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Ethics & responsibilities

Ensure that you and your team perform research that meets ethical standards.

Clearly state objectives

Your team will conduct research for a specific reason known to both the team and the participant. It’s your job to make participants aware of the research procedures and have them sign the appropriate forms to confirm their participation and consent. State any participant benefit or honoraria before the research session begins.

Protect anonymity and confidentiality

You also need to inform participants of what data is being collected and how it will be used. Data collection should also be done in accordance with GDPR and any country-specific requirements. Remember that a participant can refuse or revoke consent at any time.

Immediately after a research activity occurs, anonymize a participant’s name and other identifying information. When reporting research back to your team or in deliverables, do not use a participant’s or client’s real name, demographics, contact information, etc.

Preserve and strengthen client relationships

One way to formalize this process is with a Sponsor User Program. Sponsor Users are a core part of Enterprise Design Thinking and IBM Design Research. They help us design experiences for real target users rather than assumed needs. You can read more about Sponsor User Programs, including how to start and run one, below.

Remove bias and judgement

When conducting design research, your team will attempt to remove environmental, study, personal, and social biases. As you remove these biases, the research becomes more credible and honest. Some examples of everyday biases include:

  • Environmental bias: “The setup of hospital room we are in is different than the hospital room where the nurse normally works.”
  • Study bias: “Having an observer in the room may change the way a user performs these tasks.”
  • Personal bias: “I don’t like the color orange.”
  • Social bias: “Teenagers are bad drivers” or “All researchers are introverts.”

Report all insights and limitations

Your team should never hide or mislead research findings. Share back all negative and positive reports to stakeholders. This can be uncomfortable, but it’s your duty to report the truth. Give credit to other teams and authors. Additionally, state limitations and assumptions made, so as not to misrepresent the research.