Suppose that there's a student who has done a subject-based study with ten participants involved. The research settings required not telling the participants that it has been a research before data collection (they participated in an online job interview, but there was no job in reality for them, so none of them got any job in fact [Attention: This was just an example. In reality, they only took an online translation test, at the time they desired.]). Can the researcher get their participants' consent for the inclusion of their data in the research after data collection? Would it be a problem for publication in journals?

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    There is a good reason why ethics approval needs to be obtained beforehand. The whole point is to protect the participants (and ultimately you and your institution) from detrimental fallout. What if the participants had forgone another job interview to be able to attend yours? True, it is unlikely, but what if? An ethics approval committee ponders whether the interests of science outweigh the interests of the participants. The way you did it, it is a "candid camera" approach - perhaps acceptable for entertainment, but science should have a higher standard. I think journals may frown on this. Oct 14, 2018 at 19:19
  • I'm wondering how this was ever done in the first place. It seems incredibly unethical to me. Fraudulent. Asking for permission could, perhaps lead to legal action. Drop it.
    – Buffy
    Oct 14, 2018 at 19:52
  • @CaptainEmacs Thanks for your enlightening comment. That was an example, of course; I edited with real data. Believe me or not, I insisted my supervisor for changing the approach, but she insisted on not telling the participants beforehand. I was just wondering, what if all of them consent, after all. Would it be okay that way?
    – m2004
    Oct 14, 2018 at 20:27
  • @Buffy Thanks. Could you have another look at the edited version and my reply to Captain Emacs question?
    – m2004
    Oct 14, 2018 at 20:28
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    @m2004 You need the ethics approval for catching them unexpected. The point is not, I think, that you do not inform them of the experiment - of course you don't - many psychological experiments require distractors to get genuine reaction. The point is that you go through the appropriate procedures that permit you doing so, by vetting the balance between your scientific gain and their disadvantage of being lied to. Just as when you experiment on animals, you probably cut and torture them - ethics approval means their very cruel fate is deemed scientifically justified by a dispassionate board. Oct 14, 2018 at 23:42

1 Answer 1


As long as the study is IRB approved and the approved procedures are followed, then publication should not be a problem. It seems a little strange, but reasonable, that an IRB would aprove a protocol where minimal risk data collection was kept secret, but require informed consent prior to data analysis. I would have expected consent and debriefing to happen immediately following data collection, but again, if there is a reason to delay it, that seems fine.

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    Put another way: It depends on your rationale for the deception and the risk to participants. Your local IRB will make this call, and a journal will almost always go with the decision of the IRB.
    – Dawn
    Oct 14, 2018 at 20:02

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