Weeknotes SE02E18

This week’s post is all about legal aspects of ReOps. Below, I talk about the work of creating trust environments. Security and privacy have something in common with love, perhaps - if the locks are anything to go by. Photo by Morgan Petroski on Unsplash

What did you do?

This week, the wonderful Jo Brennan joined the Capability Team (one of the two teams I sit within). Jo is a legal and privacy expert, and so you can see I was clapping my hands with joy. Research Operations has 4 pillars that are about creating the right environment to scale the impact of research, and 4 pillars that are more technical. Each of those technical pillars comes with legal aspects and is actually a fairly complex space, especially in government.

Recruitment and admin

In the talk I gave recently (see below), I pointed out that if you have no research participants, you have no research program. It is crucial to get it sorted. No matter the research method, or the scale of your research program.

  • Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013 — we always have to make sure the use of funds meets high standards of governance, performance and accountability; that we provide meaningful information to the Parliament and the public; that we use and manage public resources properly; that we work cooperatively with others to achieve common objectives, where practicable; and that we to require Commonwealth companies to meet high standards of governance, performance and accountability. So, saying yes to using a vendor for participant recruitment isn’t something we take lightly.
  • Data security — where is our data stored, how securely is it stored? In Australia, the Privacy Act outlines Australia’s data sovereignty in the Australian Privacy Principle 8. Here’s a handy guide to APP 8
  • The NHMRC Guidelines National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research (2007) on informed consent and risk with respect to how (if) we share data between the vendor and ourselves.

Data and knowledge management

In this space, we are breaking newish ground really, though there is a growing group of people who’ve tackled this — with all this attention given to research data over the longer term, and appropriate, governed, ethical access to it more broadly, we also need a mechanism for storing research data that is legal, ethical, meets data, information and knowledge management policies. We need to consider the storage of data that may be considered personal, such as videos. How do we make these accessible to researchers as covered by the consent form whilst also complying with all these policies? How do we make the data more easily discoverable, searchable and usable?


The trick about putting in place a research operations function, is you’ve stated you are ready and committed to doing a bunch of change work. If you make it someone’s job to govern research data, then you have to do it right. All the carpets are pulled up, and everything that’s been simmering away under the carpets gets pulled up and made visible. You might find yourself questioning if doing that was the right thing.

Tools and infrastructure

When it comes to tools, there’s a shift when you bring in research operations — you bring in an extra gatekeeper in a sense, but you do it for several very good reasons — firstly, assessment of user needs around tools and comparative analysis takes time, so making it someone’s job removes that weight from the shoulders of individuals who are just trying to get their work done. Secondly, there are administrative and financial gains to be made if you can take a program wide approach to procurement. This is often done at the organisation wide level, but having someone navigate that process on researchers’ behalf makes sure it gets done. Thirdly, administering the tools also allows your ReOps professional to do data management, and to maintain an eye on research assets that might not be stored in a central spot. This helps with meeting that need to be able to learn from what we already know. Being able to see how people arrive at the insights and findings they arrive at is a powerful, seldom available tool in a research lead’s toolbox. For a research operations person’s perspective, they’re often the person in charge of data governance within a research program, so administering the tools researchers use helps them to be able to do that part of their job.

What are you thinking about?

When writing this post, I was reminded of something that I’ve found a little frustrating over the years. That is, I find the Statement on Ethical Conduct is a bit lacking in these spaces where longitudinal research occurs, or where co-design and in-house research panels are concerned. As I see academia embracing the idea of research data management over the longer term, including encouraging consideration to be given to the use of data over the longer term, I am hopeful that some effort may be put to thinking about the changing landscape in human research and addressing this within the Statement.

Anything else?

This week I did a talk at SavvyUX on Getting Started with ResearchOps. I’ve done this talk a lot of times, but the lovely thing about it, is each time I do it, I get to go back and review what we’ve already said, learned, and done in the ResearchOps Community. Each time I get to extend the talk and add new insights. For this talk, that meant a deep dive on each pillar using the Pace Layers Matrix.



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Brigette Metzler

Brigette Metzler

researcher, counter of things, PhD student, public servant…into user research, information architecture, ontology, data. Intensely optimistic.