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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:

  • a table with data
  • a list of sounds that can be played by users
  • a list of pictures that can be viewed by users

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):

  • participated voluntarily
  • knew the goal of the research
  • were informed about possibility to withdraw the consent
  • agreed to the obtained data being used for the purpose of scientific research
  • agreed to the obtained data being shared with other researchers
  • agreed to to the obtained data being made available online (optional, but important if you want to post data online)
  • agreed to the proposed compensation

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:

  • the researcher will not reveal any data that are not listed in the informed consent form
  • the informed consent form does not presuppose the collection of:
    • information related to vulnerable populations that can bring about possible harm
    • personally identifiable or sensitive data that could be traced back to the owner

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:

  • were produced or distributed without informed consent
  • contain, promote, or threaten harassment or violence against other people on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, caste, sexual orientation, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability, or disease
  • contain, or promote suicide or self-harm
  • contain, promote or threaten sexual exploitation
  • contain, or promote consumption of illegal goods or services
  • are synthetic or manipulated in order to cause harm
  • violate others’ intellectual property rights, including copyright and trademark