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Ethical research for children

Ethical research for children

UNICEF is committed to ensuring that all research, evaluation and data collection processes undertaken by UNICEF and its partners are ethical.

To this end, procedures and guidelines have been created to embed ethical principles and practices in all our evidence generation programmes. UNICEF recognizes the critical importance of children’s voice in evidence generation and is developing tools to support and advocate for ethical evidence generation involving children.

We also produce critical thinkpieces on new and emerging ethical issues relating to children and adolescents.

Publications

Brief: Predictive Analytics for Children: An assessment of ethical considerations, risks, and benefits
Publication

Brief: Predictive Analytics for Children: An assessment of ethical considerations, risks, and benefits

This brief examines the potential ethical issues, including benefits and risks, associated with predictive analytics as they pertain to children. It is based on a more in-depth working paper, UNICEF Innocenti Working Paper 2021-08, which provides further detail, guidance, and tools.
Predictive Analytics for Children: An assessment of ethical considerations, risks, and benefits
Publication

Predictive Analytics for Children: An assessment of ethical considerations, risks, and benefits

This paper examines potential ethical issues, including benefits and risks, associated with predictive analytics as they pertain to children. It is designed to support readers in gaining an overview of the current state of the field, knowledge of real-world deployments of predictive analytics and ultimately, a deeper understanding of the opportunities and potential harms of deploying predictive analytics that directly or indirectly target children.
Digital Contact Tracing and Surveillance During COVID-19. General and child-specific ethical issues
Publication

Digital Contact Tracing and Surveillance During COVID-19. General and child-specific ethical issues

The response to the pandemic has seen an unprecedented rapid scaling up of technologies to support digital contact tracing and surveillance.This working paper explores the implications for privacy as the linking of datasets: increases the likelihood that children will be identifiable; increases the opportunity for (sensitive) data profiling; and frequently involves making data available to a broader set of users or data managers.
Digital Contact Tracing and Surveillance During COVID-19: General and child-specific ethical issues
Publication

Digital Contact Tracing and Surveillance During COVID-19: General and child-specific ethical issues

The response to COVID-19 has seen an unprecedented rapid scaling up of technologies to support digital contact tracing and surveillance. This means that we need to establish clear governance processes for these tools and the data collection process and engage with a broader set of government and industry partners to ensure that children’s rights are not overlooked.
Ethical Considerations for Evidence Generation Involving Children on the COVID-19 Pandemic
Publication

Ethical Considerations for Evidence Generation Involving Children on the COVID-19 Pandemic

This paper identifies key ethical considerations when undertaking evidence generation involving children during the mitigation stage of the pandemic (emergency phase), on subject matter relating to COVID-19 once the pandemic has been contained, and once containment policy measures, including lockdowns, have been lifted (post-emergency phase). While the COVID-19 pandemic is undoubtedly a global crisis, with evidence generation activities raising critical ethical issues that have been captured in the literature and relevant guidelines, there are specificities relating to this emergency that must be considered when unpacking potential ethical issues. Hence while ethical issues pertaining to evidence generation involving children in emergencies and humanitarian contexts are relevant and should be considered, there are factors that define this ‘special case’ that must be considered from the outset. These will inform the core ethical considerations that need to be addressed.
Ethical Considerations When Using Geospatial Technologies for Evidence Generation
Publication

Ethical Considerations When Using Geospatial Technologies for Evidence Generation

Geospatial technologies have transformed the way we visualize and understand social phenomena and physical environments. There are significant advantages in using these technologies and data however, their use also presents ethical dilemmas such as privacy and security concerns as well as the potential for stigma and discrimination resulting from being associated with particular locations. Therefore, the use of geospatial technologies and resulting data needs to be critically assessed through an ethical lens prior to implementation of programmes, analyses or partnerships. This paper examines the benefits, risks and ethical considerations when undertaking evidence generation using geospatial technologies. It is supplemented by a checklist that may be used as a practical tool to support reflection on the ethical use of geospatial technologies.
Ethical Considerations When Using Social Media for Evidence Generation
Publication

Ethical Considerations When Using Social Media for Evidence Generation

There are significant ethical implications in the adoption of technologies and the production and use of the resulting data for evidence generation. The potential benefits and opportunities need to be understood in conjunction with the potential risks and challenges. When using social media to directly engage children and their communities, or when establishing partnerships with these organizations for data collection and analysis, adoption of these technologies and their resultant data should not be exclusively driven by short-term necessity but also by the long-term needs of our younger partners. When engaging with social media and indeed most technology, thoughtfulness, reflection and ongoing interrogation is required. This paper examines the benefits, risks and ethical considerations when undertaking evidence generation: (a) using social media platforms and (b) using third-party data collected and analysed by social media services. It is supplemented by practical tools to support reflection on the ethical use of social media platforms and social media data.
Children and the Data Cycle:Rights and Ethics in a Big Data World
Publication

Children and the Data Cycle:Rights and Ethics in a Big Data World

In an era of increasing dependence on data science and big data, the voices of one set of major stakeholders – the world’s children and those who advocate on their behalf – have been largely absent. A recent paper estimates one in three global internet users is a child, yet there has been little rigorous debate or understanding of how to adapt traditional, offline ethical standards for research involving data collection from children, to a big data, online environment (Livingstone et al., 2015). This paper argues that due to the potential for severe, long-lasting and differential impacts on children, child rights need to be firmly integrated onto the agendas of global debates about ethics and data science. The authors outline their rationale for a greater focus on child rights and ethics in data science and suggest steps to move forward, focusing on the various actors within the data chain including data generators, collectors, analysts and end-users. It concludes by calling for a much stronger appreciation of the links between child rights, ethics and data science disciplines and for enhanced discourse between stakeholders in the data chain, and those responsible for upholding the rights of children, globally.
What We Know about Ethical Research Involving Children in Humanitarian Settings: An overview of principles, the literature and case studies
Publication

What We Know about Ethical Research Involving Children in Humanitarian Settings: An overview of principles, the literature and case studies

This working paper identifies and explores the issues that should be considered when undertaking ethical research involving children in humanitarian settings. Both the universal (i.e. relevant to all research involving children) and specific ethical issues that may arise when involving children in research in humanitarian settings are examined.
Ethical Research Involving Children
Publication

Ethical Research Involving Children

This compendium is part of an international project entitled Ethical Research Involving Children. The project has been motivated by a shared international concern that the human dignity of children is honoured, and that their rights and well-being are respected in all research, regardless of context.

Events

Cross-sectoral Learning in Implementation Research
Event

Cross-sectoral Learning in Implementation Research

Implementation Research is an innovative approach to systems strengthening in which decision-makers and implementers use research to overcome implementation bottlenecks and improve outcomes.
The Alliance for Child Protection in Humanitarian Action 2020 Annual Meeting
Event

The Alliance for Child Protection in Humanitarian Action 2020 Annual Meeting

The Alliance for Child Protection in Humanitarian Action is holding the 2020 Annual Meeting on Child Protection in Humanitarian Action with the theme of Infectious Disease Outbreaks and the Protection of Children. 
Ethics in Humanitarian Research: A Practical Discussion
Event

Ethics in Humanitarian Research: A Practical Discussion

Join us for a lively discussion on ethical reviews for humanitarian research and monitoring.

Project team

Videos

Related

Innocenti Project(s) 2016-2021:

Applied Behavioural Science

Disrupting harm

Gender-responsive and age-sensitive social protection

Global Kids Online

Humanitarian research

Mental Health

Time to Teach

Innocenti Project(s) 2016-2018:

Ethical research and children

PROJECTS ARCHIVE

Training

Introduction to Ethics in Evidence Generation

Blogs

Ethical collection of data from children during the COVID-19 pandemic

New Technologies: Rich Source of Data or Ethical Minefield for Researchers?

Big data, ethics and children

Podcasts

Gabrielle Berman on ethical research on children in humanitarian situations

What's new

Remote data collection on violence against children during COVID-19: A conversation with experts on research priorities, measurement and ethics (Part 2)

Remote data collection on violence against women during COVID-19: A conversation with experts on ethics, measurement & research priorities (Part 1)

New Technologies: Rich Source of Data or Ethical Minefield for Researchers?

Manuals, tools and guidelines

Ethical Research in Fragile and Conflict-Affected Contexts: Guidelines for Applicants

Ethical Research in Fragile and Conflict-Affected Contexts: Guidelines for Reviewers

Children and clinical research: ethical issues

Research Charter for Infants', Children's and Young People's Child Health

Policy reports

UNICEF Procedure for Ethical Standards in Research, Evaluation and Data Collection & Analysis

External website

Defining the Agenda: Key Lessons for Funders

Children and Clinical Research: Nuffield Council on Bioethics

Research Charter for Infants', Children's and Young People's Child Health

A Guide to Young Lives Research

WHO Ethical and safety recommendations for researching, documenting and monitoring sexual violence in emergencies

Ethical Approaches to Gathering Information from Children and Adolescents in International Settings (Population Council)

Ethical Principles, Dilemmas and Risks in Collecting Data on Violence Against Children

Ethical Research Involving Children