The products of your research
Depending upon who is funding you and on the purpose of the funding stream, there will be an expectation that at the end of your research study, and possibly part way through it, you will have generated some ‘products’ – the outputs or ‘deliverables’ from your study. These will usually include, as a minimum, a written report of your research findings.
It is very important to establish at the point that you receive funding precisely what products you are expected to produce and by when. This though, is not the only consideration which should be addressed at this stage. You should also come to an agreement about whether you will be allowed to publish the results of the research, and about what will happen to the data that you produce.
As a researcher it is very important to you that you should be able to publish work that you have done, but your funder may well have reasons why they would prefer that your work is not published, so it is important to establish this at the beginning of the study. If your funder is a government department or a charity, then it may be that you will be asked to produce a report that they will publish themselves. If this is the case, then you should clarify at the outset whether or not your funder would be willing for you to use data from the research that they have funded in order to produce articles for publication in academic journals.
You have a number of responsibilities in relation to the data produced by your research. First, you have an ethical responsibility to your participants – when you seek consent, you have to explain to potential participants exactly what will happen to the data that they provide, and you have to stick with that. See our section on seeking consent. For example, if you seek consent for a one-off research interaction, it is not appropriate to go back later and ask for more data – that’s not what was agreed. If you think you might want to do longitudinal work, but don’t yet know, then you should explain that it’s a possibility and ask for consent to that possibility.
You may also have made an agreement with your funder, in relation to data, when you made your funding application. Many funders now require consent for data archiving as a condition of funding, and if that is the case, you need to make plans for archiving at the outset of your research – not least because it has implications for how you seek consent from potential participants. You should be able to answer the following questions:
- Where will you keep your data?
- Who will ‘own’ the data?
- Will it be anonymised?
- Will you have to give the data to your funder at the end of your study?
- Will you be able to continue to use them?
- Will you have to make them available to other researchers?
If you are being funded by one of the UK Research Councils it will usually be a requirement of your funding that at the end of your research your data is offered to the UK Data Archive. The handling of data is one of the few areas of research explicitly covered by legislation in the UK see our section on the Data Protection Act for details.