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[Xmca-l] Fwd: [COGDEVSOC] 'Recommended Practices' for Museum-Based Child Development Researcher

The following message was sent to a cognitive developmental list that I
read. I thought that the topics raised would be relevant to anyone who
sought to study
development outside of laboratories and classrooms, but is specially
relevant to those working in museums. Craig Smith, the author, ok'ed
passing along to you-all and looking in to see if anyone has something to

By non-coincidence, our next paper for discussion will be by Roland Tharp
and Cliff O'Donnell. Roland passed away recently, but Cliff has said he
would be glad to discuss.

I think the relation of the Craig's message to the cognitive developmental
list and the issues surrounding research in the wild will become evident.
Roland and Cliff's paper is attached. It will be liberated by T&F as soon
as we can get that task done, but meantime, a freebie.

Enjoy chatting.
---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Craig Smith <craigsm@umich.edu>
Date: Wed, Feb 17, 2016 at 4:32 PM
Subject: [COGDEVSOC] 'Recommended Practices' for Museum-Based Child
Development Researcher
To: cogdevsoc@lists.cogdevsoc.org

Hi all,

The recent email thread focused on compiling 'best practices' in infant
cognition research has me thinking about an issue that I've wanted to
tackle for some time.  More and more of us are collecting our developmental
data in public spaces, with museums being the most common type of data
collection site.  This avenue for making contact with families and for
collecting data from both children and parents has been incredibly
fruitful, and has been spearheaded in the US by the NSF-funded National
Living Lab Initiative.  In our Living Lab Program at the University of
Michigan (UM) we have collected data from over 6000 children and parents
since 2012, and there are many other Living Lab-type sites around the US
and beyond.  Thus, many of the studies we see published in both
developmental and more general journals report on data collected from
museum-based lab sites.

Collecting data at museums (and similar public spaces) is often easy and
fun, but it also comes with unique questions, challenges, and dilemmas.
Some examples are listed below, with the types of issues faced by
researchers included:

- A child takes part in a study and then her sibling participates in the
same study. What do the researchers do to prevent the second child's
responses from being influenced by the responses of the first child?
 (Parents often keep siblings together unless given direction by the
researcher.)  And how is this reported in the write-up of the study?

- A noisy school or camp group (or birthday party!) walks past the lab area
as a child is participating in a study.  Does the researcher have a
systematic way of handling the momentary noise or dealing with the
potentially-problematic data?

- Parents and children get antsy in museums if they are kept at any exhibit
for too long, including exhibits that involve participating in psychology
studies.  The PI wants to ensure that the consent process moves quickly so
that the study procedure can get underway without too much delay.  How is
the consent process designed to be both thorough and quick?

- As part of the partnership with a museum, all children are invited to
participate in a study.  This includes children who are outside the age
range of interest for the researcher.  Are these 'other' children run only
with parental consent, or are they run without any data being collected as
part of a 'demo' of the study?  If they are 'demo' subjects, how are the
adults and child notified of this?  If data are collected, what should
happen with those data?

- A researcher would like to make a video of a child participating in a
procedure, and has IRB approval to do so.  However, there are other museum
visitors walking by who may be captured on the video.  What steps does the
researcher take to prevent this?

These are common issues faced by many researchers whose research takes
place right on a main floor of a museum.  There are many other issues that
crop up as well, and we try to deal with many of them in our Living Lab
orientations at UM.  However, I'm quite sure we haven't thought of
everything, and I'm also sure that other researchers have come up with
creative solutions that could add in valuable ways to the trainings we
provide to our researchers.  (And for some issues that arise there is not
one correct solution, but instead a range of helpful suggestions.)

Thus, I am hoping that we can build a repository of *recommended research
practices for museum-based investigators*.  If you are interested in
contributing to this effort, please feel free to email me directly (
craigsm@umich.edu) with your ideas, suggestions, researcher training
materials, museum lab manuals, etc.  I will do my best, in collaboration
with some of the wonderful folks from the National Living Lab Initiative,
to make the information we gather available to all.

Thanks in advance to anyone who wants to help!

Craig Smith

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It is the dilemma of psychology to deal as a natural science with an object
that creates history. Ernst Boesch

Attachment: Tharp.odonnell.pdf
Description: Adobe PDF document