Data Protection and Research Ethics

Research ethics

Inform is committed to promoting and sustaining an open, supportive, inclusive and equitable research environment, that develops good research practice and is based on the principles of research integrity. Inform’s approach to this is outlined below which to a large extent forms the basis of our ongoing compliance with the Concordat to Support Research Integrity, a condition of funding from UK Research and Innovation (UKRI). In turn, this concordat requires employers of researchers to publish an annual statement on research integrity.

We primarily refer to the ethical frameworks provided by the British Association for the Study of Religion (BASR) as guidance of best practice for research.

All Inform researchers have masters level training in social scientific and/or historical research methods. At times, we make also employ research assistants who act under the express instruction of an Inform Research who takes responsibility for mentoring in research integrity.

Inform staff may conduct research related to our aim of providing information about minority religions and sects which is as accurate, up-to-date and as evidence-based as possible in public places. Public places are understood to include both offline and online locations and events where the public is welcomed/allowed to attend without restriction.

As far as possible, staff should obtain the freely given, informed consent of people who are potential sources of information for Inform. This implies a responsibility to explain in appropriate detail – and in terms that are meaningful to informants – what any request for information is about, and how any information might be stored and used. This includes enquirers who may want to put their reports and materials relating to their personal experiences interacting with minority religions into Inform’s database and archive.

The first point of contact for concerns about research integrity should be raised with Inform’s Office Manager, Warwick Hawkins (Warwick.Hawkins@kcl.ac.uk).

Concerns about any research misconduct can be raised the Chair of Inform’s Management Committee in the first instance, Dr. George Chryssides (GDChryssides@religion21.com).

Funding ethics

Since its inception, Inform has been committed to avoid taking any funding from sources which might seek to influence the nature of the information it provides on minority religious movements. Inform will not knowingly accept funding from any religious, spiritual or other group about which it may be asked to give a report.

We also accept small non-anonymous donations from individuals as ‘friends’ who offer a monthly commitment in support of Inform who receive regular updates and invitations to our online and offline events. We also accept anonymous donations (which can be gift-aided). The anonymous donations go through Stewardship.org and the identities of doners are not revealed to Inform.

We have traditionally accepted small amounts in support of our work from mainstream churches and religious organisations, e.g. The Church of England and the Catholic Archbishop about whom we do not directly research or provide information.

Most of our work is supported by grants and funded research projects from various UK government departments and academic funding bodies. Details of funding sources and spending year-on-year can be found in our accounts and annual returns which are available on the charity commission website.

Personal data

Inform collects and processes a variety of personal data in order fulfil its aims of providing information about minority religions and sects which is as accurate, up-to-date and as evidence-based as possible.

Personal information collection and use

All staff members have a responsibility to safeguard the confidentiality (i.e. identity and/or identifying characteristics) of enquirers and informants and to record any information received from them accurately.

We use return e-mail addresses to answer the e-mails we receive. Such addresses are not used for any other purpose and are not shared with outside parties. We may take note of phone numbers or addresses as part of an ongoing enquiry. These personal details will only be used to make direct communications with you for the purpose of meeting your ongoing requests and are not shared with outside parties.

All personal information given by enquirers is treated as highly confidential. We do not share this information with outside parties except to the extent it is necessary to complete your express requests.

We may refer to that information to better understand your needs and how we can improve our services. We may use that information to contact you. We will not transfer the personal information you provide at this site to any third party unless otherwise disclosed to you.

Information in our databased public interest archive is used to create anonymised reports and track trends in various minority religious groups over time (i.e. any use of material from Inform’s database or archive should not identify living individuals without 1) their express permission or 2) those identifying details being found in an open source public document.

We will not otherwise use or disclose your personal information without your consent except (i) as described in this policy, or (ii) as required by law, court order or as requested by other government or law enforcement authority.

It should be noted that Inform does not enjoy legal privilege. This means that it is not protected by law from disclosure (the withholding of information). However, Inform has fought (successfully) in a court of law to protect the anonymity of its informants.

Inform will hold your information in our public interest archive unless you expressly ask us to delete or fully anonymise the information. All access to highly confidential information in our archive is strictly controlled and only available to Inform Staff and vetted researchers who sign an agreement to keep all personal information confidential.

Inform is the Data Controller for the personal data that we process and is registered as such with the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).

In the case of joint research projects conducted with researchers from other institutions, there may be different procedures in place for data storage and management; if this is the case you will have been given an information sheet detailing the privacy and data storage procedures relevant for that research project.

Data Storage

Information you provide to us is stored on our secure servers, or on our cloud-based systems which are located within the UK or the EEA. These servers are password-protected and fully encrypted, meeting GDPR legislative requirements.

Physical archives containing highly confidential material are kept in a secure, locked locations accessible only under the direct supervision of Inform Staff.

Contact us

Please direct any queries about this policy or about the way we process your personal information to our Data Protection Officer using the contact details below.

You can update your contact preferences for receiving information about our events and activities by contacting us.

Your Rights

We rely on consent as the legal basis on which we process your personal information and you may withdraw that consent at any time.

You have a number of rights in relation to your personal information, which apply in certain circumstances. In order to exercise any of these rights, please contact us using the details in this document. These are described in more detail by the Information Commissioner’s Office.

You have the right

In some circumstances, you also have the right

If you are concerned about the way we have processed your personal information, you can complain to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO). Please visit the ICO’s website www.ico.org.uk for further details, or you can use their online tool for reporting concerns: https://ico.org.uk/concerns/

Inform is a registered charity, no. 801729. Company no. 2346855. Terms and Conditions

Inform is a registered charity, no. 801729. Company no. 2346855. Terms and Conditions