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Faunalytics Policies

A collection of Faunalytics terms and policies, as well as our commitment to diversity and inclusivity.

Research Ethics

Approved/Effective: November 7, 2018
Last updated: January 31, 2024


Faunalytics is committed to conducting research and handling research data in an ethical manner, as outlined in this policy. The purpose of the standards outlined in this policy is not to limit research activities, but to facilitate the conduct of research that respects the dignity and preserves the well-being of the research participants, researchers, and the broader research community.

This document, which will be added to and updated as needed, describes the specific ways in which Faunalytics’ team members are required to adhere to the standards for the ethical conduct of research set by national and international agencies. In particular, Faunalytics adheres to the following core ethical principles of research:

  1. Respect for Persons: We respect participants’ autonomy. A key component of that respect is the requirement to seek their free, informed, and ongoing consent.
  2. Concern for Welfare: We aim to protect the welfare of participants in view of any foreseeable risks associated with the research. This includes risk of physical, psychological, and reputational harm (e.g., from sensitive questions, potentially upsetting activities, or physically demanding tasks).
  3. Justice: We strive to treat people fairly and equitably. Participation in studies should be based on inclusion criteria that are justified by the research question, so that no segment of the population is unduly burdened by the harms of research or denied the benefits of the knowledge generated from it.


This Research Ethics and Data Handling Policy applies to all current and past employees, volunteers, board members, independent contractors, and other persons acting on behalf of Faunalytics who are involved in conducting research or analyzing data (collectively, “Research Team Members”).

Researcher Roles and Responsibilities

The primary responsibility for the conduct of research shall rest with each Research Team Member. To this end, they must:

  • familiarize themselves with the requirements of this Policy;
  • maintain the highest standards of honesty, integrity, and ethical behavior in all research;
  • use a high level of rigor in proposing and performing research; in recording, analyzing, and interpreting data; and in reporting and publishing data and findings;
  • explicitly consider whether BIPGM (Black, Indigenous, and People of the Global Majority) and other potentially marginalized participants’ views are meaningfully represented during data collection for each study they conduct;
  • ensure that participants are compensated fairly for their time using appropriate minimum  wage standards for their country. When participants will not be paid for their time, ensure that this is communicated clearly and that participation is truly optional and non-coercive;
  • keep complete and accurate records of data, methodologies, and findings in a manner that will allow verification or replication of the work by others;
  • reference sources in reporting;
  • obtain permission to reproduce proprietary graphs and images;
  • acknowledge, in addition to authors, all contributors and contributions to research, including writers, funders, and sponsors (if they wish to be acknowledged); and
  • appropriately manage any real, potential, or perceived conflict of interests in accordance with Faunalytics’ Conflict of Interest Policy.

The Research Director is responsible for ensuring that all Research Team Members are informed of this Policy and its requirements. All Research Team Members are responsible for reading, understanding, and following it.

Required Training and Agreements for Research Team Members

The Tri-Council Policy Statement: Ethical Conduct for Research Involving Humans (TCPS2) offers a web-based tutorial for researchers. Any Research Team Member who intends to lead a research project that involves the collection of new data from human participants must successfully complete the TCPS-2 Course on Research Ethics (CORE). All Faunalytics employees within the Research Department are required to complete this training course whether they intend to lead a project or not.

In addition, all Research Team Members who work with identifiable or confidential data are required to sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement.

Participant Consent and Debriefing

Faunalytics uses standardized consent and debriefing forms designed to respect participants’ autonomy by seeking their free, informed, and ongoing consent.

Consent forms must include:

  • A brief description of the project purpose and procedure;
  • Expected risks (including psychological or emotional risks), inconveniences, and benefits;
  • A description of any incentives for participating;
  • Information about how to withdraw from the study;
  • Information about the confidentiality and retention of data;
  • Researcher contact information; and
  • A statement of consent.

Debriefing forms must include:

  • A brief description of what the researchers hope to learn from the project and why it is important;
  • Information about how to learn more on the topic;
  • A link to this Research Ethics and Data Handling Policy; and
  • Researcher contact information.

External Review

Faunalytics does not have the capacity to maintain a standing ethics review board to provide arms-length research oversight. Therefore, each research project must be assessed by the Research Team Members for its level of risk. Only minimal risk research–defined as research that meets all of the following criteria–can be carried out without external review:

  1. No research procedures involve any physically invasive intervention;
  2. Participants are legally capable of consenting on their own behalf (i.e., over 18 and not of diminished decision-making capacity), and are free from coercion or undue influence;
  3. Any accidental or intentional disclosure of the participants’ responses would not reasonably place participants at risk of criminal or civil liability, harmful retaliation, or be damaging to the participants’ emotional or financial well-being, employability, or reputation;
  4. The study does not involve semi-structured or unstructured interviews or focus groups on potentially sensitive topics (i.e., any topic that has a reasonable probability of collecting data of a type listed in point 3 above); and
  5. The study does not involve deception.

If any of the above criteria are not met, Faunalytics will obtain an external ethics review from an institutional review board (IRB) using a Research Team Member’s university affiliation. All requirements of this external IRB will be followed.

In addition, institutional review will be sought if the project includes participants from the European Union and involves non-anonymous collection of sensitive personal data, per the requirements of the GDPR (“What is personal data?”)

Use of AI Tools in Research

Generative uses of Artificial Intelligence (AI) for the creation of text or images using tools like ChatGPT or Dall-E fall are covered in our Faunalytics AI Usage Policy. For more detail on use cases, Faunalytics staff should consult the internal staff version of the policy.

The use of other AI tools for research purposes, such as to facilitate a systematic literature review or transcribe interviews, is currently pending review. Until we have a policy in place, use of AI tools for research purposes is not permitted except where that use has been reviewed and approved by an external ethics review board. That is, if use of the AI tool is included and explained in a submission to an IRB and the IRB approves the project, use of the tool is permitted.

Data Handling and Storage

Identifiable Data & De-Identification. Identifiable data, such as data containing IP addresses, email addresses, street addresses, etc., is to be accessed by Research Team Members on a need-only basis, such that the minimum number of people have access to it. Identifiable data may be stored on Qualtrics or Github (in a private Faunalytics repository), both of which are registered with the Cloud Security Alliance (Qualtrics, Github) as cryptographically protecting data at-rest and in-transit using

cryptographic libraries certified to approved standards. As a data backup method, identifiable data downloaded from Qualtrics can also be stored on password-protected researcher hard drives. It may not be stored on Google Drive.

Data de-identification should take place as early in the data cleaning process as possible. This allows for more flexible use of the de-identified dataset, including posting to the Open Science Framework, and the earlier in the process de-identification is completed, the more of the code another user will be able to replicate on the dataset.

For datasets that include directly identifying information including names, email addresses, or similar clear participant identifiers, those identifiers should be divorced completely from the rest of the dataset so that no file with identifiers and other data exists in a single file. If relinking the data is or may be necessary (e.g., in the case of a longitudinal study), a random unique identifier must be used to link the files. Participant identification files—without other data—can be stored on Drive but must be restricted to as few people as possible.

Personal Information. Personal data, including potentially sensitive personal data (e.g. racial or ethnic origin, political opinions, religious beliefs) will be collected and used for research purposes only to the extent justified by research objectives. The participant should be informed of what will be done with the data and data processing should be done accordingly. The sensitive personal data should be collected only after informing the participants about the future use of these data in a consent form.

Open Science Policy. Faunalytics supports and encourages Open Science, including Open Access. This means that data from all independent Faunalytics studies will be made available, free of charge, to other researchers and the general public. Therefore, Faunalytics will have no control over how these data are used. However, as noted above, participant data must be de-identified (i.e., anonymized) before it is made available.

Disciplinary Consequences for Research Misconduct

All instances of research misconduct must be investigated. The responsibility of investigation starts with the immediate supervisor and may need to involve the board of directors and/or members of the broader research community. When a case of research misconduct cannot be resolved at a lower level, the Faunalytics board of directors is responsible for: (a) bringing in one or more members of the broader research community if an arms-length perspective is needed, and (b) deciding the final resolution. In serious or deliberate cases, disciplinary action may be invoked, up to and including termination.

Exception for Program Evaluation

Data collection conducted exclusively for the purpose of program evaluation and improvement of Faunalytics’ activities (e.g. projects, programs, policies), even when social research methods are used, does not constitute research for the purpose of the Research Ethics Policy and does not follow the outlined procedures. If identifiable data collected during program evaluation is subsequently used for research purposes, it then becomes subject to the procedures outlined in this research ethics policy. Program evaluation that includes data collection from EU citizens must be reviewed for GDPR compliance.

Policy development note: This Policy is based on the general ethical guidelines laid out by the Tri-Council Policy Statement, the Belmont Report, and the Nuremburg Code, as well as the specific policies and guidelines used by Carleton University. Portions of the text are adapted or copied verbatim from https://carleton.ca/researchethics/wp-content/uploads/Responsible-Conduct-of-Research..pdf and https://carleton.ca/researchethics/forms-and-templates/

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