A few preliminary findings from the Danish context

Anne Lundahl Mauritsen, Postdoctoral Researcher, Aarhus University

When researchers write an application for a project, we always try to visualize the many different stages of said project as well as predict the possible pitfalls and difficulties we can run into at each stage. While the RECOVIRA project is an international, collaborative project spanning seven different European countries with a thoughtful plan for administration, each of these seven different countries have their own national research culture, logics and law. This can produce challenges, which became evident when we in Denmark in January began to plan our field work and applied for ethical approval of the data collection.

Though the RECOVIRA project might have been approved in terms of research ethics at the hosting university of Manchester Metropolitan University, we were also obliged to have the collection of empirical data in Denmark approved by a research ethical committee at Aarhus University before we began our investigation. This was one element we had to respond to; however, as we began to prepare our ethical application, another important element came into play, namely The General Data Protection Regulation. Essentially, we had to make sure that the way we collect data is both ethically sound and follows the GDPR, which might seem fairly simple. However, what proved to be difficult was to make sure that the many aspects of the fieldwork lived up to both. The RECOVIRA project is based upon the integration of many sources of data: fieldwork – both online and offline -interviews as well as observations of rituals, preferably in the form of pictures and video. The latter proved to be difficult. When we first submitted our ethical application, the board responded with concerns in terms of how we would ensure ethical consent from all participants who would be depicted on pictures and video; however, even if we manage to do this, our legal advisor also pointed to us that any type of personal data collected must live up to the GDPR, which makes such data collection further difficult, since video material is very hard to pseudonymize compared to for instance interview data. The ethical board instead encouraged us to reapply with an application for just field work and interviews.

We have now just received an approval for this application and are eager to initiate the Danish data collection; however, we continue to reflect upon how we will collect data on rituals in a manageable, ethical and data secure way. For now, we know that when planning empirical research project one should be prepared to set aside time for ethical applications and educate themselves on GDPR and recognize that this can a more time-consuming process than one might expect.

Image credit: AI image generated by craiyon.com “Illustrate the concept of data privacy and security”

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