Author: Mary Lannon, PhD. Solutions IRB Reviewer
Virtual data collection presents several advantages for researchers. It often provides greater convenience and flexibility for researchers and participants, faster data collection, lower costs, and access to wider populations. However, several considerations must be made when conducting virtual research and data collection that includes audio and/or video recording. Researchers must ensure the protection of participant data, confidentiality, and personally identifiable information.
Prior to giving consent to participate in the study, individuals must be fully informed as to what data will be recorded and how, and for what purpose(s) the data will be used. For example, audio and/or video recordings are often collected for data analysis only. However, researchers sometimes plan to retain recorded data for future use or research-related publications. Information must be provided as to how long the recorded data will be kept by the researchers and who will have access to it. Individuals must be informed as to whether they can participate in the research even if they decline to be recorded. Consent language should include specific statements to which participants can agree, such as:
- I consent to being interviewed.
- I consent to my interview being audio recorded. (I know that I can still participate in this study without consenting to being audio recorded.)
- I consent to my interview being video recorded. (I know that I can still participate in this study without consenting to being video recorded.)
When collecting data using audio and/or video recording, researchers must protect the identities of participants and the confidentiality of the data they provide. For example, participants should not be referred to by name in recordings, or asked to display their names while on video. This is particularly important in focus group settings, where participants can see one another. Audio and/or video software used for recordings must provide sufficient security to protect against unauthorized access. Finally, researchers must ensure proper security and storage of data recordings after data collection is complete, including plans for removing participant identifiers as needed.