My friend has conducted a small pilot survey as part of research proposal and used anonymized results to present his case. Now adviser insists that my friend discloses names and emails of all the participants. Would it be ethical do disclose this information? Since it was a pilot study, my friend didn't bother with consent forms, and I feel like it would be incorrect to disclose this information. I understand that adviser wants to be sure that the study was real. Is there any way my friend can prove that study was real, without disclosing private information of participants?

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    This is exactly why consent forms (and IRB approval) are important even for pilot studies... Apr 11, 2017 at 22:19

1 Answer 1


Your friend can seek retroactive permission from the participants. They can email all of the participants to ask them for permission to disclose their contact details with the friend's advisor for the purpose of validating the survey. They should probably also ask them to complete a consent form of some kind, the details of which your friend should discuss with their advisor. Without seeking permission, it would be unethical. Depending on what the survey is about, the participants may not want their details being shared with your friend's advisor.

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    The problem with this is that many people don't understand the risks of making such information public. (If they did, Facebook would wither!).
    – WGroleau
    Apr 11, 2017 at 12:25
  • @WGroleau I don't think the question is about making the information public. I understood the question to be about disclosing the participants solely to the advisor.
    – MJeffryes
    Apr 11, 2017 at 12:26
  • Ah, in that case, I would agree to reveal, but only the ones that give their consent and know exactly what they are consenting to. And hope the advisor is ethical! The disclosure, though, doesn't prove the study is real. I can easily invent names and e-mail addresses.
    – WGroleau
    Apr 11, 2017 at 12:31

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