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Fraudulent participants in qualitative child health research: identifying and reducing bot activity
  1. Nicola O'Donnell1,2,
  2. Rose-Marie Satherley2,
  3. Emily Davey3,
  4. Gemma Bryan4
  1. 1 Epidemiology and Cancer Statistics Group, University of York, York, UK
  2. 2 School of Psychology, University of Surrey, Guildford, UK
  3. 3 Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health, University College London, London, UK
  4. 4 School of Health Science, University of Surrey, Guildford, UK
  1. Correspondence to Nicola O'Donnell, Epidemiology and Cancer Statistics Group, University of York, York, UK; nrv503{at}

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We are researchers working within paediatric health sciences across the UK. We would like to raise our concerns about a novel, seemingly growing issue within participant recruitment for qualitative research in child health; fraudulent participants, ‘bots’, also known as malicious automated software, and ‘human bots’, people paid by third parties to undermine studies.1 We want to raise awareness of the impact that this is having at all levels; to young people who are genuinely impacted by a condition, public understanding of health, integrity of scientific research, development of evidence-based child health practice and policy, and ourselves as researchers.

Although there is literature on this topic, this has focused on questionnaire studies, where ineligible individuals complete online …

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  • Twitter @nicolaod_, @emilysarahdavey, @drgemmabryan

  • Contributors NO’D raised the issue, conceived the letter and cowrote the letter. R-MS cowrote the letter and devised the table. ED cowrote the letter. GB cowrote the letter.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.