Evidence Library

Title: Children as researchers.
Author: Brownlie, J., Anderson, S. & Ormston, R.
Date Published: 2006
Reference: Edinburgh: Scottish Executive Education Department.
Are service users or carers authors: No/Not Known


Aim: To explore the problems and possibilities of incorporating a 'children as researchers' perspective into the agenda of government social research in Scotland.

Methods: Mapping recent projects in Scotland and the UK more generally; reviewing the literature on children carrying out research; interviews with policy makers, researchers, research managers and young researchers.

Findings/recommendations: The mapping identified a range of projects involving children as researchers. These were mostly one-off projects based in community and voluntary organisations; few were funded by government and these often limited involvement to an advisory group. Key issues were identified as ethical issues around confidentiality, risk of harm, payments and power in research partnerships; and balancing young people's involvement with the need for high quality, reliable data.

Practical concerns were raised about the resources needed to do this work in terms of staff time, training and support. It was felt that procurement processes, budgets and timescales would act as a barrier. There were also concerns that less able and more excluded young people might not be represented.

The various stakeholders interviewed in this project shared the belief that involving young people as researchers would improve research outcomes and have greater impact on the quality of people's lives. However, they also expressed doubts as to whether such research would impact on decision-making when the general relationship between research and policy is not always a clear. For this reason some people tended to focus on other ways for children's views to influence government policy, for example through consultation.

Young people who had carried out research saw it as an opportunity to have their voice heard in important policy areas and found it empowering on a personal level.

The final recommendations are that the Scottish Executive:

  • makes it clear at the procurement stage that involvement of young people in designing and carrying-out research is desirable
  • develops opportunities for young researchers to apply for funding, particularly in research partnerships
  • develops its thinking on young researchers as part of its volunteering strategy
  • develops new ways for young people to inform its research agendas
  • develops a network of experienced adult and young researchers in this area to develop ideas and practice and offer support to new researchers.

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Related entry: none currently available

Categories: social care
nature and extent of public involvement in research

Date Entered: 2007/02/27

Date Edited: 2012/11/21

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