Guidelines for Ethical Visual Research Methods

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Susan Cox, Sarah Drew, Marilys Guillemin, Catherine Howell, Deborah Warr, Jenny Waycott (alphabetical order)

This document presents guidelines to assist researchers and research ethics committees in recognising and responding to ethical issues that arise from the use of visual research methods. The guidelines have been developed in recognition of the growing use of visual methods in research. Visual research methods present both familiar and novel ethical issues that are often amplified by the kinds of data collected in visual research, the processes used for data collection and dissemination, and the sensitive settings in which visual methods are frequently used.

This document has four sections. Part A provides an overview of the field of visual research and explains how the guidelines were developed. Part B presents six categories of ethical issues for researchers to consider when using visual methods. Part C presents guidelines for human research ethics committees when considering visual research projects. The guidelines are not intended to be prescriptive; rather they identify critical questions that should be considered when developing and conducting studies using visual research methods. Finally, Part D lists resources that we have drawn on, and that users of these guidelines may find informative.

Acknowledgements: We are grateful for the participation and co-operation of the participants from the two ethics in visual research methods workshops, held in Melbourne, Australia and Wellington, New Zealand, which contributed to the development of these guidelines. We want to acknowledge the support of Ignacio Rojas and Assunta Hunter, project officers on this program. The insight and contributions of Cathy Vaughan and Erminia Colucci, co-leaders of the Visual Research Collaboratory, are gratefully acknowledged. We also greatly appreciate the useful and insightful comments and feedback of our colleagues in Australia and Canada who read and commented on the draft version of these guidelines. Finally, we acknowledge the financial contribution and support of the Melbourne Social Equity Institute, University of Melbourne.


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