What kind of role should morals play in Citizen Science?

What kind of role should morals play in Citizen Science?

I’m not sure what you mean by morals, but the three qualifications that I’ve always heard are that:

  1. The study should not harm the participant in any way.

  2. The participant should derive some benefit from participating in the study.

  3. The study should benefit humanity in general in some way.

The two other requirements that I just thought of are that you need to obtain informed consent, and you need to debrief the participants after the study.

As far as I can tell, neither of these last two things hardly ever take place with these citizen science games. It seems to me that a lot of the time participants are not even sure what they’re doing. I think most of them are just focusing on the game aspect. If they don’t really understand the true nature of the study, how can informed consent be obtained?
By the way, I’m not really sure that this is the best place for this discussion to be taking place, but that’s not my call to make.

I think informed consent is a really important point - I’d like to explore that further for a moment. While I now speak as a developer of a citizen science game, I have been a player for many years. As a player, I have my own moral compass, and I want to have enough information to know both what I’m contributing to, and how those contributions and any resulting derivative work will ultimately be used. I want to have the ability to opt out or raise my concerns if I am not comfortable with what I am contributing to or how my contributions will be used. In citizen science activities where the actual research is abstracted away (such as in most citizen science games), transparency is particularly important.

Thanks @MikeLandau and @luxaritas for raising these issues! I think this is where it can get interesting. We have @Eva in another thread contrasting her experience in the medical field with participating in a Citizen Science game and saying basically “it never occurred to me that harm could come to someone from playing an online game like this”. On the other hand, there may be harms that we haven’t considered. We know, for example, that some games can be addictive, and that can have negative effects.

To the question of informed consent - I agree completely - I think it’s quite powerful as a foil against exploitation. That said, I wonder if being informed has two components: providing the information, and receiving it… in other words, just because information is given in some form, doesn’t mean it internalized or understood. Related thoughts: when and how, and how often do we make this info available? In what form does it take? Is it embedded in a long legalese document of terms and conditions or is it provided in a human-readable form?

And I think the difference here between morals (values) and ethics (guidelines) could be something like:
Moral: we (as a community) believe informed consent is necessary to avoid exploitation or deceit
Ethic: project creators will always show a consent page for all projects when people register, that summarizes key aspects in plain language on a single page to include… (here, we need to decide what that includes: the purpose of the project, who it benefits and how, how the data will be used, who, if anyone will profit, potential benefits and harms to participants, etc…)

Other thoughts on this?

Best,
Pietro

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To the question of informed consent - I agree completely - I think it’s quite powerful as a foil against exploitation. That said, I wonder if being informed has two components: providing the information, and receiving it… in other words, just because information is given in some form, doesn’t mean it internalized or understood. Related thoughts: when and how, and how often do we make this info available? In what form does it take? Is it embedded in a long legalese document of terms and conditions or is it provided in a human-readable form?

Hope I copied the questions from pietro correctly.

Yeah. Informed consent is a big topic.
In my former work in medical studies I’ve read a lot of Informed concent. Even approved by the ethics committee it is quite difficult to understand sometimes. Of course, like eg in a information to a operation (I think this is stuff better known to you) the ones writing the form sheet try to describe the process without much medical technical terms.
But people who have not the language as their mothers language it is very difficult. Even more to deaf persons. Or persons which are learning impaired.
I’d guess an informed concent will often be skipped like the “Datenschutzgrundverordnung /data protection laws” as the legally terms are as difficult to understand. To my opinion.

Well my advice would be to ask people who write for “leichte Sprache /easy language” to help with the text of any informed consent.

Best, Eva Weiß

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  1. Include a consent sheet at the sign-up to this site.
  2. Keep language as simplified as possible. AND in different languages. (which ones you feel are the most prevalent).
  3. Tell and if necessary retell participants about the FAQ’s and blog - AND that they can write to any admin with questions they may still have.

those are the “big 3” I can think of right now.

And as to ethics. It was brought up that there could be a tendency to promote a “gambling addiction” of sorts. I think the only place that would happen is if they are so intent on keeping the “confidence bar” as high as possible. Admittedly, I’ve fallen prey to that myself at times.

thanks,

chairstar

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Thanks much @chairgaf for sharing your ideas with us!
Those are definitely very important aspects!
Best,
Libuše

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