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Open Access Editorial

The ethics and editorial challenges of internet-based research

Stephanie Harriman* and Jigisha Patel

Author Affiliations

BioMed Central, Floor 6, 236 Gray’s Inn Road, London WC1X 8HB, UK

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BMC Medicine 2014, 12:124  doi:10.1186/s12916-014-0124-3

Published: 15 July 2014

Abstract

The internet has opened up vast possibilities for research. An increasing number of studies are being conducted using the internet as both a source of data and a venue for research. Use of the internet in research has created many challenges, not just for those conducting and reviewing the studies, but also for editors publishing this work. Two key issues raised by internet-based research are ethics approval and informed consent.

While some guidance exists regarding the ethics and consent of internet-based research, and some institutions provide their own guidelines, there appears to be a lack of definitive national standards.

We discuss the issues surrounding ethics and consent for internet-based research and the need for a consensus on how to address these issues to ensure consistency.

Keywords:
Internet-based research; Ethics; Ethics approval; Informed consent