ETHICAL ASPECTS OF SURVEYS
Anonymous questionnaires and surveys that involve nonsensitive topics and minimal risk may not need a separate informed consent form. This is because that form would be the only link to the subject. The participant is better protected without the existence of a signed document. If the survey instructions contain clear information regarding the project, assurance that participation is voluntary, and who to contact with any questions, then the subject’s turning in of the survey itself demonstrates implicit consent. Signed Informed Consent is required, however, when (1) coding of collected data (demographic or otherwise) will be insufficient to insure specific participant anonymity, and (2) the collected information could be damaging to the subject.
Thus, minimal risk, safeguarding the rights/welfare of the participants, practicality, and the presence of debriefing or supplying of relevant information following participation improve the likelihood that informed consent can be waived with a survey.