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What does privacy mean for Research Ops in 2021?

Phil Hesketh Photo of Phil Hesketh

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2020 was, well 2020. Part of the mad scramble to move everything online put a lot of pressure on us all. We had to totally re-imagine how we do research, everything was suddenly up for grabs. From the day to day jobs like running workshops, recruitment and group synthesis, to how we tell people’s stories and continue to bring the right people along with us within our organisations.

Looking at it from a privacy perspective, we’re suddenly creating a lot more data. Every interaction we make is now recorded and it has become harder to manage the spread of personally identifiable information across rapidly adapting processes and tools.

A wall of CCTA cameras watching two women, by Matthew Henry

On top of these changes, new data privacy laws either came into play or appeared on the horizon. In California, the CCPA was launched in January, with significant amends already passed in November to become an even more robust version called CPRA. Seven other states in the USA are following suit. Brazil launched its version of GDPR, the LGPD in September and India is currently considering its PDP bill. So many acronyms!

As the number of data protection laws increase globally, so does the awareness and perception of people’s new rights under them.

What we’ve been doing about it

As we’ve seen, getting people to adopt new practices and processes, often under remote or lock down conditions is a huge ask. As humans we always try to innovate back to comfort. Consent Kit started out two years ago with the mission of removing the barriers for people to give consent and maintain control of the data that they give us. We have made things easier for research participants, through frictionless digital signatures, more accessible consent forms and streamlined processes for fulfilling their rights should they want to.

We also made things more comfortable for researchers and organisations to manage their responsibilities for the data that we capture along the way. Reducing friction to create best in class consent forms, email templates to save time and valuable head space when asking for consent and automated audit trails so we don’t have to constantly log all of our interactions and where everything is to meet our responsibilities under these new data protection laws. Teams and organisations need tools and work flows to support these changing times.

In 2021 we are pivoting to innovate for the people supporting the teams and researchers who do research: Research Ops.

We’re launching a series of play books for Research Ops which focus specifically on these issues, with stories from the people who have implemented them in practice. Watch this space…

We are also changing how Consent Kit as a product works. We’re beginning to integrate deeply with a broad range of tools across the entire research work flow, and ensure that it’s still easy to meet our responsibilities to participants under data protection laws, no matter which part of the world you’re operating in.

We’d love to know how have your processes changed since the pandemic hit. What are you doing differently and how are you getting an overview of what’s happening with your participant data?

Let us know on Twitter, LinkedIn or by email at, or sign up for our newsletter below to hear about the playbooks as soon as we release them.

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