International Perspectives: Informing children about their rights as research participants – An open source animation film for researchers who work with children and young people
By Niamh Ní Bhroin and Elisabeth Staksrud
This blog post was originally published on the CO:RE Knowledge Base in September 2022.
How do we secure ethical informed consent from children and young people? And how can we explain to them what their rights are as research participants? These are questions that researchers in the field of children and media often grapple with. Now, CO:RE can offer a free-for-all resource in the form of an animated movie, that can help researchers around the world to address these questions.
Video: “Have you been invited to participate in research? Then you should watch this film.”; a resource for researchers working with children and young people.
Note: The first selection “English, incl. multiple subtitle languages” currently provides subtitles in Catalan, Finnish, Greek, Italian, Romanian and Serbian. The film is designed as an open-source resource and can by copied, distributed and re-used according to the Creative Commons CC-By-NC-SA license, i.e. ‘Attribution’, ‘Non-Commercial’ and ‘Share Alike’. If you should have trouble loading this video, you can watch it here on our YouTube channel.
Please cite as: Staksrud, E., Ní Bhroin, N., Torp, I.S., & Johannessen, L.O. (2022). Have you been invited to participate in research? Then you should watch this film. Retrieved DD Month YYYY, from core-evidence.eu/posts/open-source-movie-childrens-rights-as-research-participants.
The film “Have you been invited to participate in research? Then you should watch this film” is an open-source resource for researchers who work with children and young people. It effectively delivers information that children and young people should consider when asked to participate in research projects. It can also be used by teachers and other stakeholders who need to explain to children what it means to participate in research and what their rights are in this context.
It is important for children and young people to participate in research so that their opinions can be heard on matters that concern them. Ethically, children and young people should always provide their own informed consent (and assent) to participate in research. However, this involves careful consideration about complex matters such as requirements for parental consent, the right to withdraw, how to inform about the research and its goals, as well as ensuring that children get to know the results of the research after it is concluded.
Researchers, therefore, need to carefully explain in a child-friendly manner what matters children should consider, and why, before they agree to participate. This film is designed to support the provision of this information. Often information is provided to children in paper forms and information sheets or as traditional handbooks. In this animated “handbook”, we have taken the traditional consent form we often present to children and transformed it into an animated movie.
Being mindful of the main target audience for this handbook (i.e. 6–16-year-olds) and of the extent to which they consume mediated content on platforms such as YouTube, we decided, in consultation with the broader CO:RE consortium to produce the handbook as an animated film. This decision was based on two additional considerations: firstly, an animated film would effectively communicate complex messages about participation in research to our primary target audience. Secondly, an animated film would be easily distributable and available for online viewing and further translation and adaptation to multiple languages and settings.
How the film can be used
The film is designed to be a useful resource in the recruitment context. It can be shown in classroom settings and when recruiting individual children and young people to participate in surveys, interviews, research groups or other kinds of research. This film can be a useful tool to remind children and young people about their rights with particular regard to what they should think about when considering whether or not to participate in research. It importantly emphasizes that consent is something that should be informed, independent and voluntary and can be withdrawn at any stage. It explains what this means and how researchers are responsible for informing children about how they can do this.
About the movie as an open-source handbook
The film is designed as an open-source resource and can be copied, distributed and re-used according to the Creative Commons CC-By-NC-SA license, i.e. ‘Attribution’, ‘Non-Commercial’ and ‘Share Alike’.
The aim of the open-source handbook is to provide a helpful resource for researchers to inform children and young people about participation in research and their rights as informants in research projects. These rights are enshrined in relevant legislation and research ethical guidelines, as well as the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. In the CO:RE project, for example, we implement and promote ALLEA’s Code of Conduct for Research Integrity (2017) and the work done for global harmonization by the World Intellectual Property Research Conference. We also aim to help researchers and other stakeholders gain sufficient and updated knowledge of research ethics and integrity, as stated in the Horizon 2020 program article 34.
Furthermore, research-related issues on privacy and research with minors, such as those connected to the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) are reviewed and implemented in the CO:RE project.
Considering these aims, regulations and guidelines, it was important that the animated film would effectively convey the following:
- To explain the concept of research and to inform about how good (i.e. ethical) research is carried out.
- To inform children and young people about what it means to participate in research, including the potential roles they may have as informants in research projects.
- To inform children and young people about their rights when participating in research, including that they should be consulted about matters that are important to them; the importance of being asked for and providing informed consent, including the right to be informed about the purpose of the research, how the information provided will be used, stored and accessed (and by whom), and what the results are; and the right to refuse to participate in research, or to withdraw consent at any point in time without negative consequences.
Collaboration, resources and acknowledgements
The film is the result of a collaboration between CO:RE participants (Professor Elisabeth Staksrud and Niamh Ní Bhroin), advisors Ingrid Torp and Lene Os Johannessen at the Norwegian National Research Ethics Committees (‘FEK’), and RedAnt productions. The production was realised with the collaboration and support of the CO:RE consortium, in particular the coordinator team at the Leibniz Institute for Media Resarch | Hans-Bredow-Institut (HBI) who worked with numerous translations and provided technical support, and the national teams who have provided input and advice along the way and worked to translate the film to multiple languages. For more details about the individuals who have been involved in the translation process, please refer to the section “our collaborators” at the end of this post.
In addition to the CO:RE Consortium and FEK, we needed to source additional resources and competence to produce this resource as an animated film. A third-party contractor was required to provide this service. In May 2021, once formal approval had been received from the CO:RE coordinator, and following procurement guidelines at the University of Oslo, we initiated a mini-tender process to find a suitable service provider. Arising from this process, we appointed the Norwegian media production company RedAnt in November 2021. Since then, we have collaborated with RedAnt to produce a script, storyboard and ultimately an animated film.
Preparing the script
We drafted an initial script (in Norwegian) in collaboration with our partners at FEK. In addition to conveying the information above, we were also conscious of the need to keep the duration of the film relatively short in order to retain the attention of the target audience and ensure that the language was understandable. The drafting process commenced in August 2021 and continued until June 2022.
One important element in drafting the script was to consider whether an example would help to illustrate the complex issues we were trying to communicate. We decided to use the example of a research project which set out to investigate whether or not homework was necessary. The CO:RE consortium confirmed the relevance of this example in each country’s context. We concluded that this research question would be interesting and relevant for the target audience and that it would help to illustrate the main message of the film.
Once we were satisfied with the draft script, we shared this with RedAnt, who edited the script further in consultation with us to optimise its suitability for the animated film they would produce and for the target audience. RedAnt provided an initial translation of the script to English. This was reviewed by WP7 in collaboration with the CO:RE consortium.
An appropriate actor was selected in consultation with RedAnt, and the script voice-over was first recorded in English. The voice-over selection process was informed by the importance of having an engaging and ‘fun’ voice that would also be credible and retain the integrity to communicate the complex objectives of the script clearly. The voice-over actors selected in both the English and Norwegian language versions meet these criteria.
When considering the style of animation for this film we were mindful of three criteria:
Firstly, the film should in general, be appealing to the primary target audience (6–16-year-olds).
Secondly, the film should appeal to children and young people from various backgrounds, including in particular gender, ethnicity and age. This was achieved by selecting non-natural skin and hair colours (for example, purple), and a medium-length hairstyle.
Thirdly, the film should portray an ethically sensitive researcher – i.e., one that did not reinforce impressions of imbalanced power relations between a researcher and their participants. At the same time, we were keen that the researcher would appear inclusive in terms of gender and ethnicity and inspire confidence and trust. To address this, we concluded, in collaboration with the CO:RE Consortium and RedAnt, that the researcher should be represented as an animal. We considered a range of different animals that could be relevant in different contexts, such as the Elk, the Owl and the Fox. Ultimately, we selected the hen, which represents a caring animal that is internationally recognised and for the most part does not raise problematic cultural, religious or ethical associations. The colour palette for the film was selected to complement the CO:RE colour palette, as well as the colour palette of UiO and FEK.
RedAnt drafted a storyboard to accompany the film which was reviewed by us in collaboration with FEK. The storyboard was designed to match the script. In this phase of review, both the storyboard and script were revised to improve the clarity and order of the information we wished to communicate. Once the storyboard was approved in April 2022, the animation was prepared. The voice-over was then recorded and combined with the animation to produce the final product. This final phase of the production also involved a number or reviews and iterations. The English and Norwegian versions of the film were finalised in June 2022.
Given how important it is for children and young people to receive information in a language that is understandable and accessible for them, the film is now available for translation into any other language. The voice-over can be adapted and recorded into additional languages subject to the conditions of the CC-By-NC-SA licence. The script is available on request from the CO:RE coordinators. We are very pleased that the film is currently available in 12 language versions and will be available in at least 17 languages during autumn 2022. WP7 will continue to actively distribute the film to our network of CO:RE partners, including in particular the EU Kids Online network and the ySKILLS, DigiGen and Digymatex projects, to encourage further translation and dubbing.
The recommended translation process, which has been followed in all versions to date, is as follows:
- The script is translated by a native speaker who is familiar with research involving children and young people and research ethics.
- The translation is reviewed by at least one other native speaker with a similar competence profile.
- The translated script is reviewed for clarity and ease of comprehension by at least one child/young person from the primary target audience (9-16 years old).
The production of this film was supported by the CO:RE project, the Research Council of Norway, the UiO:Norden initiative at the University of Oslo and the impressive and timely efforts of our teams of international translators. We are very grateful for all of the support we have received.
We hope the movie is useful and would love to hear your feedback (click the button in the bottom right corner)!
We are very grateful to all of our collaborators who have voluntarily donated their time and effort to translate the film to a range of different languages. The table on the CO:RE webpage where this post was originally published credits all of the individuals who have been involved in the versions we have published to date. It will be updated as additional versions become available.
Keen to read more?
Our researchers and partners produce regular blog posts and research outputs focused on children and digital technology.