How to assess risk, harms and benefits
Use the list of questions here as a starting point for reflecting on the possible risks, harms and benefits of your planned research. Work through this list as you are preparing your proposal – it covers the sort of questions that funders will consider when assessing your application.
- What questions will the study address?
- Why do they matter?
- How widespread and how serious is the question being researched?
- If methods are being tested or compared, are they new methods or already widely used? what alternative methods might there be?
- What exactly will participants be asked to do? How much of their time will be needed? Will they be compensated for their time?
- What direct risks might there be to them? Intrusion? Distress or embarrassment?
- How likely and how severe might any risks be?
- How might risks be reduced? For example:
- rehearsing with respondents ways of saying ‘no’ when they do not want to reply;
- assuring them that this will be respected and that they won’t be questioned about why they refuse; or
- ensuring people who are worried or upset about the research can talk to someone about it afterwards.
- It can be useful to find out gently why people want to refuse. Does the research seem boring or irrelevant? Could it be improved with their help?
- How can people contact the researcher if they want to make further enquiries, or complain?
- Are there systems in place to review complaints and then possibly change research plans?
- How will the study’s findings be used?
- If there are any hoped for benefits, what might these be?