Research Division

Ethical Issues in Social Media Research


This seminar is part of the Faculty of Education's Seminar Series

Start Date

15th Oct 2012 12:00pm

End Date

15th Oct 2012 1:30pm


Launceston NH.A221c. Video; Hobart SB. Hytten 325 Video; Cradle Coast: CC.B159. Video

RSVP / Contact Information

Nick Walkem, Faculty Officer, Research, Faculty of Education, 03) 6324 3005 or

The Internet supports research in two quite different ways: as a tool for finding & accessing people and material; and as a location for meeting and interacting with people and groups.
But this distinction is not so clear once we start using social media, because users no longer fit neatly into categories and tools are increasingly being built into social networking sites. The line between tool and location is blurring.

This talk highlights a specific set of ethics issues associated with research into and via social media:

  • Recruitment
  • Privacy/Anonymity/Confidentiality
  • Consent (especially age verification and documentation)
  • Data Sharing/Data Storage
  • Terms of Service / End-User Licence Agreements

We will use the remaining time in the session to discuss additional complex and emerging
ethical issues in Education Research. Professor John Williamson will guide this discussion.


Professor Paula Swatman has been an Information Systems academic since 1988 and she has
worked in ICT and, in particular, e-Business for 25 years, holding Chairs in both Australia and
Paula's speciality is eBusiness and eCommerce and she has led research groups at several
universities and published over 200 refereed articles in these areas. Her other focus of
academic interest is social science research methods- both as a specialist lecturer and as a
research student supervisor- and she has also been an HREC member at four Australian
After retiring from full-time academic life at the end of 2009, Paula and her husband moved to
the Huon Valley where they run a small beef cattle stud. Paula has an Adjunct Chair in the
School of Computing & Information Systems, where she supervises a few PhD students; and she
also lectures in research methods into the Graduate Certificate in Research. She has been the
Chair of the Social Science Human Research Ethics Committee since the start of 2012 and has a
particular interest in the ethical issues associated with online research.

John Williamson is a Professor in the UTAS Faculty of Education, and has directed projects for
Agencies such as, ANTA, the OECD, WA Dept of Education, the Tas DHSS and currently he is codirecting
a Project for a consortium of 12 international universities investigating how school
teachers are involved in school decision-making. In 2013 he will participate in projects on the
use of group work as a pedagogical tool (Cambridge University) and how teacher professional
learning maximises student learning (Jyvaskyla University).

Nicola Hodgman has worked in research management at UTas for 10 years. Since 2010, Nicola
has managed the 3 UTAS Ethics Committees (Health & Medical Human Research Ethics
Committee, Social Sciences HREC & Animal Ethics Committee) The Ethics Committees review all
human research conducted within Tasmania, including research undertaken through State &
Federal agencies such as the Department of Education and the DHHS. The committees have
approximately 60 members from across the state. Each committee meets monthly to review all
new applications, amendments, progress reports and final reports. The Ethics Unit is supported
by an Executive Officer for each committee and a general administrative officer. The Unit also
includes the Research Integrity Coordinator, who is tasked with developing procedures to
support compliance with the Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research, and an Animal
Welfare Officer.