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Thursday 31 October 2013 8:06am


Otago's Children's Issues Centre (CIC) is among four organisations involved in a new UNICEF partnership project announced yesterday which aims to assist the research community to understand, plan and conduct ethical research involving children and young people.

A joint initiative by the UNICEF Office of Research, the Childwatch International Research Network, the Centre for Children and Young People at Southern Cross University and Otago's CIC, the Ethical Research Involving Children Project is intended to provide both guidance and a forum for discussion offering advice and possible solutions for engaging children and youth in research. The aim of the project is to help ensure research approaches are ethically sound, children are respected and their views and perspectives gathered and reported with integrity.

“I am hugely excited to see this project launched as it has involved three years' work and has enormous potential to encourage best practice in the child and youth research fields,” said Associate Professor Nicola Taylor, Director of the CIC.

“The collaboration has shown just what can be achieved when two university-based research centres partner with UNICEF and Childwatch International to work on the international stage to develop resources that will help researchers engage with children whatever their research methodology or geographical location.”

"Part of the difficulty lies in the fact there are no clear-cut answers or universal solutions to every ethical concern..."

Nearly 400 members of the international research and NGO communities contributed to the creation of the project that has developed a range of resources to provide clear guidance on ethical issues and concerns that can be applied in multiple research contexts.

Associate Professor Taylor said the project was important because many researchers report feeling quite isolated in their research activities, particularly when it comes to making informed decisions about core concerns, such as how to balance the protection of children while progressing their participation in research.

“Part of the difficulty lies in the fact there are no clear-cut answers or universal solutions to every ethical concern, not least because the range of research contexts and issues being investigated differ so markedly.”

Associate Professor Taylor became involved in the UNICEF project as a result of her involvement as a board member with the Childwatch International Research Network (of which the CIC is a key institution).

“In 2010, I proposed to the board that Childwatch provide a small grant to initiate a project on child research ethics. This topic was fundamental to Childwatch's mandate to build research capacity internationally, and was also consistent with the CIC's commitment to undertaking high quality research with children and young people. Ethics is obviously an important component of this process and there was a need to better understand how best to conduct such research given the particular ethical issues that arise when a study involves children directly.”

With yesterday's public launch of the Ethical Research Involving Children Project and the activation of, Associate Professor Taylor expects these new resources will be of immense interest to researchers, students and ethics committee members. She also hopes to see the CIC design a new paper on child and youth research as part of the Centre's Postgraduate Diploma in Child-centred Practice.

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