When to seek consent

When to seek consent

Discussing and obtaining consent for participation in research, for the use of information gathered for analyses, publications and outputs, plus for sharing and the reusing of any personal data beyond the research, can be a one-off occurrence or an ongoing process. Both approaches have advantages and disadvantages.

 Type of  consent  Advantages  Disadvantages
One-off consent Simple.

Least hassle to participants.

Research outputs not always known in advance.

Participants will not know all info they will contribute.

Process consent Ensures active informed consent. May not get all consent needed before losing contact with participants.

Repetitive, can annoy participants.

One-off consent is simple, avoids repeated requests to participants, and meets the formal requirements of most Research Ethics Committees.

Consent is gained early in the research process. It also covers all aspects of participation and onward use of any personal data. For research where no confidential or sensitive information will be shared, or where data collection is a one-off event, this is usually sufficient and most practical.

It can be difficult to gain consent in one go in exploratory research, or where not all data uses, research outputs and even methods are known in advance.

Process consent takes place throughout the research cycle. Consent for participation in research, for use and the sharing of personal data can be considered at different stages of the research.

This offers participants a clearer view of what participating in the research involves, and which information they contribute might be available. This is recommended in ESRC’s Research Ethics Framework and is important in a research design, which involves more than one point of contact with a respondent.

Retrospective consent

Consent for reuse of personal data can also be sought after their research contribution is complete. However, if a participant cannot be traced, the status of publishing or sharing the personal data collected may be uncertain.