ASSAP: Paranormal Research
ASSAP: Paranormal Education
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ASSAP the Professional Body - Consultation

At its 30th anniversary conference on 10 September 2011 ASSAP announced it had been registered with the government as a professional body. This is the consultation stage. It's vitally important anyone can contribute and share ideas, not just members of ASSAP. ASSAP will not impose any changes on groups or individuals either before or after the consultation.

The consultation will proceed as follows:

Phase 1: This phase takes generally input from ASSAP non-members and members alike about what ASSAP should or should not be doing as a professional body. The first phase of the consultation will formally end on 10 November 2011, however we will continue to accept submissions until the end of November.

Phase 2: In December 2011 ASSAP will publish an initial report with the findings of the consultation, including some early recommendations about changes to ASSAP based on the feedback you have given (see below). Feedback on these recommendations will be open until 10 January 2012 but submissions will be accepted until the end of January.

Phase 3: In February 2012 ASSAP will publish a set of 'interim changes' and their timescales for implementation. These will be based on the original recommendations but modified to take account of your feedback. Phase 3 will run for six months before the process is reviewed and final changes and timescales published. 

The initial consultation (phase 1) has now been completed and recommendations produced, shown below.

ASSAP Professional Body Draft Recommendations
Consultation Part 2 and Residents of Consultation Part 1, 1/12/2011

Brief Guide to Draft Recommendations

These recommendations only apply to ASSAP members. They do not apply to investigators who are not members of ASSAP. The scheme is optional for members of ASSAP.

This list is only draft suggestions based on the consultation. If you disagree with any suggestions or can suggest improvements please let us know, this forms part of the second part of the consultation that will run until 10th January 2012. Email consultation@assap.ac.uk

1. ASSAP Register of Professional Investigators
Migrate from the current the National Register of ASSAP Approved Investigators (NRAAI) to the National Register of Professional Investigators (NRPI). ASSAP currently operates a NRAAI comprising a register of investigators who have been trained, assessed and approved by ASSAP. This will be migrated to the NRPI using different approval procedures.

2. CRB checks for Investigators
Many investigators apply for Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) checks before working with vulnerable clients. This will be mandatory for all ASSAP members who choose to be part of the NRPI.

3. Free Public Liability and Professional Indemnity Insurance
Adequate insurance is very important for all investigators. ASSAP members who choose to be part of the NRPI will receive free insurance for cases undertaken in that capacity. These do not just apply to cases allocated by ASSAP, but applies to all cases undertaken as part of the NRPI. This is an extension of the free insurance currently provided to AAIs, which only applies to ASSAP allocated cases.

4. Discounted rates for standalone Insurance
Those members who want standalone insurance, for example for running conferences or heritage events, will receive a 20% discount on Public Liability and Professional Indemnity Insurance.

5. Professional Code of Ethics for the ASSAP NRPI
The current Code of Conduct for the NRAAI will be revised to apply to the NRPI. This code will focus on minimum ethical standards to be applied in cases undertaken whilst promoting oneself as a member of the NRPI. This code will apply to those ASSAP members who choose to join the NRPI.

6. Migrate Affiliated Groups to an ASSAP Register of Professional Groups
ASSAP currently affiliates investigation groups where one lead investigator is an AAI. Groups can choose to join the ASSAP RPG where regular members of that group are part of the ASSAP NRPI. That group will then receive free insurance when operating as a RPG.

7. Creation of an Investigator class of ASSAP Membership
At present ASSAP members are either Associate Members or Approved Investigators. The Investigator class of membership will be the basis of membership of the ASSAP NRPI. ASSAP members would need to choose to ‘upgrade’ their membership should they wish to. ASSAP membership currently costs £15 per year. ASSAP Investigator membership (and membership of the ASSAP NRPI) will cost £20 per year. This £20 includes the benefits of the £15 class of membership, and is not in addition to it. This additional £5 per year cost will pay for three-yearly CRB checks. The professional indemnity and public liability insurance will be free.

8. Qualifications for Professional Investigators
AAIs will be migrated towards a formal qualification that will be optional for investigators. These investigators will be allocated cases from ASSAP in the same way AAIs presently do. This migration will take place over a period of time.

9. Establishment of an Ethics Panel
A panel to consider specific ethical issues and to pass general research proposals and any changes to the Code of Ethics through.    

10. Public Education
To work with the general public and clients to raise awareness of ethical issues.

Questions and Answers

Does this apply to people who are not ASSAP members?
It has no impact on non-members of ASSAP. Existing members of ASSAP also do not have to participate. Non-members of ASSAP can choose to join and participate.

Does this involve scientific methods or just ethics?
Ethical issues are more clear-cut than issues of scientific method. We want this process to be inclusive and do not wish to stifle creative methods where it is ethical to do so. Creativity can lead to unexpected knowledge and advancement. For example use of ‘exploratory’ methods would not be appropriate in a client’s home, but where a hiring arrangement exists with a tourist location that freedom to be creative can still exist. However promoting ‘good practice’ in use of scientific methods would also be important.

Does this apply to entertainment companies and paranormal practitioners?
Entertainment companies fall outside the remit of ASSAP because they have a primary concern to provide an ‘experience’ for those who purchase tickets rather than helping vulnerable people. Those practitioners who fall primarily outside of ‘science’ such as those who operate primarily as mediums or healers also fall outside the remit of ASSAP.

Would there be an enforcement angle to these schemes?
If a client chooses to use a member of a professional body it is right that the client can complain if those voluntary standards are not upheld. However we must be aware of non-client complaints, due to the competitive nature of the community. Accountability should primarily be about clients rights.

In Detail: Results of the Consultation Part 1

Several hundred people took part in the consultation, including members and non-members of ASSAP. They included AAIs, independent investigators, independent groups, general researchers, academics, those with a lay interest and represented a range of interests in different categories of anomalous phenomena.  The over-whelming majority of responses were positive about this development. Some critical comments were made in other places and not as part of the consultation. However where these comments were seen by ASSAP they have helped to form the basis of the draft recommendations. Some comments included:

  • Assuring the public we are serious and not like TV shows
  • How will quality be assured?
  • Suggestion of ethical codes, good practice guide, register of members, an ethics committee
  • About time something like this happened
  • Integrate with an NHS Direct-style triage system of multiple choice
  • Focus on increasing ethical standards
  • Make things safer for clients
  • Need for code of ethics and professionalism
  • Developing a plan ahead of announcement would have been useful
  • Important that legislation and regulation is not involved
  • Setting an ethical code is the most important thing
  • There should be a register
  • Introduce recognised qualifications
  • How would prior learning and qualification be integrated?
  • Will encourage investigators to put clients first
  • Would be worried if there was a big cost implication
  • This should not be compulsory for all
  • Requirement for insurance and CRB checks
  • Guidelines about vulnerable people
  • Increase accountability and transparency
  • Education of clients as to what good ethics are
  • Ensure ASSAP does not tread on the toes of other long-established organisations
  • Ensure expected standards
  • A code of ethics, qualifications and accountability
  • Should balance between prevention of misconduct and individual investigator liberties
  • Ensure ethical information gets to the general public
  • Client safeguards are the most important things
  • Worry about this eroding independent investigator rights, would should be avoided
  • How will you be sure that ethical standards are monitored?

Some specific questions were also asked in the consultation:

  • Should groups be able to participate in this?
  • It should be individuals, not groups
  • Should be a distinction between entertainment and serious groups
  • There is a big worry that if a minority of group members are ethical that the whole group should not be seen as ethical

Should an ethical standard should be set? [All respondents agreed]

  • Should stop trespass
  • Should deal with issues about vulnerable people and children
  • Some people think it doesn’t affect them as they don’t work with vulnerable people, but they actually do
  • There is a conflict between Freedom to Withdraw as an ethical principle and financial contracts that might be in place with venues
  • A minimum is that all investigators should have insurance and CRB checks if they come into contact with the public
  • The option of anonymity should always be given?

Should scientific standards be set?

  • No, but good practice should be promoted
  • Scientific standards are important only in the case of ethics
  • It’s important not to restrict creative freedom in methods
  • Experimentation is vital for progress to be made
  • The distinction between science and pseudo-science should be made clear
  • Recommendations should be made but not compulsory

Should ethical standards be enforced [for those who choose to sign up to them]?
[All respondents said yes]

Should ASSAP’s scheme involve a) setting a minimum ethical standard or b) setting a gold standard or c) both?
[All respondents indicated both]

What else should ASSAP do?

  • Produce ID cards
  • Provide a register
  • Provide advice and training
  • Ensure insurance and health and safety
  • Allocate cases

In Detail: The Code of Ethics

The consultation revealed a lot of questions and analysis of ethical issues. Many respondents discussed the issue of vulnerable clients and children as being the most important issues. 

A Code of Ethics may include:

  • Non-contact with statutorily vulnerable people (i.e. those with learning disabilities, mental health issues, extreme distress) and the recently bereaved
  • Questions about whether contact with children is appropriate
  • Where non-statutory vulnerable people are involved (e.g. clients in their own homes): CRB checks, indemnity insurance, public liability insurance, training, not introducing tools to ‘fish’ for paranormal assumptions as they may harm the client.
  • Adequate referral methods for the vulnerable
  • Where no vulnerable clients are present, and the primary objective is research, many of the above may not apply
  • Data protection issues
  • General issues relating to confidentiality, debriefing, briefing, freedom to withdraw, no deception, reporting results
  • Issues regarding trespass and ‘open land’
  • When a client can seek redress where the voluntary code is not followed

What happens next?

This is still subject to consultation. If you have any thoughts about any aspect of the draft recommendations let us know, as these are not set in stone.