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Reasoning “Uncharted Territory”: Notions of Expertise Within Ethics Review Panels Assessing Research Use of Social Media

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<mark>Journal publication date</mark>1/02/2020
<mark>Journal</mark>Journal of Empirical Research on Human Research Ethics
Issue number1-2
Volume15
Number of pages12
Pages (from-to)28-39
Publication statusPublished
Early online date12/12/19
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

The fast changing field of social media (SM) research presents unique challenges for research ethics committees (RECs). This article examines notions of experience and expertise in the context of REC members reviewing proposals for SM research and considers the role of the RECs in this area of review. We analyze 19 interviews with REC members to highlight that a lack of personal and professional experience of SM, compounded by a lack of institutional and professional guidelines, mean many REC members feel they do not possess sufficient expertise to review SM research. This view was supported by 14 interviews with SM researchers. REC members drew on strategies to overcome their lack of experience, although most SM researchers still found this problematic, to varying degrees. We recommend several steps to ensure REC expertise in SM research keeps pace of this fast-developing field, taking a pro-active, dialogic approach.