Skip to main content
Search form
  • 00:00


  • 00:13

    VASILEIOS KARAGIANNOPOULOS: Hello, everyone.My name is Vasileios Karagiannopoulos,and I'm a Reader in cybercrime and cybersecurity,and the Director of the Cybercrime Awareness Clinicat the Initiative Criminal Justice Studies,University of Portsmouth.My area of specialization is, as youcan tell by my title, cybercrime and cyber security.And currently, I mainly focus on developing cyber awarenesscampaigns, and doing research on cyber risks and threats

  • 00:36

    VASILEIOS KARAGIANNOPOULOS [continued]: for vulnerable community groups and organizations.Other interests include activism,cyber terrorism and cyber warfare,as well as fake news and internetpolitics, human rights, and regulation, more widely.I've also been the Chair of our Departmental Ethics Committeeand Vice-chair of the Faculty of Humanities and Social SciencesEthics Committee at the University of Portsmouth

  • 00:57

    VASILEIOS KARAGIANNOPOULOS [continued]: and a member of an NHS Research Ethics Committee.This tutorial draws on my experience in research ethicscommittees, and aims to familiarize the viewerswith common challenges and pitfalls thatrelate to completing a research ethics application,mainly regarding student projects.The main topics we will explore in this videowill be viewing ethics as a bureaucratic obligation,

  • 01:18

    VASILEIOS KARAGIANNOPOULOS [continued]: recruitment challenges, and doingresearch in one's workplace.Ethics is integral to the development of research,and especially criminological research,which draws on a range of disciplines,for example, sociology, victimology, psychology,

  • 01:40

    VASILEIOS KARAGIANNOPOULOS [continued]: forensics, and even law.Each of these disciplines introduces different challengesto research, design, and conduct,particularly because they draw upon a variety of researchmethodologies, and methods arisingfrom this multidisciplinarity.Consequently, in contemporary criminology institutionsaround the globe, the integrity of the researchis underpinned and enabled through the work of researchers

  • 02:00

    VASILEIOS KARAGIANNOPOULOS [continued]: ethics committees.Perceptions regarding the usefulness and efficiencyof ethics committee reviews vary widely,and concerns regarding the impactof excessive, restrictive ethics reviewmechanisms have been voiced at the global level.As Winlow Hall argue, these perceptions canrange from considering the committees as crucial elementsin the process of professional academic oversight

  • 02:21

    VASILEIOS KARAGIANNOPOULOS [continued]: to viewing them as, quote, "One of a growing assortmentof aggressive modernizing or managerialistincursions now being made into the traditional culturesof Britain's venerable University systemby neo-liberalism's relentless and controlling marketideology, hell-bent on imposing its obsession with efficiencyon the genteel world of higher education."

  • 02:44

    VASILEIOS KARAGIANNOPOULOS [continued]: Based on the latter view, there is oftena perception in the student body that doing ethicsis a tick-box exercise universitiesforce students to go through.Irrespective of the risk management aims of the process,the reality is that ethics applicationswhen done conscientiously, and with respecttowards the right of the participants,end up improving the methodology of a project,and refine its various aspects, from providing

  • 03:06

    VASILEIOS KARAGIANNOPOULOS [continued]: a level of systematized that generates consistent practices,to removing bias from the questions askedand the responses received.Many researchers, particularly in criminology,where I draw my experience from, conduct researchwith some of the most vulnerable and/or risk rich participantsin society, and engage with topicsof social-political concern.

  • 03:27

    VASILEIOS KARAGIANNOPOULOS [continued]: This includes adult and child victims and perpetrators,sensitive subject areas such as sex offendingand mental health, and international projectswhere cultural norms and political upheavalpose risk to researchers, as well as the researched.That is why it is crucial to properly engagewith the process and thoroughly consider the questions posedby ethics committees in order to assess what could impact

  • 03:48

    VASILEIOS KARAGIANNOPOULOS [continued]: on the rights and the well-being of participantsthat volunteer to take part in your project.As I come from a law background, Ilike to use the metaphor with students suggestingthat an ethics application, and the accompanyingforms reflecting what is in the application,should be seen as a pact, a contract that needs to lay outthe terms of the activity for the parties involvedin a manner that will respect both parties,

  • 04:09

    VASILEIOS KARAGIANNOPOULOS [continued]: and would make the contract as watertight as it could be.We're now discussing Recruitment Challenges.Recruiting participants is usuallyan ethically challenging state in the structuringof a research project.A very common issue is an overly optimistic outlook

  • 04:32

    VASILEIOS KARAGIANNOPOULOS [continued]: on recruitment members.Less experienced researchers oftenexpect that whichever their chosen sample iswill see the value of the research,and will also have ample free timeto engage in long interviews, or take partin multiperson focus groups.However, this is not always the case.And in fact, more often than not,participants, either individuals or organizations,

  • 04:53

    VASILEIOS KARAGIANNOPOULOS [continued]: could decide to withdraw and not take part,despite initially being positive towards the research,due to lack of resources, and available time,or reputational concerns.Consequently, starting with your recruitment early,having a plan B, and having conservative expectationsof recruitment success are reallyimportant because researchers are thenmore prepared for the worst case scenario,

  • 05:15

    VASILEIOS KARAGIANNOPOULOS [continued]: and can still complete the project satisfactorilyand on time.Furthermore, the researcher may seekto engage with those whose capacity consent maybe an issue as well as vulnerable individualssuch as children, older adults, and thosewith physical disabilities or mental health challenges.Initially, accessing such participantsshould involve a third party thatis informed about the research, and ensures

  • 05:37

    VASILEIOS KARAGIANNOPOULOS [continued]: that the participant's rights are respected.Ideally, this should be a person whohas the right to use the privileged contactdetails of the prospective participant,and who can act as a conduit between the researcherand the prospective participant at the initial pointof inviting interest in taking part in the research.This ensures that the individual invited is notpressured into an agreement to participate.

  • 05:59

    VASILEIOS KARAGIANNOPOULOS [continued]: This gatekeeping third party may bea person appointed by a relevant organizationsuch as the school, or the social workorganization or charity.However, the existence of a gatekeeperis not always the best solution, especiallywhen considering populations thatmight be captive, or under implicit pressuresto take part.As Israel highlights, for example, prisoner research

  • 06:20

    VASILEIOS KARAGIANNOPOULOS [continued]: often involves sensitive power relationsbetween the offenders, the officers,and prison authorities, which further complicates participantconsent.With this in mind, consideration of the relationshipbetween the gatekeeping third partyand the potential participant is crucial.One way around this challenge is for the gatekeeperto circulate an invitation requesting interested partiesto directly contact the researcher

  • 06:42

    VASILEIOS KARAGIANNOPOULOS [continued]: and for the researcher then to act with the participantsconfidentially, without divulging to the gatekeeper whohas agreed to take part and who has declined.Even where implicit pressure does not appear to exist,identifying the best possible routefor accessing the desired participantscan often prove challenging.For example, the expected gatekeeping organizationmight not want to take part in the research

  • 07:03

    VASILEIOS KARAGIANNOPOULOS [continued]: due to resource related issues or reputational concerns.For example, research in schools can involve an extensive amountof additional work for school staff,thus disincentivizing schools from facilitating researchwith their pupils.Similarly, recruiting police officersis a very common goal in criminology research.However, in the UK, for example, ithas become increasingly difficult due to the resource

  • 07:26

    VASILEIOS KARAGIANNOPOULOS [continued]: constraint that police forces havebeen facing in recent years.And as a result, requests for resource intensive researchaccess could be rejected or participationmight be very low.Therefore, careful design of the processes for recruitmentand early and close collaborationwith potential gatekeepers is key.

  • 07:51

    VASILEIOS KARAGIANNOPOULOS [continued]: We are now moving to doing research in the workplace.Doing research in one's place of workinitially seems like the easiest choice.As an employee, you do not have to learnabout the organizational culture and you will likelyhave a network of colleagues who will be willing to supportyour research efforts.If the topic appeals to the managementor serves an organizational interest,

  • 08:14

    VASILEIOS KARAGIANNOPOULOS [continued]: the researcher may think that this willsmooth the path to success.However, there are many ethical pitfalls,which can be a surprising challenge for professionals.One issue is the ethical nature of using work resourcesfor research purposes.Researchers working in the police, for example,cannot use the National Police Computer Database for research

  • 08:34

    VASILEIOS KARAGIANNOPOULOS [continued]: without explicit authorization, despite having accessto the data as part of their professional role.In fact, officers have been prosecutedunder the Computer Misuse Act 1990, Section 1,for unauthorized access to the database for purposes thatwere unrelated to their job.Researchers and the organizations they work for,therefore, have to pay particular attention

  • 08:56

    VASILEIOS KARAGIANNOPOULOS [continued]: to adhering to the General Data Protection Regulations,and relevant national data protection laws,and information governing policieswithin their organization.A further ethical hurdle to consideris dealing with a sample of research participantsfrom your own place of work.Inevitably, these are likely to be either service usersor colleagues.

  • 09:17

    VASILEIOS KARAGIANNOPOULOS [continued]: First, discuss the challenges of service users--although one's own clients are the most accessible participantpool, perhaps, for the professional researcherto reach.Their confusion when wearing dual hats is in practiceand ethically difficult to resolve.For example, a search relevant disclosure made to a socialworker cannot be used by the same professional

  • 09:39

    VASILEIOS KARAGIANNOPOULOS [continued]: in the research capacity as this would breach confidentiality.Similarly, a disclosure made whilst in the roleof researcher cannot be used by the researcherand the professional role.Therefore, the contradictory requirementsof the professional and the researcherdo not sit easily together and result in role conflicts.And professionals should always aim

  • 09:59

    VASILEIOS KARAGIANNOPOULOS [continued]: to adhere to University research ethicsguidelines and also any professional guidanceand codes of practice.One suggestion towards mitigating this problemis to make the most of professional contactsto see if they would be willing to facilitate accessto service users, participants who have not been, and neverwill be, the researcher's professional clients.

  • 10:19

    VASILEIOS KARAGIANNOPOULOS [continued]: Turning now to the use of professional colleaguesas participants, an important issue as a researcheris to give careful thought to the research designin terms of ethically managing existing powerrelations at work.For example, a manager wants to do researchwithin their own department.The more straightforward process wouldbe for the manager researcher to email everyonein their department asking them to take part in the research

  • 10:42

    VASILEIOS KARAGIANNOPOULOS [continued]: by completing the attached questionnaireand emailing it back.Obviously, such a process would impacton the principle freely given consent due to the powerimbalance between the researcher and his or her teamor subordinates.The lack of a gatekeeper and the use of direct communicationsbetween the researcher, and manager,and potential participants, employees,

  • 11:04

    VASILEIOS KARAGIANNOPOULOS [continued]: impacts ethically on anonymity and the guarantee of freedomfrom a coercive obligation to take part in the project.A process where an intermediary actsas a conduit for communicating the research invitation,and also retaining anonymized responses to the researcher,is crucial for ensuring freely given consent in these cases.

  • 11:24

    VASILEIOS KARAGIANNOPOULOS [continued]: Here the choice of method plays an important rolein minimizing the ethical consequences of role conflictand professional power relationships.Going for an anonymous online survey, for example,can allow individuals to decline to take part in the researchwithout exposing their identities.Another important research design considerationis to ensure that the questions, and particularly,

  • 11:46

    VASILEIOS KARAGIANNOPOULOS [continued]: the demographic questions, do notallow the contextual identification of participants,especially if the sample is smalland participants are well known to the researcher.Preferring not to say options should, therefore,be provided as potential answers in caseswhere special characteristics, such as gender, nationality,age, or years of employment might lead

  • 12:07

    VASILEIOS KARAGIANNOPOULOS [continued]: to respondent identification.To conclude, there are some main pointsthat I would like you to take from this video.First, the ethics process can work for your andbinyour participants benefit, if taken seriously, and can

  • 12:28

    VASILEIOS KARAGIANNOPOULOS [continued]: improve your research methodology process,increase the efficiency and resilience of your datacollection, and provide you with better quality data,and an altogether better, and more easily publishablepiece of work.Secondly, recruitment is not a simple processand should not be taken lightly as itcan entail a lot of ethical and practical considerationsthat interrelate.

  • 12:50

    VASILEIOS KARAGIANNOPOULOS [continued]: Consider the nature of your participantsand whether they require additional protection,and try to work with gatekeepers in order to allow themthe time and space to decide if they really wantto take part in the research.Participants offer the time to youwithout usually expecting anything in return.And therefore, the least a researcher could dois respect the rights and freedoms.

  • 13:11

    VASILEIOS KARAGIANNOPOULOS [continued]: Doing research in the workplace can be straightforwardand provide very valuable insights.However, it is important to have explicit agreementfrom the organizations involved into taking to account the roleconflicts and the power imbalancesin those environments and introduce safeguardsto mitigate coercion and challenges to anonymityand confidentiality where relevant.

  • 13:32

    VASILEIOS KARAGIANNOPOULOS [continued]: Finally, always remember that being ethicalis a core element of being an actual researcher.And do not try to take the path of least resistance,which can be tempting with tight time frames.Give yourself time to do your research properly,and you will be rewarded with good qualitydata, and interesting findings, and a final product youcan be proud of.

  • 13:52

    VASILEIOS KARAGIANNOPOULOS [continued]: I hope this tutorial was useful for you,and it will help you in your future projects.Thank you for watching.


Vasileios Karagiannopoulos, PhD, Reader and Director of Cybercrime Awareness Clinic, University of Portsmouth, discusses common pitfalls of criminology research ethics committee applications, including challenges in recruitment and in doing research in the workplace.

Looks like you do not have access to this content.

Criminology Research Ethics Committee Applications: Common Pitfalls

Vasileios Karagiannopoulos, PhD, Reader and Director of Cybercrime Awareness Clinic, University of Portsmouth, discusses common pitfalls of criminology research ethics committee applications, including challenges in recruitment and in doing research in the workplace.

Copy and paste the following HTML into your website