This article and the four videos linked to this article are a result of the earliest experiences in establishing an international research collaboration among seven countries in the Project Social and emotional experiences in transition through the early years. We draw attention to the complex issues surrounding the many processes, beliefs and attitudes about infants in research that permeated our processes of gaining ethical approval for the international study and which posed many challenges for our project. Through a process of reflective analysis, we have identified a range of ethical tensions and issues which the different countries involved in this international study faced in gaining ethical approval from their institutional ethical committees for their collaborative participation. More specifically, we identify one persistent tension concerning the use of video data in research on young children. This tension is a result of diverse interpretations of international ethical codes, alongside local restrictions and ethics review processes. It illuminates various positions concerning the protection of infants’ privacy versus the benefits of using non-anonymous video data both in joint analysis, and even further, in open publishing. Such positions have been widely debated in research with adults, whereupon many of the ethically challenging questions have been dealt with through processes of acquiring informed consents from the participants. In case of infants, however, the role and nature of informed consents is different from research with adults, as is the role of the adult in using infant ‘data’ in research. For most cases, informed consents are acquired from the parents or the legal guardians that are not necessarily present on a day-to-day basis in the actual data collection process in early years educational settings. The question of children’s own assents for study is widely debated and this is no less so in the project we present in this paper. On the basis of the experiences in this international collaboration, and the challenges and tensions identified in between diverse cultural context and ethical review boards and practices, we propose that more dialogue in relation to research ethics on video research is needed within the diverse research communities and contexts, both locally and internationally. The dialogue is important to include also the representatives from the ethical committees, as the new (open) mediums for publishing are becoming more relevant and promising. Most important, ultimately, is the dialogue among the research participants, including where possible infants as contributors in their own right (as opposed to vulnerable subjects), and researchers in all phases of the research process.
- early childhood education and care
- international collaboration
- video research
- infant research