Online forums for data collection: ethical challenges from a study exploring women’s views of birth plans
evidence and practice    

Online forums for data collection: ethical challenges from a study exploring women’s views of birth plans

Bernie Divall Professional adviser for leadership, Royal College of Midwives, London, England
Helen Spiby Professor in midwifery, University of Nottingham, Nottingham, England

Background Internet-based research is increasing in popularity, but concerns remain about ethical issues and guidance is sparse in relation to generating data using online forums.

Aim To describe and discuss ethical considerations concerning the collecting of data through online forums by using the authors’ research exploring women’s views and experiences of birth plans.

Discussion Using online discussion forums helped to generate data rapidly. However, ethical concerns required attention throughout the study. The authors engage with debates about the public/private nature of online research, the complexities of ensuring consent in this context is informed, and questions about anonymity and confidentiality, where data are traceable and identifiable through search engines.

Conclusion Research undertaken using online forums generates ethical issues similar to those seen in ‘real world’ studies.

Implications for practice Researchers need to explore how the designs of their studies are affected by issues such as ensuring informed consent and mitigating for the publicly viewable and searchable nature of the data obtained.

Nurse Researcher. 27, 2, 26-30. doi: 10.7748/nr.2019.e1632

Peer review

This article has been subject to external double-blind peer review and has been checked for plagiarism using automated software

Correspondence

bernie.divall@rcm.org.uk

Conflict of interest

None declared

Divall B, Spiby H (2019) Online forums for data collection: ethical challenges from a study exploring women’s views of birth plans. Nurse Researcher. doi: 10.7748/nr.2019.e1632