruiting people from outside the research team to contribute to design work.

Design for ageing and disability inclusion

Where your research is concerned with the design of products for ageing and disability inclusion.

Other categories of research

If your research involves the participation of people outside the research team, but does not come into any of the categories above, please contact us with guidance feedback, so that we can add further information to this guidance.

These guidance notes and procedures are under continued development by the Cambridge working group on Human Participants in Technology and Physical Sciences research.

All comments are welcome. Please send any feedback directly to the working group chair