Participant Information Sheet

REC reference number: ETH2122-0154
Date: September 27 2021
Version: 1
Title of study: Talking Heads — The use of virtual human presenters for the delivery of personalised news content.
Name of principal investigator/researcher: Leon Hawthorne
Academic Supervisor 1: Professor Suzanne Franks. Dept. of Journalism.
Academic Supervisor 2: Dr Alex Taylor. Dept. of Computer Science.
We would like to invite you to take part in a research study. Before you decide whether you would like to take part, it is important that you understand why the research is being done and what it would involve for you. Please take time to read the following information carefully and discuss it with others if you wish. Ask us if there is anything that is not clear, or if you would like more information. You can download a copy of this information sheet to keep. 
What is the purpose of the study? 
This research examines the audience’s emotional responses to video of various human and/or animated characters reading television news stories. It seeks to understand the extent to which audiences will accept computer-generated characters delivering information, and forms part of a submission for a PhD (doctoral) degree at City, University of London.
Why have I been invited to take part? 
We want a wide selection of the population to participate — all ages, sexes and social groups. No particular individuals or groups are being targeted.
Do I have to take part? 
Participation in this research is entirely voluntary. You can choose not to participate in part, or in all of the project. You can withdraw at any stage of the project without being penalised or disadvantaged in any way. It is up to you to decide whether or not to take part. If you decide to take part, you will be required to tick a box (below) labelled ‘I Consent’, giving us your formal consent. If you decide to take part, you are still free to withdraw at any time — up to the end of the online experiment — without giving a reason.
What will happen if I take part? 
This research is wholly online, and will take about 10 minutes. You will need to be using a computer or tablet, which is in a fixed position on a desk, i.e. not via a mobile phone. The device will need to have a webcam and you should be in an environment, which is well lit, with your face to camera. 
Several written questions will appear on screen. We do not ask your name, email address or for any personal identifiable information about you; only general questions about your age group, sex and level of interest in technology and the news. The videos in this experiment show various news stories being read by a presenter. Before you see any videos, you will be asked — again — to tick a box to activate your webcam, and give us permission to record video of your face, while you watch each video, lasting approximately 30 seconds, each. 

Our software will analyse your facial expressions, which indicate your conscious and subconscious emotions about the videos you are watching. We will not publish any video or photograph of you. We generate numbers and graphs about your emotional responses, and pull these together with similar data from other participants. Our computer will label your data something like ‘Participant XYZ123’. Then it will permanently delete the video of your face, before the researcher has seen it. At this point, it is impossible for us to identify ‘Participant XYZ123’ is you. We never ask your name; we do not save your image. This means it will be impossible for us to identify or delete the specific data your face has generated.
What are the possible disadvantages and risks of taking part?  
We estimate the risks to participants are negligible.
What are the possible benefits of taking part? 
There are no personal benefits to the participant for participating, other than helping us understand what type of faces appeal to audiences.
Expenses and Payments: 
How is the project being funded? 
This is a personal PhD project, which is self-funded by the researcher. The software company Affectiva is allowing use of its emotional intelligence software, free of charge.
Conflicts of interest:
What should I do if I want to take part?
You can participate immediately, online, after you have given us your formal consent, by ticking the ‘I Consent’ button, below.
Data privacy statement
City, University of London is the sponsor and data controller of this study based in the United Kingdom. This means that we areresponsible for looking after your information and using it properly. The legal basis under which your data will be processed is City’s public task. 

Your right to access, change or move your information are limited, as we need to manage your information in a specific way in order for the research to be reliable and accurate. To safeguard your rights, we will use the minimum personal-identifiable information possible (for further information please see

City will not keep your name and contact details, so we cannot contact you about the progress of the research study. The results of the study will be published in the researcher’s PhD thesis, which will be available in due course on the City Library Online. Nobody at City will have access to your identifiable information, including the researcher.

You can find out more about how City handles data by visiting If you are concerned about how we have processed your personal data, you can contact the Information Commissioner’s Office (IOC)
What will happen to the results? 
This research will be published as part of the researcher’s PhD thesis. The researcher will seek also to publish some, or all, of the findings in relevant academic journals covering Journalism, Media and/or Technology. The researcher is a journalist, so the findings likely will be published in media articles, on television and/or in books. As we do not record your name or contact details, it is impossible for us to send you a copy of the research when it is complete.
Who has reviewed the study?
This study has been approved by City, University of London School of Arts and Sciences Research Ethics Committee.
What if there is a problem?
If you have any problems, concerns or questions about this study, you should ask to speak to a member of the research team. If you remain unhappy and wish to complain formally, you can do this through City’s complaints procedure. To complain about the study, you need to phone 020 7040 3040. You can then ask to speak to the Secretary to Senate Research Ethics Committee and inform them that the name of the project is ‘Talking Heads — The use of virtual human presenters for the delivery of personalised news content’.

You can also write to the Secretary at: 
Anna Ramberg
Research Integrity Manager  City, University of London, Northampton Square
London, EC1V 0HB                                     
City University of London holds insurance policies which apply to this study, subject to the terms and conditions of the policy. If you feel you have been harmed or injured by taking part in this study you may be eligible to claim compensation. This does not affect your legal rights to seek compensation. If you are harmed due to someone’s negligence, then you may have grounds for legal action. 
Further information and contact details
Researcher: Leon Hawthorne. 

Supervisor: Professor Suzanne Franks.
Department of Journalism.
City, University of London.
Tel: 020 7040 8221.

Thank you for taking the time to read this information sheet.

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