Toolkit - consent and research ethics

Before collecting any data from participants on your woodland session or activity you need to make sure that you have their informed consent. You also need to make sure that people are not identified in your research, so date is anonymised and there is controlled access to it.

Your legal and ethical obligations towards the people involved in your research

The key principles of research ethics are:

  • confidentiality towards informants and participants
  • protect participants from harm, by not disclosing sensitive information
  • treat participants as intelligent beings, able to make their own decisions on how the information they provide can be used, shared and made public (through informed consent)
  • inform participants how information and data obtained will be used, processed, shared, disposed of, prior to obtaining consent.

It’s essential that the people you hope to involve in the research project understand what the research is about and their part in it, how data will be collected and how the data will be used and shared. You can get advice and guidance here:

Consent forms

You need to make sure that consent forms cover all uses of your data, so think about how you may want to use it in the future as well as for this research.

You may need to adapt your consent form if you are researching with people with learning difficulties or young children. Although you may decide that their parents/carers/guardians can sign the consent form, they should also be aware of what the research is and understand and give their consent (even if verbal).

Consent forms should be accompanied by an information sheet which explains your research and which participants can keep for future reference. Bear in mind that they may decide to withdraw their consent at a later date.

Working with children and vulnerable people

When working with certain groups, such as very young children or people with learning difficulties, you need to think about how to make your information understandable. You may need to go through consent verbally and it may be appropriate to provide an information sheet and consent form to be signed by a parent or guardian.

UK Data Archive: guidance about consent by children and vulnerable adults