Considering public views in relation to your project

When first designing a potential research or statistical project, it is important to consider the likely acceptability of the project to the public. This can be done in two main ways:

  1. By reviewing existing literature and public engagement initiatives to understand what is already known in this area – has prior work explored public views of the use of similar data sources, data types and methods? What can this tell you? How relevant is this to the context and nuances of your planned project?
  2. By undertaking direct engagement with the public to ascertain their views about how your project will use data – this may include the data sources used, how this data will be securely/safely gathered, analysed, and managed, and the rationale and proposed benefit of the project.

Existing literature or direct public engagement?

Which aspect you focus on will depend on several factors, including:

  • The extent of prior work exploring public views that relate to your proposed project approach
  • The sections of the public that are most likely to be impacted by your project (i.e., which different groups or communities represent the focus of the work? Who is at risk of being excluded from the work?)
  • The available resources and time to undertake public engagement activities
  • The novelty, scope, and wider context of the project (i.e., does it represent a topic area, data source or methodological approach that may be considered contentious in some way?)
  • Who has access to the data and what purposes is it being used for? Is this use timebound, i.e., what will happen once the research project is finished?
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