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bogus posters?

(78 Posts)
petallus Thu 21-Jun-12 08:46:55

My DD visited at the w/e and was quite interested in Gransnet and how I saw it. I said it felt like we were an intimate group of women (and some men) who give each other support, bounce ideas off each other, share jokes etc., in other words like a group of friends. Of course, at the same time we all know Gransnet is open to anyone who wants to have a look. But added to this DD (who is a psychologist) tells me that there is currently quite a bit of concern amongst professional bodies over the way some researchers collect their material over the net. Not only do they trawl websites like ours for opinions and attitudes but sometimes they might even create an identity for themselves and post a question in order to get responses they can use in their research.

This isn't illegal but it is seen as unethical by, for instance, the British Psychological Society.

Don't know if this matters but thought I'd mention it.

Bags Thu 21-Jun-12 08:52:21

i've just read this and my immediate thought is: how is it unethical? OK, such 'researchers' might be finding out what people think/say without identifying themselves as researchers, but so long as they don't use the information they collect in this way in a damaging way, what harm could it do? Are they not just collating information that we are making freely available?

Will now go and think more on this, but that was my initial reaction – why is it unethical?

Seen as listening at the keyhole, perhaps?

Ariadne Thu 21-Jun-12 08:53:05

And, though we are quite good at being suspicious, some of these people are very clever! Thanks, pettallus

shysal Thu 21-Jun-12 08:56:05

I think Gransnetters are quite good at spotting them and reporting to HQ (and then taking the mickey)! grin

whenim64 Thu 21-Jun-12 08:56:33

I belong to the British Psychological Society and this issue is sometimes discussed in newsletters and bulletins, and amongst BPS members. However, bogus posting is not the only source of unethical research. Students are the biggest perpetrators of false/unethical results, claiming they have conducted research that they haven't done at all. Many indiciduals required to conduct research simply can't be bothered. or want to follow the line of least resistance. They will have conversations in the pub, trawl the internet, exagerate their findings, or simply make it up. Always query the source of research findings for their bias or lack of information.

Bags Thu 21-Jun-12 08:58:53

Thanks, when. I can see the problem you are highlighting, but if gransnet was acknowledged as a source of anonymous opinions, why is the actual collecting of it in such a way unethical?

whenim64 Thu 21-Jun-12 08:59:38

bags it's unethical research because it can't be replicated or verified, and anonymous people may make things up (surely not?!). However, so do known subjects of research and the researchers themselves! grin

whenim64 Thu 21-Jun-12 09:02:10

On second thoughts, maybe shouldn't call it unethical to trawl Gransnet, just poor quality research smile

Bags Thu 21-Jun-12 09:04:33

OK. Next niggle: why poor quality? You cannot be suggesting that gransnetters opinions, whether true or made up, are poor quality?

Bags Thu 21-Jun-12 09:04:53

Can you?


JessM Thu 21-Jun-12 09:05:20

I guess an amber light is an unfamiliar name arriving and their first post is seeking opinions or introducing a topic for debate. This is not typical of genuine members who with few exceptions join an existing thread as their first post. It is always possible to check if the poster is new by putting their name into the forum search box at the RHS and see what comes up. On mumsnet they often pick people up like this, with a member posting something like "interesting first post bumface hmm" or whatever. smile (don't 'cha love 'em)
It is unethical because you are taking something from the respondent (time if nothing else) without letting them know that their contributions are being used for a concealed purpose. If you asked them directly for their opinions for research purposes they might choose to decline.

Bags Thu 21-Jun-12 09:08:04

Or say something else hmm

Bags Thu 21-Jun-12 09:08:57

I suppose I'm thinking of double blind drug trials. Why not blind opinion research?

Bags Thu 21-Jun-12 09:09:54

Nobody has to reply to a query.

Bags Thu 21-Jun-12 09:10:16

We give our time and our opinions freely.

whenim64 Thu 21-Jun-12 09:12:10

Bags not poor quality opinions - poor quality research methods smile

Bags Thu 21-Jun-12 09:14:46

But why is it regarded as a poor method? Is it just because until recently it wasn't a standard method?

Bags Thu 21-Jun-12 09:17:15

Essentially I don't see the moral difference between asking a questions to which you want answers in an open (I am doing this for research) way or a 'closed' (I want your opinions but I don't want to tell you I'm doing actual research because you might say something different if I tell you that) way. Isn't it just another method?

So long as the method is acknowledged....

Just aking.

whenim64 Thu 21-Jun-12 09:22:31

It's a poor method because it's collecting qualitative information that won 't necessarily be in sufficient quantity to have any significance.

petallus Thu 21-Jun-12 09:31:08

A body like the BPS has stringent guidelines for how research subjects/participants are treated. Might have changed since I was involved some years back but basically subjects should give informed consent before being included in a study. Even in a double bind study they would be told what was going on, just wouldn't know which group of subjects they were going to be put in and they would agree to this. They certainly should not be hoodwinked into giving an opinion by someone pretending to be a genuine poster with a problem.

It doesn't really matter whether Gransnetters mind or not, the BPS would mind because it wants to keep up professional standards.

j04 Thu 21-Jun-12 09:32:22

I agree with Bags.

I say, good thinking. If it's there, use it.

Bags Thu 21-Jun-12 09:39:25

Lots of supposedly properly conducted research is presented that has not used enough subjects. I'm not talking necessarily about psychology here: we are all aware of how many bogus 'studies' are reported in the media.

I do see the point about there not being enough for a full study (though there are thousands of gransnetters), but info or opinions gleaned could be used as part of a bigger project.

On a personal note, I wouldn't post anything on GN that I feared could be used in a way I didn't like. Once anything is on the net, we all know we have no control over it. Just posting at all on a public forum is implicitly agreeing to let others (any others) read and 'use' what they find for their own purposes. So, in a way, we have been asked and already agreed.

whenim64 Thu 21-Jun-12 09:48:06

Here's some examples of how people on the net learn to foil inquisitive researchers and organisations that have an interest in finding out about their personal lives and opinions:

Lots of us use some of these methods to keep our personal lives a little bit more secure, and some people go to such extremes that anything they post on a forum will not give an inkling of their true opinions (there will be a continuum - some uf us will bare all and others give little away).

Additionally, people who respond to particularly challenging, controversial or emotive questions will sometimes give socially desirable answers instead of the truth, rather than have their opinions criticicised.

AlisonMA Thu 21-Jun-12 09:49:41

I think it is possible that 'research' gained in this way might be quite valuable. Is it not acknowledged that when people are completing a survey they often try to give the 'right' answer especially if it is face to face? This is why psycometric personality testing is so controversial.

One must assume that what we put on GN is our genuine opinion (although sometimes people are just being provocotive) grin

whenim64 Thu 21-Jun-12 09:56:17

Any good pschometric personality test will have lie scales built in, by asking the same or similar question several times over in different guises - they are difficult to fool unless you're a psychologist! Needles to say, all my tests show that I am squeaky clean! grin