Ethical Research with phonfieldwork

George Moroz, NRU HSE Linguistic Convergence Laboratory



This document is a comment on the ethical policy for the phonfieldwork package that does not have any legal effect.

The create_viewer() function that is part of the phonfieldwork package creates an .html file that contains:

The main goal of the phonfieldwork package is to create a tool for linguistic research, so I would like to emphasize the possible ethical problems connected to the possibility of putting the obtained .html file online. These problems could also be of concern to the ethical comissions of your institution and publishing platforms. Perhapse they have the same or a similar set of rules and concerns as listed below.

Linguistic research

If you collected data from human subjects I expect that all your participants (or their legal representatives):

This kind of information is usually collected via informed consent forms, where you also specify the form of data that will be researched and shared: raw data (e.g. audio), aggregated (by speaker, gender, age, etc), anonymized/non-anonymized etc.

So the ethical use of the phonfieldwork package implies two things:

If the subjects in your research do not consent to the publication of their data online but agree to sharing it among researchers, you can use the encrypt_html_file() function from the encryptedRmd package in order to make your work password protected.

It is also important to have a contact information in your .html in case your subjects will want to withdraw they consent on sharing data.

Bioacoustic research

It is possible to use phonfieldwork in biacoustic research, so publishing of high quality recordings should be done with caution. Unfortunately, animal call recordings could be used by poachers, hunters, photographers or any other animal lovers in order to lure animals. The possible harm of poachers and hunters is obviouse. Stimulation of animals made by photographers or animal lovers could cause lots of stress and distract from animals’ routines (e. g. eating, sleeping etc.). Ethical use of the phonfieldwork package implies that the researcher will not reveal any information related to animal populations that may bring about possible harm to any individual animal.

Thanks to Ines Moran for providing information about ethics and bioacoustics.

Other ethical problems

Since phonfieldwork can create an .html with any type of data in it, it is important to emphasize other ethical problems not conected to any kind of research. You should not publish data that: