Research Ethics FAQs

What basic principles guide research at NIS?

There are two sets of principles determining ethical conduct of research at NIS: adherence to professional standards of honesty, transparency and integrity; and respect for the rights, dignity and diversity of participants and stakeholders.

How are such principles put in practice?

By the active observation of an agreed ethical code. NIS has developed such a code that lays out the ethical requirements to which any research conducted by NIS researchers or by others, researching in the NIS system should apply. These reflect closely international best practice.

By the cultivation of ethical sensitivity, dispositions and intelligence among researchers. Any ethical code will require interpretation in particular circumstances and it cannot fully substitute for the ethical sensitivity and intelligence of those who are called upon to interpret and apply it. This is, however, something that has to be part of a wider organisational culture…

By the development of an ethical organisational culture, a ‘community of practice’ imbued with the values that underpin the principles that are indicated above and support their development and maintenance among established and new researchers.

What role does confidentiality play in research?

It is essential to be open with participants about whether research is confidential or not. There should be clear definition of who is allow access to confidential information. Any limits to the expectation of confidentiality should be made clear to the participants at the outset of the data collection.

How should data be anonymised?

When confidentiality is agreed, researchers should take precautions to protect the confidential information, which should be stored securely and in line with data protection laws under the responsibility of a named person and deleted after a determined period of time. Personal markers should be removed as soon as possible from the raw data. Participants’ identities should never be revealed in papers, lectures, websites and so on, unless the individuals concerned have given their express consent for this particular use.

How is permission to conduct research to be sought?

Researchers must always seek the permission of the School Principal before conducting research in a school, and they should inform the Research Department of the progress of their research. Action research may be conducted without the involvement of the Research Department, although we are keen to support this work where appropriate.

When conducting research across more than one school, researchers must obtain the permission of the Board of Directors via the Research Department,

The responsibility of teachers for what is happening in their own classrooms should be respected at all times, Researchers should not enter their classrooms without their express agreement, and when doing so should be sensitive to the priority which has to be given to children’s learning.

Do I require informed consent from participants?

Yes. A vital part of any ethical research is informed consent, so participants fully understand what they are committing their personal thoughts, time and efforts towards and are aware of any likely consequences or outputs of participation.

Do I need to get informed consent when conducting research with students?

Researchers should obtain parental consent to conduct research with NIS students. Parental consent should take the form of a letter explaining the nature of the research and should be opt-in, rather than opt-out. Even with parental consent, researchers should inform children about what they are doing and if a child prefers not to participate his or her wishes should be respected.

What about students aged 18 and over?

A student aged 18 years or over may be deemed to be responsible for giving his or her own consent without the necessity for reference to parents, although as a courtesy, schools should inform the parents.

What about research with NIS employees?

For research with teachers, school directors, or anyone else in the education service researchers should normally use a consent form which will include a brief explanation of the research and how data will be used when conducting research.

What about anonymised mass online surveys?

In the case of anonymised mass online surveys researchers should ask a bespoke question for consent in the survey to make sure people understand what they are doing.

What should researchers do if students discuss matters that infringe their family’s legitimate expectation of privacy?

Stop them before they do it. If they insist, delete the data. A well-considered interview protocol should demonstrate consideration of potential tangents. It is good practice to indicate that participants should avoid such types of discussion from the outset.

In the event, that a researcher uncovers serious potentially criminal behaviour or abuse, he or she should report it to the school principal, or take similar appropriate measures.

Where can I find more information on conducting research ethically?

Research at Nazarbayev Intellectual Schools is governed by the Research Development Framework, which includes as Appendix 1 a Code of Ethics. Both the British Educational Research Association and American Educational Research Association have published ethical guidelines you should not assume that these will necessarily apply to a Kazakh context without appropriate interpretation. These do, however, represent international standards which are likely to be applied if you submit research papers to international journals.

The Research Department is grateful to Liz Winter and David Bridges for comments on an earlier draft of this document.