DfE user research standards

Participant safeguarding in user research

As a user researcher at DfE, you must ensure you are safeguarding your research participants.



Last updated

6 Dec 2023


Safeguarding is the protection of a person’s health, wellbeing, and right to live in safety, free from harm, abuse and neglect.

As researchers, we must safeguard research participants by ensuring our research is conducted in a safe, inclusive and protective environment preparing our research carefully and being ready to act on a safeguarding concern.

Why this standard is important

Research must be planned and conducted in a way which protects people from harm and respects their right to autonomy. Failure to do so will result in safeguarding risks for our research participants.

There are 3 main types of safeguarding risks in research that you must consider in your planning and prepare to manage in your research:

  • The risk of causing the participant and others harm in research settings. For example: if a participant is asked to discuss a traumatic topic and becomes upset.
  • The risk of harm being disclosed or identified in research settings. For example: if a young child reveals that they are left home alone for long periods of time.
  • Direct risks posed by health conditions. For example: exposing participants to an increased chance of catching COVID.

How to meet this standard

To ensure you are meeting this standard you must complete the following checklist. If you select yes for all questions, you have met the DfE standard. If you select no to anything or you're unclear, seek the advice of a senior or lead UR.

You must:

If you are researching with vulnerable users, e.g. adults with learning disabilities or children and young people, you must:

Download this checklist as a spreadsheet

Templates and tools to help you meet this standard

Using these templates and tools will help you meet this standard. (Links for DfE employees/contractors only)

Where to get advice

If you need advice on meeting this standard, you should contact:

Discuss this standard

This user research standard is in beta, and we are actively seeking any feedback and suggestions. You can do this in the #developing-user-research-standards channel in DfE Slack (opens in a new tab), or by using the 'give us feedback' link at the top of this page.