Progress in Human Geography, vol. 31, issue 5 (2007) pp. 654-674
This paper explores and advances the debate surrounding online research ethics. The use of internet-mediated research using online research methods has increased significantly in recent years raising the issue of online research ethics. Obviously, many ethical issues of onsite research are directly translatable to the online context, but there is also a need for existing ethical principles to be examined in the light of these new virtual research strategies. Five key issues of ethical conduct are commonly identified in the literature pertaining to online research ethics: informed consent, confidentiality, privacy, debriefing and netiquette. These are the issues that are most commonly discussed in procedural ethical guidelines for online research. However, this paper proposes that given the recent increased formal regulation and research governance over research ethics in many countries, it is important that discussion of such issues continues as an embedded part of professional self-regulation and procedural ethical guidelines are used as creative forums for reflexive debate rather than simply being routinely applied by bureaucratic ethics committees. Finally, in problematizing the role of procedural online ethical guidelines, the conclusions explore how geographers can contribute to the future debate about online research ethics.
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