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Ethical committees in Universities are challenging and questioning about the way research is carried out, especially in relation to vulnerable participants, and research with children. Some of the post-graduate students I’ve supervised over the last few years with subjects that centre on child development and wellbeing have steered clear of certain topics, or even avoided doing research with children at all for fear of being turned down by ethics committees. Which raises the question about whether the same scrutiny should apply to commercial research?

Some professional academic researchers (in that they are employed by Universities to carry out research) profess to being driven mad by the hurdles of ethics committees, not least because of the time it takes to prepare materials and to have clearance. In the commercial world such luxury of time may not be possible. It could be argued however that to ensure that research is valid, and especially research carried out with vulnerable participants, it should never be rushed or not thought through.

Academic research, in the UK amongst other countries, is highly regarded and trusted. While mostly highly respected, this may nevertheless not always the case of commercial research. If this means ensuring that the research methodology, sampling and proposed reporting is subject to the scrutiny of a body of professional researchers beforehand, as well as results rigorously peer reviewed afterwards, this should not be challenged. It could be argued that commercial research should sometimes take a leaf out of academia in ensuring that it is truly robust, ethical, fair, and interpreted in a way that reflects the high standards of the professional commercial research industry. The demand for instant results will always be there, but commercial researchers may sometimes need to push back and argue for time, consideration, and peer review of results.

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