Our guarantee of anonymity

7th October 2005 at 01:00
Sarah Nelson's article "Silence of the abuse seekers" (TESS, September 23) raises important issues about research ethics and young people.

However, she makes a number of misleading claims about the Edinburgh Study of Youth Transitions and Crime. This study is a longitudinal programme of research on youth offending and antisocial behaviour. To date, we have never asked young people about physical, sexual or emotional abuse from adults.

The research has been conducted with the full approval of the City of Edinburgh Council and its child protection guidelines were followed at all times. In the event of a child spontaneously disclosing information about abuse or neglect to a researcher during the course of fieldwork, it was agreed that all such cases would be reported to the school authorities for appropriate action to be taken.

It is therefore factually inaccurate for Sarah Nelson to claim that we have a "non-intervention stance in alerting the authorities" where children have revealed they have suffered abuse.

The welfare and rights of each young person who participates in the Edinburgh study are of paramount importance to the research team. We have always followed the strictest ethical guidelines.

An expert advisory group monitors the activities of the study, including representatives from the city council, the Scottish Children's Reporter Administration, Lothian and Borders Police and a parents' representative.

The longitudinal nature of the research has provided an opportunity for the research team to build a good rapport with the cohort members and to secure their trust over many years. This trust is founded upon our guarantee of anonymity and non-disclosure of information provided in confidence by individuals.

The Edinburgh study actively disseminates its findings on offending and risk behaviours. We aim to provide evidence-based policy advice to agencies with responsibility for helping vulnerable children. Further details about the study and our ethical protocols can be found on our website at: www.law.ed.ac.ukclsesytc.

Dr Lesley McAra and Mrs Susan McVie. Co-directors. Edinburgh Study of Youth Transitions and Crime University of Edinburgh

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