Frequently Asked Questions
Why do you need my k-number?
Providing your k-number helps us to keep track of your responses across different platforms, for example the online questionnaire and administrative data, if you consent to this. It also enables us to link your responses over time if you answer a follow-up questionnaire in the future. On the study database, your k-number will be removed and you will be given an ID number. Once your data has been added to the database, your k-number will be stored separately from your responses.
Why do you need my email address?
We know that student wellbeing and mental health can fluctuate over time according to the academic calendar. Therefore, we might invite participants to complete a questionnaire later in the academic year. Your email address would be used to invite you to participate in follow-up stages of the study, and to send you updates on the study. We will not spam you or give your email address to any third parties.
Can I find out the results?
Yes, all participants will be sent a brief report outlining the findings from our study once they are completed. You can also follow us on twitter to see updates about the study.
What will you use your findings for?
The findings will be used to answer important research questions related to student wellbeing and mental health, for example how common difficulties are and who might be at higher risk of experiencing them. Understanding more about what causes mental health difficulties can help researchers who wish to develop treatments, as well as helping the university to decide which support strategies may be helpful.
Why do you need it? What does it show us?
Research suggests that genetics can be important in shaping our personality, including our wellbeing and mental health. We wish to include genetics in our study in order to learn more about how genetic and environmental factors interact with one another. For example, we will look at the extent to which genetics combine with the experience of difficulties whilst at university to predict emotional outcomes.
Does this mean you are ignoring social factors?
Not at all. We are interested in investigating all factors to give us a complete picture of wellbeing and mental health, including social, psychological and biological factors. Furthermore, we know that genes interact with the environment in order to shape our identity, so it is important to consider both.
How would it be collected?
Participants who choose to contribute their DNA to the study will be asked to provide a saliva sample. This will involve you spitting into a specially designed tube. Some people may find this unpleasant, but it carries a very low risk of harm. We will set up some pop-up stands on campus so you can provide your sample, with trained staff on hand to assist you or answer any questions.
What will you do with the DNA? Who will be able to access it?
Your sample will be stored in a specialist lab based at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience in Denmark Hill, who have extensive experience in managing DNA samples. The sample will be de-identified (i.e. your name and identifying information will not be kept with it) and DNA will be extracted.
Can you use DNA to see the future?
No. The interplay of genes and environmental factors is complex, and genetic science is in its infancy, so it is not possible to tell exactly who will go on to develop a trait basely solely on their DNA. Furthermore, we will not be focussing on individual students, but rather looking at associations across the whole study cohort.
Will you tell me what you find out from my DNA?
No. Our analysis will be looking at trends across the whole student cohort, so we will not be providing genetic profiles for individual students.
Link with Administrative Data
What will this be used for?
We would like to find out some background information about our participants, so that we can see if factors such as where they grew up and what type of school they went to impact on their wellbeing and experience of university. We would also like to find out some information about students’ performance at university, because we know that academic demands can impact on student wellbeing and vice versa. This would enable us to track how wellbeing and mental health might affect grades over time.
What data would you take from student records?
Some demographic information about you (such as your gender, ethnicity and whether you have a disability).
Some background information about your life before university (such as where you grew up and what type of school you went to).
Some information about your life now (such as whether you live in student halls, private rented accommodation or with family).
Your grades at the end of each semester.
How would you extract the data?
We are working in partnership with some members of staff from the Admissions Office. If you give consent for data linkage, we will pass your k-number to the Admissions Office team, who will extract the relevant data for us and store it in a secure database. This means that the research team will not be able to view your full student record, only the specific variables that we have asked for.
Will questionnaire responses be added to my student records?
No, extracting data from student records will be a one-way process, meaning that we will obtain some information from your student records, but we will not add anything to your student records. Only the core research team will be able to see your questionnaire responses, members of staff such as your personal tutor will not be able to see individual responses.
Will you be able to tell who I am from this data?
We will use your k-number to link to your student records, we will not obtain your name or contact details from student records. We will access some information that might be able to identify you (such as your date of birth, course and postcode). However only members of the core research team will be able to see this information, and it will be de-identified for data storage using an algorithm designed for this purpose. When we publish our results, we will report findings from the entire anonymised sample, we will not include any identifiable information about an individual.
Who will be able to see this data?
Only members of the core research team (a small group of researchers based at the Social, Genetic and Developmental Psychiatry Department) will be able to view identifiable data. These members of staff have very limited contact with undergraduate students and will keep your information strictly confidential. If any other researchers wish to use the data for a research project, they will have to submit a request to the study team and will be provided with only the minimum amount of data needed for their project. The data will be de-identified so it is not possible to tell who you are. Members of university staff, such as personal tutors and counsellors, will not be able to routinely access the data and will not be able to see individual responses.