I almost forgot to mention that I did this before contacting stakeholders….. but I did so here is a post about it.
Any researcher working with people needs to go through their school’s Ethics Review Board process. There are good historical reasons for such a process, even though the review process in-itself can’t protect against all ethical challenges you might face (you need to deeply think about how you view your ethics as a scientists as well). Interestingly interdisciplinary environmental research has a lot of ethical implications that are not always explicitly addressed in US and Canadian Ethics Review Boards.
The application process can seem like a formality (especially when you are doing research about a topic that isn’t inherently dangerous or personal) but can actually help you structure your ideas very clearly. Don’t forget to do this before you need to go out and collect your data with people (it can take quite a while to get your application “just right” and get approval). If you don’t, you could face serious problems went trying to graduate or publish your work later. I only have two small pieces of advice as university websites and other blogs have a lot of info on the process.
1. Ask for examples: get your advisor and labmates to provide you with successful applications you can use as templates. There is no reason to reinvent the wheel with format.
2. Go to info sessions and “office hours” for internal ethics review board specialists: My school offered both these options and basically allowed me to make sure I was doing everything right because submitting and thus shorten my review and revision time with the board. Take advantage of your university resources!