Ethical Code for Early Childhood Researchers

Journal of Childhood, Education & Society [JCES] adopts EECERA Ethical Code for Early Childhood Researchers (ECR). EECERA Ethical Code which has been formulated by the EECERA Ethical Sub-committee; Chris Pascal, Tony Bertram, Julia Formosinho, Colette Gray, and Margy Whalley.

EECERA Ethical Code for Early Childhood Researchers*

The EECERA ethical code is intended as a guiding framework for all those involved in early childhood research and the publication and dissemination of its results. The ethical principles and guidelines have been developed by a working group of EECERA Trustees through a collaborative process with, amongst others, the involvement of the Coordinating Editor of the International Journal of Early Years Education, and also with due respect and full acknowledgment of existing ethical guidelines including those developed by:

  • The British Educational Research Association
  • The Scottish Educational Research Association
  • The American Educational Research Association

We hope that it will support early childhood researchers in their research design decisions and ensure that research is conducted which safeguards the well-being of all involved, particularly the very young and vulnerable, and also generates the highest standards of scholarship and research practice. The EECERA Ethical Code sets out the expectations of ethical conduct expected of early childhood researchers. It is intended that all research conducted by EECERA members, or published and disseminated through EECERA platforms, including its journal, books and conference, will be evaluated according to its adherence to this code.

EECERA Ethical Principles

These principles are set out with the intention of encouraging Early Childhood researchers to work in the spirit of aspiring to achieve these high ethical expectations within all aspects of their work, whilst acknowledging that realising all aspects is very challenging and difficult. We believe that Early Childhood researchers should have an ethic of respect for:

  1. the child, family, community and society;
  2. democratic values;
  3. justice and equity;
  4. knowing from multiple perspectives;
  5. integrity, transparency and respectful interactions;
  6. quality and rigour;
  7. academic scholarship;
  8. social contribution.

The child, family, community and society

The ethic of respect should:

  • operate for all research participants from pre-birth throughout the course of life;
  • ensure all the research participants are seen as subjects developing in the context of their families and communities, which are culturally situated as part of wider societies;
  • try to ensure that all individuals and communities are treated is a way that is free from prejudice regardless of cultural identity.

Democratic values

The ethic of respect should:

  • ensure all participants in the research process are viewed as subjects, not objects, with rights to participate in the research activity, either, directly or indirectly, actively or passively;
  • ensure all participants and communities involved in research are treated fairly, sensitively, with dignity and without prejudice, and respectful of age, religion, language, disability, health condition, gender identity, sexuality, race, ethnicity, class, national origin, culture, social economic status or marital, domestic or parental status;
  • require research to embody a deep respect for the rights of people, especially children and more vulnerable members of a community, to have a voice and participate actively in all decisions and actions which affect them (paying due regard to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child);
  • acknowledge the rights of others to hold values, attitudes and opinions that differ from those of the researcher's own;
  • be sensitive to culture, individual and role differences and strive to eliminate bias of any kind;
  • aim to distribute power between all participants as far as possible and in a way that allows all involved to actively have voice in the research process and contribute equitably and appropriately to the research process.

Justice and equity

The ethic of respect should:

  • operate within a code that actively promotes democratic values and contributes to social justice and equity within communities and societies;
  • be respectful of plurality at the level of paradigms, theories, disciplines and methodologies, arriving at a prismatic process of research that illuminates the complexity of human beings and gives credence to diverse voices, answers to different realities and promotes equality in our understanding of participants in the research.

Knowing from multiple perspectives

The ethic of respect should:

  • promote research that is original and informing, whilst showing respect for existing work and disciplines;
  • aim to extend knowledge of understanding in all areas of early years activity and from all participants’ perspectives, including learners, educators, practitioners, policymakers and the public;
  • acknowledge the legitimacy of diverse educational research philosophies, paradigms and methodologies that exist and seek to reassure that its results do not selectively judge or constrain, directly or indirectly, the methodological distinctions of the research processes that emanate from them.

Integrity, transparency and respectful interactions

The ethic of respect should:

  • make public the set of ethical principles and actions which guide research practice;
  • ensure researchers do not knowingly act in ways that jeopardise the welfare of others;
  • ensure the avoidance of deception or non-disclosure towards research participants and that all research actions are transparent and documented fully, with data and methods made open for external scrutiny and critical review;
  • ensure research processes and outputs are conducted in ways that are honest, fair and acknowledging of all contributions in the research and dissemination process;
  • support researchers in making public the results of their research to all involved and the wider public unless to do so would cause harm;
  • ensure research findings are communicated in a clear straightforward fashion and in language judged to be appropriate to their intended audience;
  • ensure that researchers never comprise ethical behaviour in favour of collegiality.

Equality and rigour

The ethic of respect should:

  • ensure that research designs rigorously serve the questions and objectives of the study;
  • ensure free, independent, critical and informed choices of authors, articles, theories and concepts included in any literature review and research design with full acknowledgement and citation;
  • ensure the highest ethical standards for dealing with participants which guarantees participants their rights;
  • ensure the highest standards of academic and professional rigour in presentation and dissemination of research.

Academic scholarship

The ethic of respect should:

  • ensure all those who have made a substantive contribution to the generation of an intellectual product are listed as authors/contributors;
  • acknowledge that it is improper to list people who have not directly contributed to the research or written outputs of research;
  • ensure that academic status or other indicators of power should not determine first authorship, but rather the order of authorship should reflect the relative leadership and contributions made by the researchers concerned;
  • acknowledge the obligation on authors to attribute visibly all external sources of support, including sponsors or financial support for a project in which the researcher is involved directly or indirectly;
  • ensure authors disclose the publication history of articles they submit for publication; that is, if the present article is substantially similar in content and form to one previously published, that fact should be noted and the place of publication cited.

Social contribution

The ethic of respect should:

  • ensure research embodies an awareness of social responsibility towards the communities and societies in which it is conducted;
  • ensure research strives to advance scholarly knowledge and practice and serves the public good;
  • ensure research has utility and meaning for all those involved in the research process;
  • promote research which makes a contribution to the wider research community in a spirit of critical analysis and constructive criticism, and which generates impact on both policy and practice and the enhancement of knowledge in the field.

Research Practice Guidelines

Responsibilities towards participants

Voluntary and informed consent:

  • Researchers must ensure that participation in research is on the basis of voluntary, informed consent. This means that all those involved, including young children, are provided with full and honest information about the content, purpose and process of the research and given the opportunity to agree or disagree to participate in the light of this information. At no time must a participant be put under any form of duress to participate;
  • Where young children are involved the informed consent should be obtained in a manner that is meaningful and child friendly;
  • Obtaining consent (oral, written or other forms) should be viewed as an active and ongoing process. Participants should be given the right to withdraw from the research at any point;
  • Participation should be renegotiated if the original research content, purpose or process changes significantly;
  • In those few cases where it is not appropriate or possible to obtain informed consent, careful consideration must be given to the reasons for this and these should be recorded formally, and checked with a local ethics body.

Anonymity and confidentiality:

  • Researchers must recognise all individual's right to privacy. The confidentiality and anonymity of research participants should be seen as the norm at all stages in the research, from data collection, to analysis and publication, unless they specifically and explicitly waive this right;
  • Researchers should take care that all copies of data are kept in a secure format and location so that anonymity and confidentiality cannot be breached.

Participants seen as subjects with rights not objects:

  • All research participants should be respectfully viewed as subjects not objects with rights to agree to or withdraw from the research process at any time;
  • Participants should be viewed as subjects with rights at all times and never objectified or ‘othered’ in the research process;
  • All research must be conducted with the human rights and capabilities of all respondents being give absolute respect and acknowledgement.

Non-discriminatory and inclusive participation (voices of children and vulnerable families):

  • Researchers should aim to be inclusive and non-discriminatory in their identification and selection of research participants;
  • Where participation in the research for some individuals or communities is difficult, steps should be taken to actively address the barriers preventing participation;
  • Researchers should also explore methodologies which allow alternative means for less enfranchised groups, including young children and the vulnerable, to make an authentic contribution to the research process;
  • Researchers should take steps to avoid research designs that advantage one group of participants over another.

Use of incentives and non-exploitation:

  • Researchers should acknowledge that offering incentives to encourage participation can sometimes be problematic, and has the potential to produce bias in participant sampling and responses;
  • In general, the use of incentives should be the exception rather than the norm in research, and where incentives are proposed, the nature of these should be carefully considered;
  • Researchers must be careful to avoid the exploitation of participants for the purposes of their research, including over reliance on one group, over generous use of a group's or individual's goodwill and the lack of power by participants to resist demands and requests.

Non-malevolence, no harm should come:

  • Researchers must be aware that the research process may put pressure on, or lead to potentially harmful consequences for participants. They should take all necessary steps to reduce the sense of intrusion, pressure or stress which may flow from participation in the research. This may be a particular challenge in relation to newer visual imaging and tracking technology and the consequences of using these methods should be carefully considered;
  • Researchers should see themselves as ‘answerable’ for any issues raised as a consequence of their research process;
  • Researchers must immediately desist from any actions which cause distress to participants;
  • Researchers should aim to minimise the impact of their research on participants, either bureaucratic, emotional, physical or otherwise, seeking to adhere to an ethic of ‘minimal intrusion’ on the lives of participants.

Feedback to all participants:

  • All participants should be briefed at significant stages in the research process and at the conclusion of the research;
  • Researchers must be prepared to reconsider the research process following feedback from participants;
  • All participants must be provided with access to copies of any reports, information or other publications arising from their participation.

Responsibilities Towards the Research Process

High standards of professional integrity, rigour and competence:

  • Research should be conducted with the highest ethical standards as set out in these guidelines and recognised locally, nationally and internationally;
  • The rigour of the research should be evident in choice of theoretical and literature sources which should be meticulously and independently located, and rigorously cited to agreed conventions;
  • The research design should rigorously serve the research objectives and questions;
  • Research outputs and publications should be carefully and meticulously prepared and published to the highest academic standards.

Participatory approaches with distributed power in research process:

  • Researchers should operate within the spirit of Articles 3 and 12 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child where the research involves children, or vulnerable young people and adults;
  • Researchers must give all participants the opportunity to express their views freely on all matters affecting them, commensurate with their age;
  • Researchers in a position of power or authority in relation to participants must indicate the steps taken to reduce the power differential.

Data protection and security:

  • Research should comply with Data Protection legislation which ensures that all participants know about and have access to personal data stored in relation to them;
  • Researchers should ensure confidential data, information or communications are kept securely and are protected from external intrusion and disclosure;
  • Researchers must have permission from participants to disclose personal information to third parties or to grant third parties permission to access such data. A record must be kept of any disclosures;
  • The above guidelines are particularly important when using visual imaging and tracking technology, and appropriate risk assessments are carried out before fieldwork begins.

Openness and disclosure:

  • Researchers who believe confidentiality and anonymity agreements may allow illegal behaviour to continue must carefully consider making disclosure to the appropriate authorities;
  • If the behaviour is likely to be harmful to the participants or others, the researcher must consider disclosure. Researchers should apprise the participants involved if they intend to disclose wherever possible;
  • Researchers should keep careful documentation on the reasons for disclosure and their actions in making the disclosure in case of misconduct allegations or other serious consequences.
  • Duty of care to researchers – non-exploitation or harassment (safety and welfare)
  • Researcher's rights and interests should be protected and risks to research staff in conducting research must be carefully assessed and minimised.

Regular and open feedback to all participants:

  • All research participants, including young children, have a right to feedback on the research process and outcomes. Researchers should debrief participants at significant points in the research process and at the conclusion of the research, providing copies of any reports or publications arising from their participation.

Responsibilities Towards Research Outputs And Dissemination Process

Disclosure of sponsors and interested parties:

  • Sponsors or interested parties are considered to be any person or body that funds the research or facilitates it by allowing and enabling access to data and participants. The relationship between researchers and sponsors should be defined in a written agreement and disclosed in all research outputs and publicity;
  • All interests in the research should be explicitly stated, including sources of financial support and relevant personal or professional relationships that may have the appearance of, or potential for, a conflict of interest with all those with an interest in the research;
  • Researchers must give due respect and acknowledgement to all methodologies and related methods.

Confidentiality and anonymity:

  • Any decisions to override agreements on confidentiality and anonymity must be taken after careful and thorough deliberation, and participants must be informed beforehand of the intention and reasons for disclosure.

Intellectual property rights:

  • Sponsored research should follow the norm that researchers have a right to independently publish the findings of research, and that this right should not be lightly waived or unreasonably denied;
  • Researchers have the right to disassociate themselves publicly from accounts of research they have conducted if they feel its presentation is misleading or selective.
  • Reporting and publishing standards (clarity, audience and accuracy):
  • A wide range of dissemination strategies should be used to ensure greater reach of research outputs, including technology and websites;
  • Reporting should adopt a communication style which is straightforward and accessible, and has clarity and fluency for those interested and involved in the research, and in a language that is appropriate to the intended audience;
  • Researchers should take steps to ensure the accuracy and trustworthiness of all public communications about the research.

Utility and social beneficence:

  • Research output should contribute to the generation of improvements in early childhood policy and/or practice and to the enhancement of knowledge;
  • Researchers have responsibility to seek to make public the results of their research for the benefit of a wider understanding of early childhood policy and practice within wider society.

Research Publication Guidelines

Authorship and sponsors

Order of authors, credit and non-citation:

  • The academic status or other indicators of power should not determine first authorship. All contributing authors should be credited in the order of the significance of their contribution in the authoring process;
  • All those who have made a substantive contribution to the generation of an intellectual product are entitled to be listed as authors;
  • There should be no ‘ghost’ authoring of publications and it is improper to list people who have not directly contributed to the research or written outputs of the research.

Status of authors and location of authors:

  • The status and institutional location of all authors should be made visible in all research materials and outputs.

Transparency, conflict of interest, funder visibility:

  • There is a fundamental obligation on authors to acknowledge and attribute all external sources, financial or in kind, such as organisations or sponsors who have contributed to the research programme directly or indirectly;
  • Authors should disclose the publication history of articles or books they present for publication. If a present article or book is substantially similar in content and form to one previously published, that fact should be noted and the place of prior publication cited.

Rigour and Integrity

Honesty, trustworthiness, reliability and validity:

  • Researchers should ensure that their research processes and findings are transparent, honest and trustworthy, and that inferences and generalisations drawn from their research evidence are valid, reliable and credible.

Robust, appropriate and ethical methodology:

  • Researchers must protect the integrity of the community of researchers by ensuring they conduct their research to the highest standards;
  • Research should promote methodologies and methods that are both robust and ethical in their execution;
  • Researchers must employ methods that are fit for the purpose of the research, and where a specific method, approach or philosophy of research is promoted, an awareness of alternatives should be clearly visible, with the justification of the chosen approaches and methods being honest and justified.

Transparency of process and results

  • Researchers should report research processes and results transparently, accurately and in sufficient detail to allow knowledgeable and trained researchers to understand, interpret and critically appraise them.

Purpose and value

Current, relevant, pertinent and utility:

  • Research should have clear purpose, meaning and value to those who are involved in the research process and/or who are the subjects in the research focus;
  • Research should have current relevance and utility to the wider communities and societies in which it is located. The impact of the research should be planned for and documented.

Knowledge generation, originality, innovation and challenge:

  • Research should aim to generate new knowledge which makes an original contribution to the field;
  • Research should aim to be innovative and challenging of existing orthodoxies and assumptions, adopting a respectful but critical stance towards existing knowledge and practices.

Social contribution:

  • Researchers should acknowledge the professional responsibility they hold towards the communities and societies in which they live and work. In undertaking research they should strive to advance scholarly knowledge which makes a contribution to the quality of life of those communities and societies and serves the public good.


Multiple submissions:

  • Researchers must not submit a manuscript for publication to multiple publishers unless the publisher explicitly permits the practice in the submission guidelines;
  • On submission of the manuscript, the author grants that publisher first claim to publication;
  • Manuscripts can only be submitted to a second publisher after an official decision has been received from the first publisher or the manuscript has been withdrawn.

Plagiarism or self-plagiarism:

  • Researchers and authors in their teaching, writing and presentations should explicitly identify, credit and fully cite any author(s) that they take material, data or ideas quoted verbatim from their work, whether it is published, unpublished or electronically available;
  • Researchers and authors in their teaching, writing and presentations must provide acknowledgement and reference to the use of other's work even if the work is not quoted verbatim or paraphrased, and they must not present other's work as their own whether it is published unpublished or in electronic form;
  • Researchers must not submit for subsequent publication work that has been previously published unless it is published with citation of the first publication.

False claims, misrepresentation, fabrication, sensationalism, distortion:

  • Researchers must not make false claims, fabricate or misrepresent, research evidence, data, findings or conclusions;
  • They must not sensationalise or distort findings in a way that compromises knowledge generation for public exposure.

Illegal use of research:

  • Research must not be used for illegal or fraudulent purposes;
  • Researchers must not knowingly or negligently use their position for illegal or fraudulent purposes.

Defamation and libel:

  • Researchers must not criticise other researchers or research practice in a defamatory or unprofessional manner.

Communication and Publication

Clarity and accessibility of communication:

  • Researchers should strive to present their findings to a wide audience in a clear, unambiguous and accessible style which is appropriate to the intended audience;
  • Researchers should use a wide range of dissemination strategies, including electronic and web based forums, to enhance knowledge transfer and the impact of the research findings.

Responsibilities of researchers, authors, editors and reviewers:

  • It is the responsibility of all those involved in the generation and publication of research to ensure that the highest standards of professional competence, integrity, ethics and scholarship are safeguarded and promoted;
  • Where researchers, authors, editors and reviewers become aware of malpractice they must present their concerns, in the first instance to those involved. Where possible, public accusations and allegations should be avoided as they bring the research community into disrepute. However, in the absence of resolution, or if it in the public interest, then concerns should be made public.

*Bertram, T., Formosinho, J., Gray, C., Pascal, C., & Whalley, M. (2016). EECERA ethical code for early childhood researchers. European Early Childhood Education Research Journal24(1), iii-xiii. DOI: 10.1080/1350293X.2016.1120533

*With the permission of the EECERA Trustees Board.

*For more details, please visit EECERA Website