School of Social and Political Science

Participant Information Sheet


This is a University of Edinburgh project, funded by the UK Economic and Social Research Council, and led by Professor Donald MacKenzie. It is researching a) how automated trading (especially high-frequency trading or HFT) has developed and is currently conducted, and b) how automated trading interacts with the overall organisation of financial markets (for example, markets in shares and government bonds, in both the US and Europe). 

Our research primarily involves interviews with market participants who have expertise in these matters: traders, software developers, regulators, exchange staff, technology suppliers, etc. (We will also be taking part in industry events such as conferences.) If you agree to speak to us, we will ask you questions about the above matters. By sharing your knowledge and experience with us, you will be helping us deepen our understanding of automated trading and its interaction with market structure.

We understand that most people we speak to will prefer to remain anonymous (and some may need to be anonymous), and we will take great care to preserve their anonymity. Our notes and transcripts of interviews will not be shared with anyone outside the research team, and the security of those notes and transcripts will be preserved carefully at all times. Those we speak to have our absolute guarantee that nothing will be attributed to them or to their organisations in our publications, unless they have given us their explicit permission to do so. 

Similarly, we understand completely that those we speak to may have concerns about the protection of their own or their firms' commercial confidentiality. We will be very careful not to violate the commercial confidentiality of trading firms and the other organisations to which we speak. We will not probe for 'secret sauce' in our interviews, and if we inadvertently learn something confidential we will not disclose it. 

Your participation in our research is of course completely voluntary, and you can cease to participate at any point. (Just say that to the person to whom you are talking, or let Prof. MacKenzie know: contact details below.) On specific request, we will destroy all your identifiable answers, but we will need to use the data collected prior to your withdrawal, and to maintain our records of your consenting participation. We will not ask participants to sign a consent form (our experience in finance is that most people prefer to give their consent verbally than in writing), but we are happy to provide one if you wish. Similarly, we are happy to provide you with a copy of this participant information sheet signed by Prof. MacKenzie.

While we would ideally like to audio record interviews, you are entirely free to decline to be recorded. Our notes and (if you have consented to be recorded) our audio recordings and our transcripts of them will be processed in accordance with Data Protection Law.  They will be kept strictly confidential, under lock-and-key and/or in password-protected computer files. 

Our research will be published in academic articles and eventually a book, but as noted above interviewees will be anonymised in those publications, and great care will be taken not to provide incidental details that might lead them nevertheless to be identifiable. Audio recordings will be securely deleted once the research and publications drawing on it have been completed, and other research materials will be securely destroyed/deleted ten years after completion of the research and publications. (The reason for keeping them for this period is in case it later becomes clear that further analysis of our research materials is necessary.)

If you have any further questions about the study, please contact the lead researcher, Prof. Donald MacKenzie, either by email (, telephone (+44 [0]131 650 3980) or post (School of Social and Political Science, University of Edinburgh, Chrystal Macmillan Building, 15a George Square, Edinburgh EH8 9LD, UK). If you wish to make a complaint about the study, please contact Edinburgh University's Head of Sociology, Ross Bond.

Header photo shows microwave towers of the kind used in high-frequency trading. Image courtesy of Bird&Renoult