We expect scholars to adhere to the highest ethical principles when engaged in Spencer-funded research. This includes engaging in best practices and acknowledging professional expectations advanced by the broader academy, the education research community, as well as those expectations set forth by scholars’ disciplinary expertise (e.g. sociology, history, psychology, etc.). Further, we expect scholars to engage with research assistants, research partners, and research participants with the highest ethical principles. As such, the following tenets of ethical practice in education research are provided as a guide for principal investigators who are developing proposals or engaged in Spencer-funded research studies.
Minimize risk and harm to research participants and informants
Consistent with university practice about the role of Institutional Review Boards, scholars should take care to ensure that research participants and key informants face minimal risk in the participation of the study. This includes ensuring that research participation is voluntary, free of coercion, and the result of informed consent. Further, any data collected in the process of engaging participants should be appropriately stored and de-identified for the protection of participants and adherence to standards set forth by the academy and institutional review boards.
Additionally, we expect scholars to engage respectfully with communities in identifying research partners, sites, and participants. Whenever possible, scholars should consider the unintended consequences of their scientific inquiry on communities and study participants. Finally, we expect scholars to attend to power differentials in researcher-partner or researcher-informant relationships and work towards equitable engagements.
Securing research sites and study participants
At the time of application, it is not required that scholars secure site permission and consent of potential research participants. However, scholars should have reasonable expectations that they will gain appropriate permissions once research has been funded. In cases where scholars are unable to complete their study due to site restrictions or prohibition, the Foundation may rescind an investigator’s research award.
Some research projects specify goals and processes by which data will be shared for the purposes of advancing scholarly inquiry within the field. When and if appropriate, we encourage this practice from scholars, however we also recognize that there are important reasons to not engage in data sharing. We do not place decisional value on data sharing practices however we do recognize that data shared from one project that can be utilized by scholars for future projects offers enormous potential for continued knowledge production. Should researchers decide to make project data available for use by other scholars and the broader public, we would expect the work to adhere to the appropriate permissions and data protection protocols to ensure individual research participants cannot be readily identified by others who were not involved in the collection of the original data.
Report and dissemination of findings
Consistent with Spencer’s mission to fund education research for the purpose of improving policy and practice, we expect that scholars would share their Spencer-funded findings with the broader research community, policy makers, and/or practitioners. We share the hope that research findings might be used to shift educational practice or develop appropriate education policies that enrich the lives of students and families. In the dissemination process, we expect that scholars will responsibly report findings to readers and other audiences. Further, data use and data analysis of publicly available data sources used by scholars should be documented in ways that allow others with appropriate expertise to verify or replicate findings.
While we highlight some key areas for scholars to consider in proposing studies to the foundation or conducting research based on Spencer-funded proposals, we encourage scholars to consult their professional associations, university research offices, and journal outlets for additional guidance on appropriate ethical practices in pursuit of scientific inquiry.