For a student research project in the field of IT I would like to interview students who have little to no experience in participating in Open Source projects. My professor said that only interviewing students from my university in Germany is not representative and that I should consider different countries as the motivation to participate in open source might vary from culture to culture. My survey will contain very few questions that I have not yet found in my primary studies. Is it appropriate that I ask different universities in other countries to let their IT students participate in my survey?

  • I'm suspecting that Germany has quite strict rules, but don't know what they are.
    – Buffy
    Commented Oct 17, 2018 at 0:08
  • 1
    Unfortunately, I think universities would perceive this as spam. Perhaps correctly so: consider the situation wherein tens of thousands of people want to do surveys of undergrads at universities around the world... Even if it de-facto happens, it is spam, and no sane administrator would sanction it. Commented Nov 16, 2018 at 2:10

1 Answer 1


In many places (say, the US), there are laws that govern any sort of research with human subjects. This applies even to questionnaires. These laws differ widely from place to place and it is even possible that asking a question in some other country Y might have issues.

In the United States, universities have an IRB (Institutional Review Board) which will look at what you want to do and approve it or make suggestions about how to improve it within the law and ethical regulations.

Germany may well have similar laws and regulations.

Wherever you are, look to an IRB or a Research Office to obtain valid feedback on your plans. This will, perhaps, ease your approach to universities in other countries to obtain permission for your questionnaire.

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