Information Sheet/Informed Consent

Thank You for taking an interest in the weDialogue project!

Below you will find a long text that provides important information about the research study. It is important that you find the time to read it before you agree to participate by providing us with your email at the end of this form.

We are inviting you to participate in a research study to examine the effects of different commenting platforms and empathy inducing instructions on the intellectual humility and deliberative quality of online comments on news websites. Your main task, if you agree to participate, will be to read some news and contribute with your comments to a group discussion.

The Study

Principal Investigators: Graham Smith (University of Westminster), Michael E. Morrell (University of Connecticut) and Paolo Spada (Gran Sasso Social Science Institute & University of Westminster).

The research is funded by the Humility & Conviction in Public Life, a project of the University of Connecticut sponsored by the John Templeton Foundation

Why is this study being done?

This project tests whether we can design comment platforms for online news web sites that will improve the quality of dialogue on those sites.

What are the study procedures? What will I be asked to do?

The study is divided into four phases:

  • Phase 1: Enrollment & entry survey
  • Phase 2: Discussion
  • Phase 3: Exit survey
  • Phase 4: Open phase & open feedback

In the first phase, you will register for the study online and complete a survey. You will then be randomly assigned to a group to participate in an online discussion platform for a three-week period. Only participants will have access to the platform. During the second phase, you will be able to read news articles, leave comments about the articles, and respond to the comments of others. You will control entirely how much you interact with the platform and what information you provide in doing so. Trained moderators will oversee the discussion platforms. After the 3-week period, you will complete an exit survey that will explore your user experience, the usability of the platforms and how your attitudes may have changed after participating in the online dialogue. Then in the final phase, we will open all the different platforms and comments posted by others so that you can see how different platforms worked. If you are interested, you will be asked to complete a final open feedback survey to provide your opinion and suggestions on how to improve the different comments platforms.

What are the risks or inconveniences of the study?

The risks associated with this study are the same as when you participate on any online comments platform. The primary risk is psychological harm arising from uncivil comments made by others during the discussions of contentious political issues. The second most likely risk is revealing personal information to others as part of the online discussions. We aim to minimize these risks by employing platforms that promise to minimize uncivil comments, by having a team of moderators monitoring the activity on the platform, by assigning you an anonymous username that will not allow other participants to easily identify you, and allowing you to control how much you engage in the discussions. As with any online public comment platform, whatever information you post will be accessible to other participants. The content generated by you and other participants will be released as open data at the end of the project, but only after it has been anonymized. You are free to generate or not generate such content and you remain fully responsible for what you generate during the WeDialogue process. We strongly advise you not to share personal data while generating content on this website; the project team cannot be held responsible for any content that you post. For more information see our Data Management Policy and our Terms of Service.

What are the benefits of the study?

You may benefit by learning more about current events that appear in the news, as well learning about the views of other participants around the world. Society may benefit by advancing knowledge about how to best design online comment platforms for news web sites. This could potentially transform an area of civic dialogue that could contribute to a more healthy, functioning democracy. There are also possible applications of these platforms to other areas, including, but not limited to, government consultation with citizens and engaging students in discussions with others in educational settings.

Will I receive payment for participation? Are there costs to participate?

There are no payments for participation. There are no costs to you for participating other than the time it will take you to complete the registration process, take the surveys, and participate on the platform.

How will my personal information be protected?
During the registration process we will ask you to provide an email, and complete a survey that includes both demographic and attitudinal data. Your email address will only be visible to us and will only be used to notify you about activity related to the study. We will use the demographic and attitudinal data to create discussion groups that are balanced. Upon completion of the study, we will delete your email from our database and we will anonymize the data we have collected and release it as open data.

For the duration of the research all data from the registration process, surveys, and discussion platforms will be stored on a secure server in the European Union. Third party software that we use (Polis) stores some data in the US, but adopts the EU-US privacy shield. For more information regarding the Data Management Policy click here.

The University of Westminster and University of Connecticut Research Ethics Committees and Research Compliance Services may inspect study records as part of its auditing program, but these reviews will only focus on the researchers and not on your responses or involvement. These committees review research projects to protect the rights and welfare of research participants.

Can I stop being in the study and what are my rights?

Yes, you can stop participating at any time by sending an email to info@wedialogue.world. We follow the newly implemented General Data Protection Regulation of the European Union (more commonly known as GDPR) and the UK Data Protection act of 2018. Thus, you have the following rights:

  1. Right to be informed & right to access about use of your data
  2. Right to correction / rectification of inaccurate personal data
  3. Right to get your data deleted
  4. Right of restriction in the processing of your data
  5. Right to data portability
  6. Right to be notified regarding rectification or deletion of personal data or restriction of processing
  7. Right to object

Details of these rights are laid out in the Data Management Policy.

Are their rules of behavior I am expected to follow on the platform?

Participants in the research study are expected to participate via one unique login only. Comments added to the platform should not include personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives or letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonation, incoherence and SHOUTING. The organizers of the research study reserve the right to remove you from the study if you engage in any of these activities on the platform.

Whom do I contact if I have questions about the study?

Take as long as you like before you make a decision about participating. We will be happy to answer any question you have about this study. Please contact us at info@wedialogue.world.

If you have concerns or wish to make a complaint about the conduct of the research, please contact Professor Dibyesh Anand, Head of School of Social Sciences, University of Westminster, 309 Regents Street, London, W1T 3UW. d.anand@westminster.ac.uk. +44 20 7911 5000 ext 65159

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