Sometimes, we have researchers who would like to conduct research on our lab, rather than in our lab. This has happened often enough that we now have a process for collectively deciding how to proceed.

First, the researcher has to get by our PI, Dr. Liboiron. If introductory emails, follow-up conversations, and consideration of previous work and relations all go well, then Dr. Liboiron introduces the researcher and the lab.

Secondly, the researcher makes a proposal about what they’d like to do with the CLEAR membership. They usually share a short written proposal ahead of time and are invited to a lab meeting to speak further. This usually entails a short presentation (formal or informal) of their previous work and an explanation of their research goals and design. Lab members ask questions in a round robin (one at a time) and we have a chat.

Then, we use formal consensus-based decision making (CBDM) on the overall proposal. Do we want to host this person? Does the research align with our priorities and values? Is this person a good fit for us and what they propose? Almost always, researchers become full lab members with the same training and expectations to accountability and ethics as the rest of us. So we’re also asking whether we want to work alongside this person.

Consensus-based decision making occurs in a series of rounds. There is a general proposal, and if some parts of it don’t quite sit right or aren’t clear, they are discussed and amended. Then there’s another round of decision making. If the proposal still doesn’t fit right, there’s a round of discussions. Rinse and repeat. Often this takes a few meetings. Most researchers that approach us have never gone through this kind of process, and it can be daunting. It requires some humility and the ability to listen without becoming defensive– often the way the researcher reacts to collective decision making processes determines whether they work with us or not, more than the proposal itself.

The final stage of collective consent is to create a Collective Consent Document, not unlike an individual consent form common in human subjects research. We collectively agree on each line in the document. This can take a while. But we have a template that we’ve all agreed on before, so this stage is a little faster now. You can see our most recently approved Collective Consent Document below from CLEAR member Christina Crespo’s dissertation research, as well as one developed by Couple3 Films for filmmaking.

These documents have to address:

  • Expectations of co/authorship on publications and the processes for determining this
  • They types of data to be collected, who owns the data, and how that ownership is structured
  • How conflicts will be addressed
  • How any criticisms of CLEAR, as per academic freedom, should be handled considering the additional accountability to CLEAR as a host
  • How collective consent will be ongoing
  • The difference between individual and collective consent, including withdrawal for individuals and the impacts on collective consent
  • How and how often results will be reported back to the CLEAR collective
  • How the researcher will deal with the potential tensions of being both a CLEAR member accountable to the collective and a researcher investigating CLEAR accountable to outside committees or research priorities
  • Since CLEAR has a lot of information from former members, how will secondary use of data by/from absent CLEAR members be handled
  • Actual, measurable, and expected benefits and harms
Notes from a meeting by Christina Crespo. Shared with permission.