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  • How to Write Recommendations in Research | Examples & Tips

How to Write Recommendations in Research | Examples & Tips

Published on September 15, 2022 by Tegan George . Revised on July 18, 2023.

Recommendations in research are a crucial component of your discussion section and the conclusion of your thesis , dissertation , or research paper .

As you conduct your research and analyze the data you collected , perhaps there are ideas or results that don’t quite fit the scope of your research topic. Or, maybe your results suggest that there are further implications of your results or the causal relationships between previously-studied variables than covered in extant research.

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Table of contents

What should recommendations look like, building your research recommendation, how should your recommendations be written, recommendation in research example, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about recommendations.

Recommendations for future research should be:

  • Concrete and specific
  • Supported with a clear rationale
  • Directly connected to your research

Overall, strive to highlight ways other researchers can reproduce or replicate your results to draw further conclusions, and suggest different directions that future research can take, if applicable.

Relatedly, when making these recommendations, avoid:

  • Undermining your own work, but rather offer suggestions on how future studies can build upon it
  • Suggesting recommendations actually needed to complete your argument, but rather ensure that your research stands alone on its own merits
  • Using recommendations as a place for self-criticism, but rather as a natural extension point for your work

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There are many different ways to frame recommendations, but the easiest is perhaps to follow the formula of research question   conclusion  recommendation. Here’s an example.

Conclusion An important condition for controlling many social skills is mastering language. If children have a better command of language, they can express themselves better and are better able to understand their peers. Opportunities to practice social skills are thus dependent on the development of language skills.

As a rule of thumb, try to limit yourself to only the most relevant future recommendations: ones that stem directly from your work. While you can have multiple recommendations for each research conclusion, it is also acceptable to have one recommendation that is connected to more than one conclusion.

These recommendations should be targeted at your audience, specifically toward peers or colleagues in your field that work on similar subjects to your paper or dissertation topic . They can flow directly from any limitations you found while conducting your work, offering concrete and actionable possibilities for how future research can build on anything that your own work was unable to address at the time of your writing.

See below for a full research recommendation example that you can use as a template to write your own.

Recommendation in research example

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While it may be tempting to present new arguments or evidence in your thesis or disseration conclusion , especially if you have a particularly striking argument you’d like to finish your analysis with, you shouldn’t. Theses and dissertations follow a more formal structure than this.

All your findings and arguments should be presented in the body of the text (more specifically in the discussion section and results section .) The conclusion is meant to summarize and reflect on the evidence and arguments you have already presented, not introduce new ones.

The conclusion of your thesis or dissertation should include the following:

  • A restatement of your research question
  • A summary of your key arguments and/or results
  • A short discussion of the implications of your research

For a stronger dissertation conclusion , avoid including:

  • Important evidence or analysis that wasn’t mentioned in the discussion section and results section
  • Generic concluding phrases (e.g. “In conclusion …”)
  • Weak statements that undermine your argument (e.g., “There are good points on both sides of this issue.”)

Your conclusion should leave the reader with a strong, decisive impression of your work.

In a thesis or dissertation, the discussion is an in-depth exploration of the results, going into detail about the meaning of your findings and citing relevant sources to put them in context.

The conclusion is more shorter and more general: it concisely answers your main research question and makes recommendations based on your overall findings.

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Headlight Consulting Services

Findings, Conclusions, and Recommendations Matrices

September 16, 2020

By: Chelsie Kuhn, MEL Associate, Headlight Consulting Services, LLP

This blog post is the last in a series about qualitative methods.

Up to this point, our series has covered thoughts on qualitative rigor truths , things to keep in mind for implementation , and recommendations to help with qualitative data analysis software and coding setup considerations. To close out the series, we wanted to share one of our other best practices and deliverables to demonstrate how we organize the qualitative process–the Findings, Conclusions, and Recommendations Matrix.

A Findings, Conclusions, and Recommendations (FCR) Matrix is an easy tool to implement when going through the qualitative analysis process after coding your dataset to make reports more accessible for readers. If filled in properly, it should mostly write your report for you, only requiring the report author(s) to expand on a few pieces and integrate illustrative quotes along the way. It can serve as a check on the analysis process–a more experienced analyst/evaluator can look at the matrix quickly and see if the conclusions in the table are logically based on what the findings are saying. The FCR Matrix can also serve as a check to make sure that your recommendations are actionable and proportionate to the evidence.

Step One : Build the Tool

At Headlight, when we want to organize our qualitative analysis process after the primary coding is complete, we start by building out a tool in Excel/Google Sheets to use with all of the columns needed for our data analysis. By setting up a basic framework, the analyst can then focus on filling in the columns and rows accordingly without worry that they are missing something needed for the final report in the process. For those working with multiple analysts or internal reviewers, generating this tool in Google Sheets or another collaborative software from the beginning will be helpful later if/when multiple people need to access the document simultaneously, either to fill in the document or to test the logic flow among findings, conclusions, and recommendations.

Step Two : Focus on Scaffolding the Main Worksheet

When we use an FCR matrix as part of our analysis process, the main overarching sheet is devoted to the compiled matrix with columns for findings, conclusions, and recommendations, and with a row for each triangulated theme from the evaluation, case study, Learning Review, or another data-driven effort. Wait to enter any themes from your effort until you have gone through steps three and four that way you are only incorporating themes that have been triangulated.

Themes are generally a variant on what analysts were originally coding for, so sometimes this mimics the evaluation questions, or sometimes it comes from an emergent theme that showed up during the analysis. In the example above, you can see that the sample data were likely coded for any positive enabling environment factors that contributed to desired results. Oftentimes, these themes help organize the sections in the final report based on the priority of findings and any actionable evidence for the client.

Step Three: Integrate the Analysis Summary Sheet and Triangulate

On a separate Excel sheet or tab, include the code count summary worksheets directly from your qualitative analysis software. This should include trend names/code names and code counts. To this, the analyst will want to add columns for triangulation details (a simple Yes/No dichotomy works here), the number of sources where the code was applied, relevant notes for the trend, and a column of if it should be included in the FCR Matrix. The trend names can be modified from the direct code applied to add more nuance, as these trend names will ideally be used for headings and sub-headings for your report. By pulling the trend names with code counts, analysts can get a sense of how much triangulating they need to work on. Every trend with a code count of at least three ought to be checked for triangulation, meaning the code was applied (and applied properly) across three or more sources . If the trend is triangulated, then the analyst should mark the triangulation details and FCR Matrix inclusion columns as “Yes,” and begin secondary analysis before moving any trends and findings to the overarching Excel sheet.

Step Four : Complete Secondary Analysis

For triangulated themes, we also include separate additional worksheets for secondary analysis where analysts can identify sub-themes, apply secondary codes, and expand upon primary coding of data with as much nuance as much as possible. In our process at Headlight, each triangulated theme goes through secondary coding of the exported excerpts from Dedoose copied into the Excel worksheets directly. We will expand more on this in a future series on Learning Reviews, but for secondary analysis, an analyst goes through excerpt-by-excerpt for each theme to find the highest level of detail that can be incorporated into the findings in the FCR Matrix, and ultimately, the end report for the client. The benefit of being able to share more detailed findings with the client is worth the extra time that it takes to do secondary coding, as it allows for another layer of specification about sub-trends and incorporates an additional check on rigor. Once the triangulation and secondary analysis have been completed, the next step is for the analyst to carry over the triangulated trends and their respective findings to input into the main overarching worksheet created in the beginning.

Step Five : Carry Over the Findings

In the overarching sheet, start to fill in the names of each triangulated trend and their associated findings. By devoting separate columns to each component (findings, conclusions, and recommendations), analysts can ensure that findings are just that– triangulated and validated data without any added interpretation . As you can see in the example above, we typically use “ x number of excerpts across y number of sources” language to keep our findings as clear and undiluted as possible. Just what the data state. Often in qualitative analysis, it can be hard to patiently assess data without jumping to conclusions, but additions at this stage are often unfounded assumptions that can detract from the actual findings and can harm the rigor and validity of the analysis. To avoid the blur between findings and conclusions, we recommend that you go through moving over the trends and stating all of the findings first, then once that’s complete, analysts can move to the next step to build-out conclusions.

Step Six : From Findings, Move to Conclusions

With findings covered, the conclusions column creates space for natural evolution and interpretation of the “so what?” behind the findings. This is the space where any interpretation gets added to make sense of the findings in the bigger picture. Conclusions can be built based on one finding for a theme, or they can build upon multiple, similar themes when the data points to interrelated conclusions. For example, if sufficient data show that a positive enabling environment affects one of the other themes, say the timely deployment of resources, you could conclude that it is likely that timely deployment of resources is magnified when communication systems are working (an enabling environment factor). Because this is the component for making sense of the findings, it will be lengthier than the findings column. And keep in mind, the more explaining done in this column about what the findings mean, the easier it will be to translate this analysis work directly into a data-driven report for a client.

Step Seven : Make Recommendations

Once all the conclusions have been incorporated, the recommendations column provides the next step in the analysis chain, answering the “now what?” from the conclusions that have been made. In order to build on things that work or change things that pose challenges, what would you recommend that the client do next? When making recommendations, they need to be framed in ways that make them specific and actionable so that they can be acted upon. 

  • A recommendation that’s too broad: Invest more resources in staff
  • A recommendation that’s just right: Invest more resources in improving operational enabling environment factors, specifically on capacity-building for staff around project management and business management best practices. If capacity building efforts are paired with establishing and training on standard operating procedures for core communications and operations processes, this can greatly improve efficiencies.

While writing the report, authors may need to expand to give a recommendation more context, but the majority of the recommendations section should come directly from the FCR Matrix to ensure that they are tied to the findings.

Step Eight : Review the FCR Matrix and Check Logic Flows

With the Findings, Conclusions, and Recommendations columns complete for each of the trends, the final step in the process is to go back and review the matrix to ensure accurate capture. Are the findings actually just findings, or are conclusions blurred into them? Are there any recommendations included in the conclusions section where they shouldn’t be? Being sure that each distinct component is only in the column where it belongs is a best practice, and it gets our clients used to seeing the distinctions for their own work. With things in their appropriate columns, take one last look or have a colleague review the logic flowing through each of the themes to make sure everything makes sense. If everything checks out, then you have a completed FCR Matrix ready to use.

Why the rigor is worth the squeeze

Using the FCR Matrix not only serves as a way to organize and scaffold the analysis and interpretation process, but it also provides clear documentation to include with any deliverables for the client that they can refer back to if they have any questions. It is important to note that although this tool helps set up the organization of the process, it entirely depends on the user to keep the content in each of the findings, conclusions, and recommendations discrete and appropriately separated. This can be hard to do as even more-experienced folks in the field can have trouble slowing down enough to separate findings from conclusions. Doing it this way helps prevent us from making assumptions, and once we can get that part down, the matrix sets up a clear, logical flow that makes qualitative work more rigorous, reliable, and actionable.

While this is our last post explicitly in the qualitative series, be on the lookout for more related content in the future as we will continue writing on this topic. If you have liked our blog so far and want to be alerted when a new post is published,  subscribe to our email notifications . For other questions, please reach out to us at < [email protected] >.

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How to Write a Conclusion for Research Papers (with Examples)

How to Write a Conclusion for Research Papers (with Examples)

The conclusion of a research paper is a crucial section that plays a significant role in the overall impact and effectiveness of your research paper. However, this is also the section that typically receives less attention compared to the introduction and the body of the paper. The conclusion serves to provide a concise summary of the key findings, their significance, their implications, and a sense of closure to the study. Discussing how can the findings be applied in real-world scenarios or inform policy, practice, or decision-making is especially valuable to practitioners and policymakers. The research paper conclusion also provides researchers with clear insights and valuable information for their own work, which they can then build on and contribute to the advancement of knowledge in the field.

The research paper conclusion should explain the significance of your findings within the broader context of your field. It restates how your results contribute to the existing body of knowledge and whether they confirm or challenge existing theories or hypotheses. Also, by identifying unanswered questions or areas requiring further investigation, your awareness of the broader research landscape can be demonstrated.

Remember to tailor the research paper conclusion to the specific needs and interests of your intended audience, which may include researchers, practitioners, policymakers, or a combination of these.

Table of Contents

What is a conclusion in a research paper, summarizing conclusion, editorial conclusion, externalizing conclusion, importance of a good research paper conclusion, how to write a conclusion for your research paper, research paper conclusion examples, frequently asked questions.

A conclusion in a research paper is the final section where you summarize and wrap up your research, presenting the key findings and insights derived from your study. The research paper conclusion is not the place to introduce new information or data that was not discussed in the main body of the paper. When working on how to conclude a research paper, remember to stick to summarizing and interpreting existing content. The research paper conclusion serves the following purposes: 1

  • Warn readers of the possible consequences of not attending to the problem.
  • Recommend specific course(s) of action.
  • Restate key ideas to drive home the ultimate point of your research paper.
  • Provide a “take-home” message that you want the readers to remember about your study.

what is findings conclusions and recommendations

Types of conclusions for research papers

In research papers, the conclusion provides closure to the reader. The type of research paper conclusion you choose depends on the nature of your study, your goals, and your target audience. I provide you with three common types of conclusions:

A summarizing conclusion is the most common type of conclusion in research papers. It involves summarizing the main points, reiterating the research question, and restating the significance of the findings. This common type of research paper conclusion is used across different disciplines.

An editorial conclusion is less common but can be used in research papers that are focused on proposing or advocating for a particular viewpoint or policy. It involves presenting a strong editorial or opinion based on the research findings and offering recommendations or calls to action.

An externalizing conclusion is a type of conclusion that extends the research beyond the scope of the paper by suggesting potential future research directions or discussing the broader implications of the findings. This type of conclusion is often used in more theoretical or exploratory research papers.

The conclusion in a research paper serves several important purposes:

  • Offers Implications and Recommendations : Your research paper conclusion is an excellent place to discuss the broader implications of your research and suggest potential areas for further study. It’s also an opportunity to offer practical recommendations based on your findings.
  • Provides Closure : A good research paper conclusion provides a sense of closure to your paper. It should leave the reader with a feeling that they have reached the end of a well-structured and thought-provoking research project.
  • Leaves a Lasting Impression : Writing a well-crafted research paper conclusion leaves a lasting impression on your readers. It’s your final opportunity to leave them with a new idea, a call to action, or a memorable quote.

what is findings conclusions and recommendations

Writing a strong conclusion for your research paper is essential to leave a lasting impression on your readers. Here’s a step-by-step process to help you create and know what to put in the conclusion of a research paper: 2

  • Research Statement : Begin your research paper conclusion by restating your research statement. This reminds the reader of the main point you’ve been trying to prove throughout your paper. Keep it concise and clear.
  • Key Points : Summarize the main arguments and key points you’ve made in your paper. Avoid introducing new information in the research paper conclusion. Instead, provide a concise overview of what you’ve discussed in the body of your paper.
  • Address the Research Questions : If your research paper is based on specific research questions or hypotheses, briefly address whether you’ve answered them or achieved your research goals. Discuss the significance of your findings in this context.
  • Significance : Highlight the importance of your research and its relevance in the broader context. Explain why your findings matter and how they contribute to the existing knowledge in your field.
  • Implications : Explore the practical or theoretical implications of your research. How might your findings impact future research, policy, or real-world applications? Consider the “so what?” question.
  • Future Research : Offer suggestions for future research in your area. What questions or aspects remain unanswered or warrant further investigation? This shows that your work opens the door for future exploration.
  • Closing Thought : Conclude your research paper conclusion with a thought-provoking or memorable statement. This can leave a lasting impression on your readers and wrap up your paper effectively. Avoid introducing new information or arguments here.
  • Proofread and Revise : Carefully proofread your conclusion for grammar, spelling, and clarity. Ensure that your ideas flow smoothly and that your conclusion is coherent and well-structured.

Remember that a well-crafted research paper conclusion is a reflection of the strength of your research and your ability to communicate its significance effectively. It should leave a lasting impression on your readers and tie together all the threads of your paper. Now you know how to start the conclusion of a research paper and what elements to include to make it impactful, let’s look at a research paper conclusion sample.

what is findings conclusions and recommendations

The research paper conclusion is a crucial part of your paper as it provides the final opportunity to leave a strong impression on your readers. In the research paper conclusion, summarize the main points of your research paper by restating your research statement, highlighting the most important findings, addressing the research questions or objectives, explaining the broader context of the study, discussing the significance of your findings, providing recommendations if applicable, and emphasizing the takeaway message. The main purpose of the conclusion is to remind the reader of the main point or argument of your paper and to provide a clear and concise summary of the key findings and their implications. All these elements should feature on your list of what to put in the conclusion of a research paper to create a strong final statement for your work.

A strong conclusion is a critical component of a research paper, as it provides an opportunity to wrap up your arguments, reiterate your main points, and leave a lasting impression on your readers. Here are the key elements of a strong research paper conclusion: 1. Conciseness : A research paper conclusion should be concise and to the point. It should not introduce new information or ideas that were not discussed in the body of the paper. 2. Summarization : The research paper conclusion should be comprehensive enough to give the reader a clear understanding of the research’s main contributions. 3 . Relevance : Ensure that the information included in the research paper conclusion is directly relevant to the research paper’s main topic and objectives; avoid unnecessary details. 4 . Connection to the Introduction : A well-structured research paper conclusion often revisits the key points made in the introduction and shows how the research has addressed the initial questions or objectives. 5. Emphasis : Highlight the significance and implications of your research. Why is your study important? What are the broader implications or applications of your findings? 6 . Call to Action : Include a call to action or a recommendation for future research or action based on your findings.

The length of a research paper conclusion can vary depending on several factors, including the overall length of the paper, the complexity of the research, and the specific journal requirements. While there is no strict rule for the length of a conclusion, but it’s generally advisable to keep it relatively short. A typical research paper conclusion might be around 5-10% of the paper’s total length. For example, if your paper is 10 pages long, the conclusion might be roughly half a page to one page in length.

In general, you do not need to include citations in the research paper conclusion. Citations are typically reserved for the body of the paper to support your arguments and provide evidence for your claims. However, there may be some exceptions to this rule: 1. If you are drawing a direct quote or paraphrasing a specific source in your research paper conclusion, you should include a citation to give proper credit to the original author. 2. If your conclusion refers to or discusses specific research, data, or sources that are crucial to the overall argument, citations can be included to reinforce your conclusion’s validity.

The conclusion of a research paper serves several important purposes: 1. Summarize the Key Points 2. Reinforce the Main Argument 3. Provide Closure 4. Offer Insights or Implications 5. Engage the Reader. 6. Reflect on Limitations

Remember that the primary purpose of the research paper conclusion is to leave a lasting impression on the reader, reinforcing the key points and providing closure to your research. It’s often the last part of the paper that the reader will see, so it should be strong and well-crafted.

  • Makar, G., Foltz, C., Lendner, M., & Vaccaro, A. R. (2018). How to write effective discussion and conclusion sections. Clinical spine surgery, 31(8), 345-346.
  • Bunton, D. (2005). The structure of PhD conclusion chapters.  Journal of English for academic purposes ,  4 (3), 207-224.

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The conclusion is intended to help the reader understand why your research should matter to them after they have finished reading the paper. A conclusion is not merely a summary of the main topics covered or a re-statement of your research problem, but a synthesis of key points and, if applicable, where you recommend new areas for future research. For most college-level research papers, one or two well-developed paragraphs is sufficient for a conclusion, although in some cases, more paragraphs may be required in summarizing key findings and their significance.

Conclusions. The Writing Center. University of North Carolina; Conclusions. The Writing Lab and The OWL. Purdue University.

Importance of a Good Conclusion

A well-written conclusion provides you with important opportunities to demonstrate to the reader your understanding of the research problem. These include:

  • Presenting the last word on the issues you raised in your paper . Just as the introduction gives a first impression to your reader, the conclusion offers a chance to leave a lasting impression. Do this, for example, by highlighting key findings in your analysis that advance new understanding about the research problem, that are unusual or unexpected, or that have important implications applied to practice.
  • Summarizing your thoughts and conveying the larger significance of your study . The conclusion is an opportunity to succinctly re-emphasize  the "So What?" question by placing the study within the context of how your research advances past research about the topic.
  • Identifying how a gap in the literature has been addressed . The conclusion can be where you describe how a previously identified gap in the literature [described in your literature review section] has been filled by your research.
  • Demonstrating the importance of your ideas . Don't be shy. The conclusion offers you the opportunity to elaborate on the impact and significance of your findings. This is particularly important if your study approached examining the research problem from an unusual or innovative perspective.
  • Introducing possible new or expanded ways of thinking about the research problem . This does not refer to introducing new information [which should be avoided], but to offer new insight and creative approaches for framing or contextualizing the research problem based on the results of your study.

Bunton, David. “The Structure of PhD Conclusion Chapters.” Journal of English for Academic Purposes 4 (July 2005): 207–224; Conclusions. The Writing Center. University of North Carolina; Kretchmer, Paul. Twelve Steps to Writing an Effective Conclusion. San Francisco Edit, 2003-2008; Conclusions. The Writing Lab and The OWL. Purdue University; Assan, Joseph. "Writing the Conclusion Chapter: The Good, the Bad and the Missing." Liverpool: Development Studies Association (2009): 1-8.

Structure and Writing Style

I.  General Rules

The function of your paper's conclusion is to restate the main argument . It reminds the reader of the strengths of your main argument(s) and reiterates the most important evidence supporting those argument(s). Do this by stating clearly the context, background, and necessity of pursuing the research problem you investigated in relation to an issue, controversy, or a gap found in the literature. Make sure, however, that your conclusion is not simply a repetitive summary of the findings. This reduces the impact of the argument(s) you have developed in your essay.

When writing the conclusion to your paper, follow these general rules:

  • Present your conclusions in clear, simple language. Re-state the purpose of your study, then describe how your findings differ or support those of other studies and why [i.e., what were the unique or new contributions your study made to the overall research about your topic?].
  • Do not simply reiterate your findings or the discussion of your results. Provide a synthesis of arguments presented in the paper to show how these converge to address the research problem and the overall objectives of your study.
  • Indicate opportunities for future research if you haven't already done so in the discussion section of your paper. Highlighting the need for further research provides the reader with evidence that you have an in-depth awareness of the research problem and that further investigations should take place.

Consider the following points to help ensure your conclusion is presented well:

  • If the argument or purpose of your paper is complex, you may need to summarize the argument for your reader.
  • If, prior to your conclusion, you have not yet explained the significance of your findings or if you are proceeding inductively, use the end of your paper to describe your main points and explain their significance.
  • Move from a detailed to a general level of consideration that returns the topic to the context provided by the introduction or within a new context that emerges from the data. 

The conclusion also provides a place for you to persuasively and succinctly restate the research problem, given that the reader has now been presented with all the information about the topic . Depending on the discipline you are writing in, the concluding paragraph may contain your reflections on the evidence presented. However, the nature of being introspective about the research you have conducted will depend on the topic and whether your professor wants you to express your observations in this way.

NOTE : If asked to think introspectively about the topics, do not delve into idle speculation. Being introspective means looking within yourself as an author to try and understand an issue more deeply, not to guess at possible outcomes or make up scenarios not supported by the evidence.

II.  Developing a Compelling Conclusion

Although an effective conclusion needs to be clear and succinct, it does not need to be written passively or lack a compelling narrative. Strategies to help you move beyond merely summarizing the key points of your research paper may include any of the following strategies:

  • If your essay deals with a critical, contemporary problem, warn readers of the possible consequences of not attending to the problem proactively.
  • Recommend a specific course or courses of action that, if adopted, could address a specific problem in practice or in the development of new knowledge.
  • Cite a relevant quotation or expert opinion already noted in your paper in order to lend authority and support to the conclusion(s) you have reached [a good place to look is research from your literature review].
  • Explain the consequences of your research in a way that elicits action or demonstrates urgency in seeking change.
  • Restate a key statistic, fact, or visual image to emphasize the most important finding of your paper.
  • If your discipline encourages personal reflection, illustrate your concluding point by drawing from your own life experiences.
  • Return to an anecdote, an example, or a quotation that you presented in your introduction, but add further insight derived from the findings of your study; use your interpretation of results to recast it in new or important ways.
  • Provide a "take-home" message in the form of a succinct, declarative statement that you want the reader to remember about your study.

III. Problems to Avoid

Failure to be concise Your conclusion section should be concise and to the point. Conclusions that are too lengthy often have unnecessary information in them. The conclusion is not the place for details about your methodology or results. Although you should give a summary of what was learned from your research, this summary should be relatively brief, since the emphasis in the conclusion is on the implications, evaluations, insights, and other forms of analysis that you make. Strategies for writing concisely can be found here .

Failure to comment on larger, more significant issues In the introduction, your task was to move from the general [the field of study] to the specific [the research problem]. However, in the conclusion, your task is to move from a specific discussion [your research problem] back to a general discussion [i.e., how your research contributes new understanding or fills an important gap in the literature]. In short, the conclusion is where you should place your research within a larger context [visualize your paper as an hourglass--start with a broad introduction and review of the literature, move to the specific analysis and discussion, conclude with a broad summary of the study's implications and significance].

Failure to reveal problems and negative results Negative aspects of the research process should never be ignored. These are problems, deficiencies, or challenges encountered during your study should be summarized as a way of qualifying your overall conclusions. If you encountered negative or unintended results [i.e., findings that are validated outside the research context in which they were generated], you must report them in the results section and discuss their implications in the discussion section of your paper. In the conclusion, use your summary of the negative results as an opportunity to explain their possible significance and/or how they may form the basis for future research.

Failure to provide a clear summary of what was learned In order to be able to discuss how your research fits within your field of study [and possibly the world at large], you need to summarize briefly and succinctly how it contributes to new knowledge or a new understanding about the research problem. This element of your conclusion may be only a few sentences long.

Failure to match the objectives of your research Often research objectives in the social sciences change while the research is being carried out. This is not a problem unless you forget to go back and refine the original objectives in your introduction. As these changes emerge they must be documented so that they accurately reflect what you were trying to accomplish in your research [not what you thought you might accomplish when you began].

Resist the urge to apologize If you've immersed yourself in studying the research problem, you presumably should know a good deal about it [perhaps even more than your professor!]. Nevertheless, by the time you have finished writing, you may be having some doubts about what you have produced. Repress those doubts! Don't undermine your authority by saying something like, "This is just one approach to examining this problem; there may be other, much better approaches that...." The overall tone of your conclusion should convey confidence to the reader.

Assan, Joseph. "Writing the Conclusion Chapter: The Good, the Bad and the Missing." Liverpool: Development Studies Association (2009): 1-8; Concluding Paragraphs. College Writing Center at Meramec. St. Louis Community College; Conclusions. The Writing Center. University of North Carolina; Conclusions. The Writing Lab and The OWL. Purdue University; Freedman, Leora  and Jerry Plotnick. Introductions and Conclusions. The Lab Report. University College Writing Centre. University of Toronto; Leibensperger, Summer. Draft Your Conclusion. Academic Center, the University of Houston-Victoria, 2003; Make Your Last Words Count. The Writer’s Handbook. Writing Center. University of Wisconsin Madison; Miquel, Fuster-Marquez and Carmen Gregori-Signes. “Chapter Six: ‘Last but Not Least:’ Writing the Conclusion of Your Paper.” In Writing an Applied Linguistics Thesis or Dissertation: A Guide to Presenting Empirical Research . John Bitchener, editor. (Basingstoke,UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010), pp. 93-105; Tips for Writing a Good Conclusion. Writing@CSU. Colorado State University; Kretchmer, Paul. Twelve Steps to Writing an Effective Conclusion. San Francisco Edit, 2003-2008; Writing Conclusions. Writing Tutorial Services, Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning. Indiana University; Writing: Considering Structure and Organization. Institute for Writing Rhetoric. Dartmouth College.

Writing Tip

Don't Belabor the Obvious!

Avoid phrases like "in conclusion...," "in summary...," or "in closing...." These phrases can be useful, even welcome, in oral presentations. But readers can see by the tell-tale section heading and number of pages remaining to read, when an essay is about to end. You'll irritate your readers if you belabor the obvious.

Assan, Joseph. "Writing the Conclusion Chapter: The Good, the Bad and the Missing." Liverpool: Development Studies Association (2009): 1-8.

Another Writing Tip

New Insight, Not New Information!

Don't surprise the reader with new information in your conclusion that was never referenced anywhere else in the paper and, as such, the conclusion rarely has citations to sources. If you have new information to present, add it to the discussion or other appropriate section of the paper. Note that, although no actual new information is introduced, the conclusion, along with the discussion section, is where you offer your most "original" contributions in the paper; the conclusion is where you describe the value of your research, demonstrate that you understand the material that you’ve presented, and locate your findings within the larger context of scholarship on the topic, including describing how your research contributes new insights or valuable insight to that scholarship.

Assan, Joseph. "Writing the Conclusion Chapter: The Good, the Bad and the Missing." Liverpool: Development Studies Association (2009): 1-8; Conclusions. The Writing Center. University of North Carolina.

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How To Write The Conclusion Chapter

The what, why & how explained simply (with examples).

By: Jenna Crossley (PhD Cand). Reviewed By: Dr. Eunice Rautenbach | September 2021

So, you’ve wrapped up your results and discussion chapters, and you’re finally on the home stretch – the conclusion chapter . In this post, we’ll discuss everything you need to know to craft a high-quality conclusion chapter for your dissertation or thesis project.

Overview: Dissertation Conclusion Chapter

  • What the thesis/dissertation conclusion chapter is
  • What to include in your conclusion chapter
  • How to structure and write up your conclusion chapter
  • A few tips  to help you ace the chapter

What exactly is the conclusion chapter?

The conclusion chapter is typically the final major chapter of a dissertation or thesis. As such, it serves as a concluding summary of your research findings and wraps up the document. While some publications such as journal articles and research reports combine the discussion and conclusion sections, these are typically separate chapters in a dissertation or thesis. As always, be sure to check what your university’s structural preference is before you start writing up these chapters.

So, what’s the difference between the discussion and the conclusion chapter?

Well, the two chapters are quite similar , as they both discuss the key findings of the study. However, the conclusion chapter is typically more general and high-level in nature. In your discussion chapter, you’ll typically discuss the intricate details of your study, but in your conclusion chapter, you’ll take a   broader perspective, reporting on the main research outcomes and how these addressed your research aim (or aims) .

A core function of the conclusion chapter is to synthesise all major points covered in your study and to tell the reader what they should take away from your work. Basically, you need to tell them what you found , why it’s valuable , how it can be applied , and what further research can be done.

Whatever you do, don’t just copy and paste what you’ve written in your discussion chapter! The conclusion chapter should not be a simple rehash of the discussion chapter. While the two chapters are similar, they have distinctly different functions.  

Discussion chapter vs conclusion chapter

What should I include in the conclusion chapter?

To understand what needs to go into your conclusion chapter, it’s useful to understand what the chapter needs to achieve. In general, a good dissertation conclusion chapter should achieve the following:

  • Summarise the key findings of the study
  • Explicitly answer the research question(s) and address the research aims
  • Inform the reader of the study’s main contributions
  • Discuss any limitations or weaknesses of the study
  • Present recommendations for future research

Therefore, your conclusion chapter needs to cover these core components. Importantly, you need to be careful not to include any new findings or data points. Your conclusion chapter should be based purely on data and analysis findings that you’ve already presented in the earlier chapters. If there’s a new point you want to introduce, you’ll need to go back to your results and discussion chapters to weave the foundation in there.

In many cases, readers will jump from the introduction chapter directly to the conclusions chapter to get a quick overview of the study’s purpose and key findings. Therefore, when you write up your conclusion chapter, it’s useful to assume that the reader hasn’t consumed the inner chapters of your dissertation or thesis. In other words, craft your conclusion chapter such that there’s a strong connection and smooth flow between the introduction and conclusion chapters, even though they’re on opposite ends of your document.

Need a helping hand?

what is findings conclusions and recommendations

How to write the conclusion chapter

Now that you have a clearer view of what the conclusion chapter is about, let’s break down the structure of this chapter so that you can get writing. Keep in mind that this is merely a typical structure – it’s not set in stone or universal. Some universities will prefer that you cover some of these points in the discussion chapter , or that you cover the points at different levels in different chapters.

Step 1: Craft a brief introduction section

As with all chapters in your dissertation or thesis, the conclusions chapter needs to start with a brief introduction. In this introductory section, you’ll want to tell the reader what they can expect to find in the chapter, and in what order . Here’s an example of what this might look like:

This chapter will conclude the study by summarising the key research findings in relation to the research aims and questions and discussing the value and contribution thereof. It will also review the limitations of the study and propose opportunities for future research.

Importantly, the objective here is just to give the reader a taste of what’s to come (a roadmap of sorts), not a summary of the chapter. So, keep it short and sweet – a paragraph or two should be ample.

Step 2: Discuss the overall findings in relation to the research aims

The next step in writing your conclusions chapter is to discuss the overall findings of your study , as they relate to the research aims and research questions . You would have likely covered similar ground in the discussion chapter, so it’s important to zoom out a little bit here and focus on the broader findings – specifically, how these help address the research aims .

In practical terms, it’s useful to start this section by reminding your reader of your research aims and research questions, so that the findings are well contextualised. In this section, phrases such as, “This study aimed to…” and “the results indicate that…” will likely come in handy. For example, you could say something like the following:

This study aimed to investigate the feeding habits of the naked mole-rat. The results indicate that naked mole rats feed on underground roots and tubers. Further findings show that these creatures eat only a part of the plant, leaving essential parts to ensure long-term food stability.

Be careful not to make overly bold claims here. Avoid claims such as “this study proves that” or “the findings disprove existing the existing theory”. It’s seldom the case that a single study can prove or disprove something. Typically, this is achieved by a broader body of research, not a single study – especially not a dissertation or thesis which will inherently have significant and limitations. We’ll discuss those limitations a little later.

Dont make overly bold claims in your dissertation conclusion

Step 3: Discuss how your study contributes to the field

Next, you’ll need to discuss how your research has contributed to the field – both in terms of theory and practice . This involves talking about what you achieved in your study, highlighting why this is important and valuable, and how it can be used or applied.

In this section you’ll want to:

  • Mention any research outputs created as a result of your study (e.g., articles, publications, etc.)
  • Inform the reader on just how your research solves your research problem , and why that matters
  • Reflect on gaps in the existing research and discuss how your study contributes towards addressing these gaps
  • Discuss your study in relation to relevant theories . For example, does it confirm these theories or constructively challenge them?
  • Discuss how your research findings can be applied in the real world . For example, what specific actions can practitioners take, based on your findings?

Be careful to strike a careful balance between being firm but humble in your arguments here. It’s unlikely that your one study will fundamentally change paradigms or shake up the discipline, so making claims to this effect will be frowned upon . At the same time though, you need to present your arguments with confidence, firmly asserting the contribution your research has made, however small that contribution may be. Simply put, you need to keep it balanced .

Keep it balanced

Step 4: Reflect on the limitations of your study

Now that you’ve pumped your research up, the next step is to critically reflect on the limitations and potential shortcomings of your study. You may have already covered this in the discussion chapter, depending on your university’s structural preferences, so be careful not to repeat yourself unnecessarily.

There are many potential limitations that can apply to any given study. Some common ones include:

  • Sampling issues that reduce the generalisability of the findings (e.g., non-probability sampling )
  • Insufficient sample size (e.g., not getting enough survey responses ) or limited data access
  • Low-resolution data collection or analysis techniques
  • Researcher bias or lack of experience
  • Lack of access to research equipment
  • Time constraints that limit the methodology (e.g. cross-sectional vs longitudinal time horizon)
  • Budget constraints that limit various aspects of the study

Discussing the limitations of your research may feel self-defeating (no one wants to highlight their weaknesses, right), but it’s a critical component of high-quality research. It’s important to appreciate that all studies have limitations (even well-funded studies by expert researchers) – therefore acknowledging these limitations adds credibility to your research by showing that you understand the limitations of your research design .

That being said, keep an eye on your wording and make sure that you don’t undermine your research . It’s important to strike a balance between recognising the limitations, but also highlighting the value of your research despite those limitations. Show the reader that you understand the limitations, that these were justified given your constraints, and that you know how they can be improved upon – this will get you marks.

You have to justify every choice in your dissertation defence

Next, you’ll need to make recommendations for future studies. This will largely be built on the limitations you just discussed. For example, if one of your study’s weaknesses was related to a specific data collection or analysis method, you can make a recommendation that future researchers undertake similar research using a more sophisticated method.

Another potential source of future research recommendations is any data points or analysis findings that were interesting or surprising , but not directly related to your study’s research aims and research questions. So, if you observed anything that “stood out” in your analysis, but you didn’t explore it in your discussion (due to a lack of relevance to your research aims), you can earmark that for further exploration in this section.

Essentially, this section is an opportunity to outline how other researchers can build on your study to take the research further and help develop the body of knowledge. So, think carefully about the new questions that your study has raised, and clearly outline these for future researchers to pick up on.

Step 6: Wrap up with a closing summary

Quick tips for a top-notch conclusion chapter

Now that we’ve covered the what , why and how of the conclusion chapter, here are some quick tips and suggestions to help you craft a rock-solid conclusion.

  • Don’t ramble . The conclusion chapter usually consumes 5-7% of the total word count (although this will vary between universities), so you need to be concise. Edit this chapter thoroughly with a focus on brevity and clarity.
  • Be very careful about the claims you make in terms of your study’s contribution. Nothing will make the marker’s eyes roll back faster than exaggerated or unfounded claims. Be humble but firm in your claim-making.
  • Use clear and simple language that can be easily understood by an intelligent layman. Remember that not every reader will be an expert in your field, so it’s important to make your writing accessible. Bear in mind that no one knows your research better than you do, so it’s important to spell things out clearly for readers.

Hopefully, this post has given you some direction and confidence to take on the conclusion chapter of your dissertation or thesis with confidence. If you’re still feeling a little shaky and need a helping hand, consider booking a free initial consultation with a friendly Grad Coach to discuss how we can help you with hands-on, private coaching.

what is findings conclusions and recommendations

Psst… there’s more (for free)

This post is part of our dissertation mini-course, which covers everything you need to get started with your dissertation, thesis or research project. 

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How to write the discussion chapter

17 Comments

Abebayehu

Really you team are doing great!

Mohapi-Mothae

Your guide on writing the concluding chapter of a research is really informative especially to the beginners who really do not know where to start. Im now ready to start. Keep it up guys

Really your team are doing great!

Solomon Abeba

Very helpful guidelines, timely saved. Thanks so much for the tips.

Mazvita Chikutukutu

This post was very helpful and informative. Thank you team.

Moses Ndlovu

A very enjoyable, understandable and crisp presentation on how to write a conclusion chapter. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Thanks Jenna.

Dee

This was a very helpful article which really gave me practical pointers for my concluding chapter. Keep doing what you are doing! It meant a lot to me to be able to have this guide. Thank you so much.

Suresh Tukaram Telvekar

Nice content dealing with the conclusion chapter, it’s a relief after the streneous task of completing discussion part.Thanks for valuable guidance

Musa Balonde

Thanks for your guidance

Asan

I get all my doubts clarified regarding the conclusion chapter. It’s really amazing. Many thanks.

vera

Very helpful tips. Thanks so much for the guidance

Sam Mwaniki

Thank you very much for this piece. It offers a very helpful starting point in writing the conclusion chapter of my thesis.

Abdullahi Maude

It’s awesome! Most useful and timely too. Thanks a million times

Abueng

Bundle of thanks for your guidance. It was greatly helpful.

Rebecca

Wonderful, clear, practical guidance. So grateful to read this as I conclude my research. Thank you.

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  • How to Write Discussions and Conclusions

How to Write Discussions and Conclusions

The discussion section contains the results and outcomes of a study. An effective discussion informs readers what can be learned from your experiment and provides context for the results.

What makes an effective discussion?

When you’re ready to write your discussion, you’ve already introduced the purpose of your study and provided an in-depth description of the methodology. The discussion informs readers about the larger implications of your study based on the results. Highlighting these implications while not overstating the findings can be challenging, especially when you’re submitting to a journal that selects articles based on novelty or potential impact. Regardless of what journal you are submitting to, the discussion section always serves the same purpose: concluding what your study results actually mean.

A successful discussion section puts your findings in context. It should include:

  • the results of your research,
  • a discussion of related research, and
  • a comparison between your results and initial hypothesis.

Tip: Not all journals share the same naming conventions.

You can apply the advice in this article to the conclusion, results or discussion sections of your manuscript.

Our Early Career Researcher community tells us that the conclusion is often considered the most difficult aspect of a manuscript to write. To help, this guide provides questions to ask yourself, a basic structure to model your discussion off of and examples from published manuscripts. 

what is findings conclusions and recommendations

Questions to ask yourself:

  • Was my hypothesis correct?
  • If my hypothesis is partially correct or entirely different, what can be learned from the results? 
  • How do the conclusions reshape or add onto the existing knowledge in the field? What does previous research say about the topic? 
  • Why are the results important or relevant to your audience? Do they add further evidence to a scientific consensus or disprove prior studies? 
  • How can future research build on these observations? What are the key experiments that must be done? 
  • What is the “take-home” message you want your reader to leave with?

How to structure a discussion

Trying to fit a complete discussion into a single paragraph can add unnecessary stress to the writing process. If possible, you’ll want to give yourself two or three paragraphs to give the reader a comprehensive understanding of your study as a whole. Here’s one way to structure an effective discussion:

what is findings conclusions and recommendations

Writing Tips

While the above sections can help you brainstorm and structure your discussion, there are many common mistakes that writers revert to when having difficulties with their paper. Writing a discussion can be a delicate balance between summarizing your results, providing proper context for your research and avoiding introducing new information. Remember that your paper should be both confident and honest about the results! 

What to do

  • Read the journal’s guidelines on the discussion and conclusion sections. If possible, learn about the guidelines before writing the discussion to ensure you’re writing to meet their expectations. 
  • Begin with a clear statement of the principal findings. This will reinforce the main take-away for the reader and set up the rest of the discussion. 
  • Explain why the outcomes of your study are important to the reader. Discuss the implications of your findings realistically based on previous literature, highlighting both the strengths and limitations of the research. 
  • State whether the results prove or disprove your hypothesis. If your hypothesis was disproved, what might be the reasons? 
  • Introduce new or expanded ways to think about the research question. Indicate what next steps can be taken to further pursue any unresolved questions. 
  • If dealing with a contemporary or ongoing problem, such as climate change, discuss possible consequences if the problem is avoided. 
  • Be concise. Adding unnecessary detail can distract from the main findings. 

What not to do

Don’t

  • Rewrite your abstract. Statements with “we investigated” or “we studied” generally do not belong in the discussion. 
  • Include new arguments or evidence not previously discussed. Necessary information and evidence should be introduced in the main body of the paper. 
  • Apologize. Even if your research contains significant limitations, don’t undermine your authority by including statements that doubt your methodology or execution. 
  • Shy away from speaking on limitations or negative results. Including limitations and negative results will give readers a complete understanding of the presented research. Potential limitations include sources of potential bias, threats to internal or external validity, barriers to implementing an intervention and other issues inherent to the study design. 
  • Overstate the importance of your findings. Making grand statements about how a study will fully resolve large questions can lead readers to doubt the success of the research. 

Snippets of Effective Discussions:

Consumer-based actions to reduce plastic pollution in rivers: A multi-criteria decision analysis approach

Identifying reliable indicators of fitness in polar bears

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  • How to Write an Abstract
  • How to Write Your Methods
  • How to Report Statistics
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  • How to Write Recommendations in Research | Examples & Tips

How to Write Recommendations in Research | Examples & Tips

Published on 15 September 2022 by Tegan George .

Recommendations in research are a crucial component of your discussion section and the conclusion of your thesis , dissertation , or research paper .

As you conduct your research and analyse the data you collected , perhaps there are ideas or results that don’t quite fit the scope of your research topic . Or, maybe your results suggest that there are further implications of your results or the causal relationships between previously-studied variables than covered in extant research.

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Table of contents

What should recommendations look like, building your research recommendation, how should your recommendations be written, recommendation in research example, frequently asked questions about recommendations.

Recommendations for future research should be:

  • Concrete and specific
  • Supported with a clear rationale
  • Directly connected to your research

Overall, strive to highlight ways other researchers can reproduce or replicate your results to draw further conclusions, and suggest different directions that future research can take, if applicable.

Relatedly, when making these recommendations, avoid:

  • Undermining your own work, but rather offer suggestions on how future studies can build upon it
  • Suggesting recommendations actually needed to complete your argument, but rather ensure that your research stands alone on its own merits
  • Using recommendations as a place for self-criticism, but rather as a natural extension point for your work

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There are many different ways to frame recommendations, but the easiest is perhaps to follow the formula of research question   conclusion  recommendation. Here’s an example.

Conclusion An important condition for controlling many social skills is mastering language. If children have a better command of language, they can express themselves better and are better able to understand their peers. Opportunities to practice social skills are thus dependent on the development of language skills.

As a rule of thumb, try to limit yourself to only the most relevant future recommendations: ones that stem directly from your work. While you can have multiple recommendations for each research conclusion, it is also acceptable to have one recommendation that is connected to more than one conclusion.

These recommendations should be targeted at your audience, specifically toward peers or colleagues in your field that work on similar topics to yours. They can flow directly from any limitations you found while conducting your work, offering concrete and actionable possibilities for how future research can build on anything that your own work was unable to address at the time of your writing.

See below for a full research recommendation example that you can use as a template to write your own.

The current study can be interpreted as a first step in the research on COPD speech characteristics. However, the results of this study should be treated with caution due to the small sample size and the lack of details regarding the participants’ characteristics.

Future research could further examine the differences in speech characteristics between exacerbated COPD patients, stable COPD patients, and healthy controls. It could also contribute to a deeper understanding of the acoustic measurements suitable for e-health measurements.

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While it may be tempting to present new arguments or evidence in your thesis or disseration conclusion , especially if you have a particularly striking argument you’d like to finish your analysis with, you shouldn’t. Theses and dissertations follow a more formal structure than this.

All your findings and arguments should be presented in the body of the text (more specifically in the discussion section and results section .) The conclusion is meant to summarize and reflect on the evidence and arguments you have already presented, not introduce new ones.

The conclusion of your thesis or dissertation should include the following:

  • A restatement of your research question
  • A summary of your key arguments and/or results
  • A short discussion of the implications of your research

For a stronger dissertation conclusion , avoid including:

  • Generic concluding phrases (e.g. “In conclusion…”)
  • Weak statements that undermine your argument (e.g. “There are good points on both sides of this issue.”)

Your conclusion should leave the reader with a strong, decisive impression of your work.

In a thesis or dissertation, the discussion is an in-depth exploration of the results, going into detail about the meaning of your findings and citing relevant sources to put them in context.

The conclusion is more shorter and more general: it concisely answers your main research question and makes recommendations based on your overall findings.

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  • The Importance of Conclusions and Recommendations in the Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) Process
  • Learning Center

Importance of Conclusions and Recommendations in the Monitoring

Drawing conclusions and making recommendations are other important aspects of the monitoring and evaluation process . The conclusions and recommendations that are drawn from the evaluation findings can help to inform decision-making, improve program effectiveness, and promote learning and accountability.

Here are some key considerations when drawing conclusions and making recommendations in the monitoring and evaluation process.

Table of Contents

What are the conclusions?

Examples of conclusions in the monitoring and evaluation (m&e), what are the recommendations, examples of recommendations in the monitoring and evaluation (m&e), example of a conclusion and recommendation section from a monitoring and evaluation report, review the evaluation findings, consider the context, identify strengths and weaknesses, make actionable recommendations, communicate findings and recommendations.

Conclusions in the Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) process refer to the key findings or results of the evaluation that provide insights into the effectiveness and efficiency of the program or intervention being evaluated. They are based on the analysis of data collected during the evaluation process and are used to determine the extent to which the program or intervention has achieved its intended objectives.

Conclusions in M&E typically include a summary of the evaluation results, highlighting what worked well and what did not work. They also provide an assessment of the program or intervention’s impact, sustainability, and scalability. Conclusions are an essential component of the M&E process as they provide decision-makers with evidence-based information that can be used to improve future programs or interventions.

Here are some examples of conclusions in the Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) process:

  • Program effectiveness: The evaluation may conclude that the program was effective in achieving its intended objectives, based on the analysis of data collected during the evaluation process. For example, if a health education program was intended to increase knowledge of healthy eating habits and the evaluation found that the program achieved this goal, the conclusion would be that the program was effective.
  • Program efficiency: The evaluation may conclude that the program was efficient in achieving its objectives, based on the resources used to implement the program. For example, if a job training program was implemented at a lower cost than similar programs and achieved similar outcomes, the conclusion would be that the program was efficient.
  • Program impact: The evaluation may conclude that the program had a positive impact on the target population, based on the analysis of data collected during the evaluation process. For example, if a youth development program was intended to reduce delinquency rates and the evaluation found a significant reduction in delinquency rates among program participants, the conclusion would be that the program had a positive impact.
  • Program scalability: The evaluation may conclude that the program can be scaled up to reach a larger population, based on the program’s success in achieving its intended objectives. For example, if a literacy program was implemented in one community and was successful in improving reading levels, the conclusion would be that the program could be scaled up to reach other communities.
  • Program sustainability: The evaluation may conclude that the program is sustainable, based on the program’s ability to continue achieving its intended objectives over time. For example, if a community-based environmental program has been successful in reducing pollution levels and has secured long-term funding, the conclusion would be that the program is sustainable.

These are just a few examples of the types of conclusions that may be drawn from the M&E process. The specific conclusions will depend on the evaluation results and the program’s goals and objectives.

Recommendations in the Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) process refer to suggestions or proposals for actions that should be taken based on the evaluation results. They are based on the analysis of data collected during the evaluation process and are used to improve the program or intervention being evaluated.

Recommendations in M&E typically include specific actions that should be taken to address the program’s weaknesses or to build on its strengths. They may also include suggestions for improving program design, implementation, monitoring, and evaluation. Recommendations may be directed towards program managers, stakeholders, funders, or policymakers, depending on the intended audience.

Recommendations are an essential component of the M&E process as they provide decision-makers with evidence-based information that can be used to improve the program’s effectiveness and efficiency. They help to ensure that future programs or interventions are designed and implemented in a way that maximizes their impact and achieves their intended objectives.

Related: Recommendations in Evaluation

Here are some examples of recommendations in the Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) process:

  • Improve program design: If the evaluation finds that the program design is not effective, the recommendation may be to redesign the program and its activities to ensure they are more relevant and appropriate to the target population’s needs.
  • Enhance implementation: If the evaluation reveals implementation challenges, the recommendation may be to implement strategies to address these challenges, such as providing additional training to program staff, improving program management, or increasing community engagement.
  • Strengthen monitoring and evaluation: If the evaluation finds that the monitoring and evaluation system is weak, the recommendation may be to improve the quality of data collected, increase the frequency of data collection, or develop a better system for data analysis and reporting.
  • Expand program coverage: If the evaluation finds that the program has had a positive impact, the recommendation may be to expand the program’s coverage to reach more people in the target population.
  • Increase program sustainability: If the evaluation reveals that the program’s sustainability is at risk, the recommendation may be to develop a sustainability plan that outlines strategies for long-term program funding and support.

These are just a few examples of the types of recommendations that may be made as a result of the M&E process. The specific recommendations will depend on the evaluation results and the program’s goals and objectives.

Related: Eval Rec’s – EVAL CAFE

Here is an example of a conclusion and recommendation section from a monitoring and evaluation report on a water supply project in rural Ethiopia:

The evaluation found that the water supply project has achieved its objectives of increasing access to safe and reliable water sources for 15,000 people in five rural communities in Ethiopia. The project has also contributed to improved health, hygiene, education, and livelihood outcomes for the beneficiaries, as well as enhanced social cohesion and gender equality. The project has demonstrated good practices in community participation, capacity building, sustainability, and innovation. However, the project also faced some challenges and limitations, such as delays in construction, technical issues with some water points, lack of adequate monitoring data, and insufficient coordination with other actors. The evaluation identified some areas for improvement and learning for future similar projects.

Recommendations

Based on the evaluation findings and conclusions, the following recommendations are proposed:

  • To the project team: Conduct regular maintenance and repair of the water points to ensure their functionality and durability. Strengthen the monitoring system to collect more accurate and comprehensive data on the project outputs, outcomes, and impacts. Enhance the communication and collaboration with other stakeholders, such as local authorities, NGOs, and donors, to avoid duplication of efforts and to leverage synergies.
  • To the community water committees: Continue to mobilize and educate the community members on the importance of water conservation, hygiene practices, and payment of water fees. Ensure that the water fees are collected transparently and used efficiently for the operation and maintenance of the water points. Promote the inclusion and empowerment of women and marginalized groups in the decision-making and management of water resources.
  • To the donor: Provide continued financial and technical support to the project team and the community water committees to ensure the sustainability and scalability of the project. Share the evaluation findings and lessons learned with other relevant actors to disseminate good practices and to inform future policy and programming.

Related: How to write a good M&E report – guidelines & best practices – TolaData

Reviewing the evaluation findings is a crucial step in drawing conclusions and making recommendations in the monitoring and evaluation process. This involves a thorough examination and analys is of the data collected during the evaluation, including both quantitativ e and qualitative data.

Quantitative data may include numerical data such as statistics, percentages, and figures, while qualitative data may include non-numerical data such as narratives, descriptions, and observations. Both types of data need to be analyzed carefully to identify patterns, trends, and themes that can inform the evaluation conclusions and recommendations.

The analysis of the evaluation findings should also consider the limitations of the data, such as sample size, response rate, and potential biases, and how these limitations may affect the reliability and validity of the conclusions and recommendations.

In summary, reviewing the evaluation findings is a critical step in drawing conclusions and making recommendations, as it provides the evidence base for the evaluation and ensures that the conclusions and recommendations are grounded in the data.

Context refers to the broader circumstances or environment in which the program operates, and it plays a crucial role in shaping the program’s outcomes and effectiveness.

To draw accurate conclusions and make relevant recommendations, it is essential to consider various contextual factors, including political, economic, social, and cultural dimensions. Political factors such as government policies, regulations, and political stability can significantly impact the success of a program. Economic factors such as funding, market trends, and economic growth can also influence the program’s outcomes.

Similarly, social and cultural factors such as social norms, cultural beliefs, and community attitudes can shape how the program is perceived and implemented. Therefore, it is critical to consider these contextual factors while evaluating the program’s goals and objectives to determine whether they align with the local context and to make recommendations accordingly.

Overall, taking into account the program’s goals and objectives in light of its contextual factors will help in drawing accurate conclusions and making informed recommendations that are relevant and effective in achieving the program’s intended outcomes.

Strengths and weaknesses analysis is a crucial component of program evaluation, and the statement rightly highlights its importance in drawing conclusions and informing future program planning and implementation.

Strengths analysis allows program evaluators to identify the program’s positive aspects, including its achievements, successes, and benefits. These strengths can help inform future program planning by highlighting successful strategies and practices that can be replicated or expanded to improve program effectiveness. Moreover, identifying strengths can also help to build on the program’s positive aspects, improving its overall impact.

On the other hand, weaknesses analysis helps identify areas of the program that require improvement or restructuring. These weaknesses can include issues related to program design, implementation, or outcomes. Identifying weaknesses is essential to inform future program planning and improve program effectiveness. Moreover, weaknesses analysis can also provide opportunities to learn from past mistakes, and it can help to avoid repeating them in the future.

Overall, identifying the strengths and weaknesses of a program is essential to draw accurate conclusions and inform future program planning and implementation. By recognizing the program’s positive and negative aspects, program evaluators can develop evidence-based recommendations to improve program effectiveness, ensuring that the program achieves its intended goals and objectives.

Making actionable recommendations ensures that the recommendations are relevant, feasible, and likely to lead to improvements in program performance.

To make actionable recommendations, it is crucial to base them on the evidence generated through program evaluation. The recommendations should address specific issues or challenges identified during the evaluation, and they should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound ( SMART ).

  • For example, a program evaluation may identify that the program’s target population is not adequately engaged, and this is affecting program outcomes. Based on this finding, the recommendation could be to enhance community outreach efforts to increase engagement among the target population. This recommendation is actionable, and specific, and provides a clear path forward for program managers to improve the program’s performance.

Moreover, recommendations may also include changes to program design or implementation, such as modifying the program’s goals or objectives, revising the program’s theory of change, or enhancing the program’s monitoring and evaluation framework. These recommendations should also be actionable, feasible, and backed by evidence to ensure that they are likely to result in program improvements.

Finally, recommendations may include suggestions for future research to address gaps in knowledge or evaluate the effectiveness of specific program components. These recommendations should also be actionable, specific, and feasible, providing a clear path forward for researchers to conduct further studies.

Overall, making actionable recommendations is essential to ensure that program evaluation leads to tangible improvements in program performance, and that the recommendations are feasible, relevant, and likely to lead to positive change.

Effective communication is essential to ensure that stakeholde rs understand the evaluation results, the rationale for the recommendations, and their implications for program planning and implementation.

  • To communicate evaluation findings and recommendations effectively, it is essential to tailor the communication approach to the audience. For example, program managers may require a more detailed presentation of the evaluation results, including the methodology, data analysis, and limitations. In contrast, funders may require a concise summary of the evaluation results, including the key findings and recommendations.

In addition to tailoring the communication approach, it is also essential to use clear, concise, and jargon-free language to ensure that stakeholders understand the evaluation results and recommendations. Effective communication should also provide opportunities for stakeholders to ask questions, clarify doubts, and provide feedback on the evaluation results and recommendations.

Furthermore, effective communication should also highlight the benefits of the evaluation , such as identifying successful strategies, opportunities for program improvement, and lessons learned. This can help to build support for future evaluations and ensure that stakeholders understand the value of the monitoring and evaluation process .

Overall, effective communication of evaluation findings and recommendations is essential to ensure that stakeholders understand the evaluation results and can use them to inform future program planning and implementation. Effective communication can help build support for the evaluation process and ensure that stakeholders are engaged and invested in program improvement.

The importance of conclusions and recommendations in monitoring and evaluation practice cannot be overstated. Conclusions are the results of an evaluation study, which provide an analysis of the findings and an interpretation of their meaning. Recommendations, on the other hand, are suggestions for action that are based on the conclusions.

Effective monitoring and evaluation requires that conclusions and recommendations are well-thought-out and communicated clearly. It is important that the conclusions and recommendations are evidence-based, comprehensive, and practical. The conclusions and recommendations should be tailored to the needs of the stakeholders and communicated in a way that is easily understandable.

In addition, it is important to consider the limitations and constraints of the evaluation study when formulating conclusions and recommendations. The evaluation team should be transparent about the methods used, the data collected, and the conclusions drawn.

Overall, the conclusions and recommendations are critical components of any monitoring and evaluation exercise. They provide valuable insights into the effectiveness of programs, policies, and interventions and can guide decision-makers in making informed decisions about future actions.

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Patrick Kapuot

Very informative, interesting and clearly said.

I suggest in future to include a sample report that have key traits in it that were applied in the report.

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6.6: Formal Report—Conclusion, Recommendations, References, and Appendices

Learning objectives.

  • Examine the remaining report sections: conclusion, recommendation, reference list, appendices

What Are the Remaining Report Sections?

Conclusions and recommendations.

The conclusions and recommendations section conveys the key results from the analysis in the discussion section. Up to this point, readers have carefully reviewed the data in the report; they are now logically prepared to read the report’s conclusions and recommendations.

According to OACETT (2021), “Conclusions are reasoned judgment and fact, not opinion. Conclusions consider all of the variables and relate cause and effect. Conclusions analyze, evaluate, and make comparisons and contrasts” (p. 7) and “Recommendation(s) (if applicable) suggest a course of action and are provided when there are additional areas for study, or if the reason for the Technology Report was to determine the best action going forward” (p. 7).

You may present the conclusions and recommendations in a numbered or bulleted list to enhance readability.

Reference Page

All formal reports should include a reference page; this page documents the sources cited within the report. The recipient(s) of the report can also refer to this page to locate sources for further research.

Documenting your information sources is all about establishing, maintaining, and protecting your credibility in the profession. You must cite (“document”) borrowed information regardless of the shape or form in which you present it. Whether you directly quote it, paraphrase it, or summarize it—it’s still borrowed information. Whether it comes from a book, article, a diagram, a table, a web page, a product brochure, an expert whom you interview in person—it’s still borrowed information.

Documentation systems vary according to professionals and fields. In ENGL 250, we follow  APA. Refer to a credible APA guide for support.

Appendices are those extra sections in a report that follow the conclusion. According to OACETT (2021), “Appendices can include detailed calculations, tables, drawings, specifications, and technical literature” (p. 7).

Anything that does not comfortably fit in the main part of the report but cannot be left out of the report altogether should go into the appendices. They are commonly used for large tables of data, big chunks of sample code, background that is too basic or too advanced for the body of the report, or large illustrations that just do not fit in the body of the report. Anything that you feel is too large for the main part of the report or that you think would be distracting and interrupt the flow of the report is a good candidate for an appendix.

References & Attributions

Blicq, R., & Moretto, L. (2012).  Technically write. (8th Canadian Ed.). Pearson Canada.

OACETT. (2021).  Technology report guidelines . https://www.oacett.org/getmedia/9f9623ac-73ab-4f99-acca-0d78dee161ab/TR_GUIDELINES_Final.pdf.aspx

Attributions

Content is adapted from Technical Writing by Allison Gross, Annemarie Hamlin, Billy Merck, Chris Rubio, Jodi Naas, Megan Savage, and Michele DeSilva, which is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

Writing in a Technical Environment (First Edition) Copyright © 2022 by Centennial College is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

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SUMMARY OF FINDINGS, CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

This chapter summarizes the whole research process. It first provides a brief summary of the whole study with particular reference to the research problem, research methodology, results, the main contributions of the research and recommendations for future work. It provides a summary of the main findings of the study, conclusions and recommendations. This chapter should be reasonably short.

The readers would want to know whether the objectives of the study were achieved, and whether the work has contributed to knowledge. Therefore, when compiling this chapter, a researcher should focus on answering these questions.

Any conclusions drawn should be those resulting from the study. A researcher should make relevant references to chapters that support the listed findings and may also refer to the work of others for comparison. However, one should not discuss the stu1y’s results here.

Summary of the Main Findings

In summarizing, a researcher should identify the findings of the study and discuss them briefly. In addition, the methodological problems encountered should be outlined so that future/other researchers may take the relevant precautions. The researcher should clearly pinpoint if the study objectives were achieved or not. An effective summary has the following qualities:

  • It bases on results from the study.
  • It is brief, all statements are concise, and pinpoint to the contributions that the researcher has made.

Recommendations

  • All statements are factual.

One way to present the summary is to use one paragraph for each idea. Alternatively, the researcher can use a point-by-point format.

The Conclusion section should be very brief, about half a page. It should indicate what the study results reaffirm. It should also briefly discuss some of the strategies highlighted by the respondents. In this section, the researcher should clearly state how the study has contributed to knowledge.

The recommendations section is important in research. This section often exposes further problems and introduces more questions. As a researcher, there is a time limit to the research project, so it is unlikely that the study would have solved all the problems associated with the area of study. The researcher is therefore expected to make suggestions about how his/her work can be improved, and also based on the study findings, point out whether there are areas that deserve further investigation. This section will indicate whether a researcher has a firm appreciation of his/her work, and whether he/ she has given sufficient thought to its implications, not only within the narrow confines of the research topic but to related fields. This section reflects the researcher’s foresightedness and creativity.

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Conclusions and Recommendations for Renewable Energy Resources in the MENA Region

  • Djamal Zerrouki 1 ,
  • Abdelazim Negm 2 &
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  • First Online: 17 February 2024

Part of the The Handbook of Environmental Chemistry book series

This chapter summarizes the main conclusions and suggestions from the other chapters of the book. It also examines some recent research findings related to alternative energy themes in the MENA region. The chapter provides details on solar, wind, geothermal, and biomass energy. Furthermore, it presents a series of recommendations for future research, aimed at promoting the sustainability of energy resources in the MENA region.

  • Biomass energy
  • Hydrogen production
  • MENA region
  • Renewable energy
  • Solar energy
  • Wind energy geothermal energy

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National Research Council (US) Panel on Collecting, Storing, Accessing, and Protecting Biological Specimens and Biodata in Social Surveys; Hauser RM, Weinstein M, Pool R, et al., editors. Conducting Biosocial Surveys: Collecting, Storing, Accessing, and Protecting Biospecimens and Biodata. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2010.

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Conducting Biosocial Surveys: Collecting, Storing, Accessing, and Protecting Biospecimens and Biodata.

  • Hardcopy Version at National Academies Press

5 Findings, Conclusions, and Recommendations

As the preceding chapters have made clear, incorporating biological specimens into social science surveys holds great scientific potential, but also adds a variety of complications to the tasks of both individual researchers and institutions. These complications arise in a number of areas, including collecting, storing, using, and distributing biospecimens; sharing data while protecting privacy; obtaining informed consent from participants; and engaging with Institutional Review Boards (IRBs). Any effort to make such research easier and more effective will need to address the issues in these areas.

In considering its recommendations, the panel found it useful to think of two categories: (1) recommendations that apply to individual investigators, and (2) recommendations that are addressed to the National Institute on Aging ( NIA ) or other institutions, particularly funding agencies. Researchers who wish to collect biological specimens with social science data will need to develop new skills in a variety of areas, such as the logistics of specimen storage and management, the development of more diverse informed consent forms, and ways of dealing with the disclosure risks associated with sharing biogenetic data. At the same time, NIA and other funding agencies must provide researchers the tools they need to succeed. These tools include such things as biorepositories for maintaining and distributing specimens, better guidance on informed consent policies, and better ways to share data without risking confidentiality.

  • TAKING ADVANTAGE OF EXISTING EXPERTISE

Although working with biological specimens will be new and unfamiliar to many social scientists, it is an area in which biomedical researchers have a great deal of expertise and experience. Many existing documents describe recommended procedures and laboratory practices for the handling of biospecimens. These documents provide an excellent starting point for any social scientist who is interested in adding biospecimens to survey research.

Recommendation 1: Social scientists who are planning to add biological specimens to their survey research should familiarize themselves with existing best practices for the collection, storage, use, and distribution of biospecimens. First and foremost, the design of the protocol for collection must ensure the safety of both participants and survey staff (data and specimen collectors and handlers).

Although existing best-practice documents were not developed with social science surveys in mind, their guidelines have been field-tested and approved by numerous IRBs and ethical oversight committees. The most useful best-practice documents are updated frequently to reflect growing knowledge and changing opinions about the best ways to collect, store, use, and distribute biological specimens. At the same time, however, many issues arising from the inclusion of biospecimens in social science surveys are not fully addressed in the best-practice documents intended for biomedical researchers. For guidance on these issues, it will be necessary to seek out information aimed more specifically at researchers at the intersection of social science and biomedicine.

  • COLLECTING, STORING, USING, AND DISTRIBUTING BIOSPECIMENS

As described in Chapter 2 , the collection, storage, use, and distribution of biospecimens and biodata are tasks that are likely to be unfamiliar to many social scientists and that raise a number of issues with which even specialists are still grappling. For example, which biospecimens in a repository should be shared, given that in most cases the amount of each specimen is limited? And given that the available technology for cost-efficient analysis of biospecimens, particularly genetic analysis, is rapidly improving, how much of any specimen should be used for immediate research and analysis, and how much should be stored for analysis at a later date? Collecting, storing, using, and distributing biological specimens also present significant practical and financial challenges for social scientists. Many of the questions they must address, such as exactly what should be held, where it should be held, and what should be shared or distributed, have not yet been resolved.

Developing Data Sharing Plans

An important decision concerns who has access to any leftover biospecimens. This is a problem more for biospecimens than for biodata because in most cases, biospecimens can be exhausted. Should access be determined according to the principle of first funded, first served? Should there be a formal application process for reviewing the scientific merits of a particular investigation? For studies that involve international collaboration, should foreign investigators have access? And how exactly should these decisions be made? Recognizing that some proposed analyses may lie beyond the competence of the original investigators, as well as the possibility that principal investigators may have a conflict of interest in deciding how to use any remaining biospecimens, one option is for a principal investigator to assemble a small scientific committee to judge the merits of each application, including the relevance of the proposed study to the parent study and the capacities of the investigators. Such committees should publish their review criteria to help prospective applicants. A potential problem with such an approach, however, is that many projects may not have adequate funding to carry out such tasks.

Recommendation 2: Early in the planning process, principal investigators who will be collecting biospecimens as part of a social science survey should develop a complete data sharing plan.

This plan should spell out the criteria for allowing other researchers to use (and therefore deplete) the available stock of biospecimens, as well as to gain access to any data derived therefrom. To avoid any appearance of self-interest, a project might empower an external advisory board to make decisions about access to its data. The data sharing plan should also include provisions for the storage and retrieval of biospecimens and clarify how the succession of responsibility for and control of the biospecimens will be handled at the conclusion of the project.

Recommendation 3: NIA (or preferably the National Institutes of Health [ NIH ]) should publish guidelines for principal investigators containing a list of points that need to be considered for an acceptable data sharing plan. In addition to staff review, Scientific Review Panels should read and comment on all proposed data sharing plans. In much the same way as an unacceptable human subjects plan, an inadequate data sharing plan should hold up an otherwise acceptable proposal.

Supporting Social Scientists in the Storage of Biospecimens

The panel believes that many social scientists who decide to add the collection of biospecimens to their surveys may be ill equipped to provide for the storage and distribution of the specimens.

Conclusion: The issues related to the storage and distribution of biospecimens are too complex and involve too many hidden costs to assume that social scientists without suitable knowledge, experience, and resources can handle them without assistance.

Investigators should therefore have the option of delegating the storage and distribution of biospecimens collected as part of social science surveys to a centralized biorepository. Depending on the circumstances, a project might choose to utilize such a facility for immediate use, long-term or archival storage, or not at all.

Recommendation 4: NIA and other relevant funding agencies should support at least one central facility for the storage and distribution of biospecimens collected as part of the research they support.
  • PROTECTING PRIVACY AND CONFIDENTIALITY: SHARING DIGITAL REPRESENTATIONS OF BIOLOGICAL AND SOCIAL DATA

Several different types of data must be kept confidential: survey data, data derived from biospecimens, and all administrative and operational data. In the discussion of protecting confidentiality and privacy, this report has focused on biodata, but the panel believes it is important to protect all the data collected from survey participants. For many participants, for example, data on wealth, earnings, or sexual behavior can be as or more sensitive than genetic data.

Conclusion: Although biodata tend to receive more attention in discussions of privacy and confidentiality, social science and operational data can be sensitive in their own right and deserve similar attention in such discussions.

Protecting the participants in a social science survey that collects biospecimens requires securing the data, but data are most valuable when they are made available to researchers as widely as possible. Thus there is an inherent tension between the desire to protect the privacy of the participants and the desire to derive as much scientific value from the data as possible, particularly since the costs of data collection and analysis are so high. The following recommendations regarding confidentiality are made in the spirit of balancing these equally important needs.

Genomic data present a particular challenge. Several researchers have demonstrated that it is possible to identify individuals with even modest amounts of such data. When combined with social science data, genomic data may pose an even greater risk to confidentiality. It is difficult to know how much or which genomic data, when combined with social science data, could become critical identifiers in the future. Although the problem is most significant with genomic data, similar challenges can arise with other kinds of data derived from biospecimens.

Conclusion: Unrestricted distribution of genetic and other biodata risks violating promises of confidentiality made to research participants.

There are two basic approaches to protecting confidentiality: restricting data and restricting access. Restricting data—for example, by stripping individual and spatial identifiers and modifying the data to make it difficult or impossible to trace them back to their source—usually makes it possible to release social science data widely. In the case of biodata, however, there is no answer to how little data is required to make a participant uniquely identifiable. Consequently, any release of biodata must be carefully managed to protect confidentiality.

Recommendation 5: No individual-level data containing uniquely identifying variables, such as genomic data, should be publicly released without explicit informed consent.
Recommendation 6: Genomic data and other individual-level data containing uniquely identifying variables that are stored or in active use by investigators on their institutional or personal computers should be encrypted at all times.

Even if specific identifying variables, such as names and addresses, are stripped from data, it is still often possible to identify the individuals associated with the data by other means, such as using the variables that remain (age, sex, marital status, family income, etc.) to zero in on possible candidates. In the case of biodata that do not uniquely identify individuals and can change with time, such as blood pressure and physical measurements, it may be possible to share the data with no more protection than stripping identifying variables. Even these data, however, if known to intruders, can increase identification disclosure risk when combined with enough other data. With sufficient characteristics to match, intruders can uniquely identify individuals in shared data if given access to another data source that contains the same information plus identifiers.

Conclusion: Even nonunique biodata, if combined with social science data, may pose a serious risk of reidentification.

In the case of high-dimensional genomic data, standard disclosure limitation techniques, such as data perturbation, are not effective with respect to preserving the utility of the data because they involve such extreme alterations that they would severely distort analyses aimed at determining gene—gene and gene—environment interactions. Standard disclosure limitation methods could be used to generate public-use data sets that would enable low-dimensional analyses involving genes, for example, one gene at a time. However, with several such public releases, it may be possible for a key match to be used to construct a data set with higher-dimensional genomic data.

Conclusion: At present, no data restriction strategy has been demonstrated to protect confidentiality while preserving the usefulness of the data for drawing inferences involving high-dimensional interactions among genomic and social science variables, which are increasingly the target of research. Providing public-use genomic data requires such intense data masking to protect confidentiality that it would distort the high-dimensional analyses that could result in ground-breaking research progress.
Recommendation 7: Both rich genomic data acquired for research and sensitive and potentially identifiable social science data that do not change (or change very little) with time should be shared only under restricted circumstances, such as licensing and (actual or virtual) data enclaves.

As discussed in Chapter 3 , the four basic ways to restrict access to data are licensing, remote execution centers, data enclaves, and virtual data enclaves. Each has its advantages and disadvantages. 1 Licensing, for example, is the least restrictive for a researcher in terms of access to the data, but the licensing process itself can be lengthy and burdensome. Thus it would be useful if the licensing process could be facilitated.

Recommendation 8: NIA (or preferably NIH ) should develop new standards and procedures for licensing confidential data in ways that will maximize timely access while maintaining security and that can be used by data repositories and by projects that distribute data.

Ways to improve the other approaches to restricted access are needed as well. For example, improving the convenience and availability of virtual data enclaves could increase the use of combined social science and biodata without a significant increase in risk to confidentiality. The panel notes that much of the discussion of the confidentiality risk posed by the various approaches is theoretical; no one has a clear idea of just what disclosure risks are associated with the various ways of sharing data. It is important to learn more about these disclosure risks for a variety of reasons—determining how to minimize the risks, for instance, or knowing which approaches to sharing data pose the least risk. It would also be useful to be able to describe disclosure risks more accurately to survey participants.

Recommendation 9: NIA and other funding agencies should assess the strength of confidentiality protections through periodic expert audits of confidentiality and computer security. Willingness to participate in such audits should be a condition for receipt of NIA support. Beyond enforcement, the purpose of such audits would be to identify challenges and solutions.

Evaluating risks and applying protection methods, whether they involve restricted access or restricted data, is a complex process requiring expertise in disclosure protection methods that exceeds what individual principal investigators and their institutions usually possess. Currently, not enough is known to be able to represent these risks either fully or accurately. The NIH requirement for data sharing necessitates a large investment of resources to anticipate which variables are potentially available to intruders and to alter data in ways that reduce disclosure risks while maintaining the utility of the data. Such resources are better spent by principal investigators on collecting and analyzing the data.

Recommendation 10: NIH should consider funding Centers of Excellence to explore new ways of protecting digital representations of data and to assist principal investigators wishing to share data with others. NIH should also support research on disclosure risks and limitations.

Principal investigators could send digital data to these centers, which would organize and manage any restricted access or restricted data policies or provide advisory services to investigators. NIH would maintain the authority to penalize those who violated any confidentiality agreements, for example, by denying them or their home institution NIH funding. Models for these centers include the Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research ( ICPSR ) and its projects supported by NIH and the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development ( NICHD ) and the UK data sharing archive. The centers would alleviate the burden of data sharing as mandated of principal investigators by NIH and place it in expert hands. However, excellence in the design of data access and control systems is likely to require intimate knowledge of each specific data resource, so data producers should be involved in the systems’ development.

  • INFORMED CONSENT

As described in Chapter 4 , informed consent is a complex subject involving many issues that are still being debated; the growing power of genetic analysis techniques and bioinformatics has only added to this complexity. Given the rapid pace of advances in scientific knowledge and in the technology used to analyze biological materials, it is impossible to predict what information might be gleaned from biological specimens just a few years hence; accordingly, it is impossible, even in theory, to talk about perfectly informed consent. The best one can hope for is relatively well-informed consent from a study’s participants, but knowing precisely what that means is difficult. Determining the scope of informed consent adds another layer of complexity. Will new analyses be covered under the existing consent, for example? There are no clear guidelines on such questions, yet specific details on the scope of consent will likely affect an IRB ’s reaction to a study proposal.

What Individual Researchers Need to Know and Do Regarding Informed Consent

To be sure, there is a wide range of views about the practicality of providing adequate protection to participants while proceeding with the scientific enterprise, from assertions that it is simply not possible to provide adequate protection to offers of numerous procedural safeguards but no iron-clad guarantees. This report takes the latter position—that investigators should do their best to communicate adequately and accurately with participants, to provide procedural safeguards to the extent possible, and not to promise what is not possible. 2 Social science researchers need to know that adding the collection of biospecimens to social science surveys changes the nature of informed consent. Informed consent for a traditional social science survey may entail little more than reading a short script over the phone and asking whether the participant is willing to continue; obtaining informed consent for the collection and use of biospecimens and biodata is generally a much more involved process.

Conclusion: Social scientists should be made aware that the process of obtaining informed consent for the use of biospecimens and biodata typically differs from social science norms.

If participants are to provide truly informed consent to taking part in any study, they must be given a certain minimum amount of information. They should be told, for example, what the purpose of the study is, how it is to be carried out, and what participants’ roles are. In addition, because of the unique risks associated with providing biospecimens, participants in a social science survey that involves the collection of such specimens should be provided with other types of information as well. In particular, they should be given detail on the storage and use of the specimens that relates to those risks and can assist them in determining whether to take part in the study.

Recommendation 11: In designing a consent form for the collection of biospecimens, in addition to those elements that are common to social science and biomedical research, investigators should ensure that certain other information is provided to participants: how long researchers intend to retain their biospecimens and the genomic and other biodata that may be derived from them; both the risks associated with genomic data and the limits of what they can reveal; which other researchers will have access to their specimens, to the data derived therefrom, and to information collected in a survey questionnaire; the limits on researchers’ ability to maintain confidentiality; any potential limits on participants’ ability to withdraw their specimens or data from the research; the penalties 3 that may be imposed on researchers for various types of breaches of confidentiality; and what plans have been put in place to return to them any medically relevant findings.

Researchers who fail to properly plan for and handle all of these issues before proceeding with a study are in essence compromising assurances under informed consent. The literature on informed consent emphasizes the importance of ensuring that participants understand reasonably well what they are consenting to. This understanding cannot be taken for granted, particularly as it pertains to the use of biological specimens and the data derived therefrom. While it is not possible to guarantee that participants have a complete understanding of the scientific uses of their specimens or all the possible risks of their participation, they should be able to make a relatively well-informed decision about whether to take part in the study. Thus the ability of various participants to understand the research and the informed consent process must be considered. Even impaired individuals may be able to participate in research if their interests are protected and they can do so only through proxy consent. 4

Recommendation 12: NIA should locate and publicize positive examples of the documentation of consent processes for the collection of biospecimens. In particular, these examples should take into account the special needs of certain individuals, such as those with sensory problems and the cognitively impaired.

Participants in a biosocial survey are likely to have different levels of comfort concerning how their biospecimens and data will be used. Some may be willing to provide only answers to questions, for example, while others may both answer questions and provide specimens. Among those who provide specimens, some may be willing for the specimens to be used only for the current study, while others may consent to their use in future studies. One effective way to deal with these different comfort levels is to offer a tiered approach to consent that allows participants to determine just how their specimens and data will be used. Tiers might include participating in the survey, providing specimens for genetic and/or nongenetic analysis in a particular study, and allowing the specimens and data to be stored for future uses (genetic and/or nongenetic). For those participants who are willing to have their specimens and data used in future studies, researchers should tell them what sort of approval will be obtained for such use. For example, an IRB may demand reconsent, in which case participants may have to be contacted again before their specimens and data can be used. Ideally, researchers should design their consent forms to avoid the possibility that an IRB will demand a costly or infeasible reconsent process.

Recommendation 13: Researchers should consider adopting a tiered approach to obtaining consent. Participants who are willing to have their specimens and data used in future studies should be informed about the process that will be used to obtain approval for such uses.

What Institutions Should Do Regarding Informed Consent

Because the details of informed consent vary from study to study, individual investigators must bear ultimate responsibility for determining the details of informed consent for any particular study. Thus researchers must understand the various issues and concerns surrounding informed consent and be prepared to make decisions about the appropriate approach for their research in consultation with staff of survey organizations. These decisions should be addressed in the training of survey interviewers. As noted above, however, the issues surrounding informed consent are complex and not completely resolved, and researchers have few options for learning about informed consent as it applies to social science studies that collect biospecimens. Thus it makes sense for agencies funding this research, the Office for Human Research Protection ( OHRP ), or other appropriate organizations (for example, Public Responsibility in Medicine and Research [PRIM&R]) to provide opportunities for such learning, taking into account the fact that the issues arising in biosocial research do not arise in the standard informed consent situations encountered in social science research. It should also be made clear that the researchers’ institution is usually deemed (e.g., in the courts) to bear much of the responsibility for informed consent.

Recommendation 14: NIA , OHRP , and other appropriate organizations should sponsor training programs, create training modules, and hold informational workshops on informed consent for investigators, staff of survey organizations, including field staff, administrators, and members of IRBs who oversee surveys that collect social science data and biospecimens.

The Return of Medically Relevant Information

An issue related to informed consent is how much information to provide to survey participants once their biological specimens have been analyzed and in particular, how to deal with medically relevant information that may arise from the analysis. What, for example, should a researcher do if a survey participant is found to have a genetic disease that does not appear until later in life? Should the participant be notified? Should participants be asked as part of the initial interview whether they wish to be notified about such a discovery? At this time, there are no generally agreed-upon answers to such questions, but researchers should expect to have to deal with these issues as they analyze the data derived from biological specimens.

Recommendation 15: NIH should direct investigators to formulate a plan in advance concerning the return of any medically relevant findings to survey participants and to implement that plan in the design and conduct of their informed consent procedures.
  • INSTITUTIONAL REVIEW BOARDS

Investigators seeking IRB approval for biosocial research face a number of challenges. Few IRBs are familiar with both social and biological science; thus, investigators may find themselves trying to justify standard social science protocols to a biologically oriented IRB or explaining standard biological protocols to an IRB that is used to dealing with social science—or sometimes both. Researchers can expect these obstacles, which arise from the interdisciplinary nature of their work, to be exacerbated by a number of other factors that are characteristic of IRBs in general (see Chapter 4 ).

Recommendation 16: In institutions that have separate biomedical and social science IRBs, mechanisms should be created for sharing expertise during the review of biosocial protocols. 5

What Individual Researchers Need to Do Regarding IRBs

Because the collection of biospecimens as part of social science surveys is still relatively unfamiliar to many IRBs, researchers planning such a study can expect their interactions with the IRB overseeing the research to involve a certain learning curve. The IRB may need extra time to become familiar and comfortable with the proposed practices of the survey, and conversely, the researchers will need time to learn what the IRB will require. Thus it will be advantageous if researchers conducting such studies plan from the beginning to devote additional time to working with their IRBs.

Recommendation 17: Investigators considering collecting biospecimens as part of a social science survey should consult with their IRBs early and often.

What Research Agencies Should Do Regarding IRBs

One way to improve the IRB process would be to give members of IRBs an opportunity to learn more about biosocial research and the risks it entails. This could be done by individual institutions, but it would be more effective if a national funding agency took the lead (see Recommendation 14).

It is the panel’s hope that its recommendations will support the incorporation of social science and biological data into empirical models, allowing researchers to better document the linkages among social, behavioral, and biological processes that affect health and other measures of well-being while avoiding or minimizing many of the challenges that may arise. Implementing these recommendations will require the combined efforts of both individual investigators and the agencies that support them.

See the discussion on “Choosing a Data Sharing Strategy” in Chapter 3 .

In a few cases, it may be necessary to deceive participants about the purposes of a study—for example, in field tests of labor market discrimination—but these situations are unlikely to occur in biosocial studies. However, the Common Rule (45 CFR 46: 46.116.c.2, 46.116.d.3) explicitly permits such exceptions when they are scientifically necessary.

Penalties might include NIH eliminating researchers’ eligibility for funding and institutions eliminating research privileges of faculty.

Note that this report does not address the issue of obtaining informed consent from children.

Sharing expertise between biomedical and social science IRBs does not require a return to the days when there was only one IRB at each institution, a situation that still exists at many small institutions. For example, the Social and Behavioral Science IRB at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, has asked a geneticist to serve as an ex officio member of the IRB when it considers protocols that use genetic data.

  • Cite this Page National Research Council (US) Panel on Collecting, Storing, Accessing, and Protecting Biological Specimens and Biodata in Social Surveys; Hauser RM, Weinstein M, Pool R, et al., editors. Conducting Biosocial Surveys: Collecting, Storing, Accessing, and Protecting Biospecimens and Biodata. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2010. 5, Findings, Conclusions, and Recommendations.
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Fani Willis hearing: a salacious drama that could undermine Trump election interference case

A georgia judge must decide whether to remove fani willis from prosecuting donald trump for election interference..

  • Defense lawyers called special prosecutor Nathan Wade's divorce lawyer as a witness.
  • Prosecutors called a former Georgia governor and DA Fani Willis' father to testify.

ATLANTA – Perjury accusations and reports of death threats highlighted a second day of courtroom drama in a Georgia hearing to determine if District Attorney Fani Willis will be disqualified from the election interference trial of Donald Trump.

At issue are questions about whether Willis and Nathan Wade, the special prosecutor she hired for the case , should be removed because of their romantic relationship.

The two days of hearings were filled with juicy details: talk of trips to Aruba and rented cabins and a Norwegian cruise. But underlying the salacious nature of the testimony is the future of one of the most important of the legal cases against Trump this year.

Here’s what we know about the case:

Willis sought to remind everyone who really is on trial

Willis and Wade each took the witness stand to describe their relationship, insisting it had nothing to do with the case against Trump.

Prep for the polls: See who is running for president and compare where they stand on key issues in our Voter Guide

"These people are on trial for trying to steal an election in 2020,” Willis said, gesturing to the defense table. “I’m not on trial no matter how hard you try to put me on trial.”

A side spotlight on racism

Friday's courtroom action featured Willis' father, John Clifford Floyd III, testifying about death threats from the time Willis -- the first Black woman to serve as Fulton County District Attorney -- was sworn in to her job. “There were people outside her house cursing and yelling calling her the B-word and the N-word,” he said. “It was bizarre.”

Floyd also said he hadn't met Wade until last year, and only found out about their relationship a few weeks ago. Attorneys for the defense had sought to show there was a romantic relationship before Willis hired Wade.

His testimony spotlighted some of the conversation related to race that has underlined Willis' role in the Trump case. Floyd has a history in bringing attention to racism: He is a former Black Panther who renounced violence and then went to UCLA law school. On the witness stand, he talked about his past work for Nelson Mandela, and the fight to release him from prison.

More: 'Lies,' drama, champagne and caviar: takeaways from Fani Willis fight in Trump Georgia case

Defense lawyers accuse special prosecutor Nathan Wade of perjury

Defense lawyers accused special prosecutor Nathan Wade of perjury for denying his romantic relationship with Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis began before he was hired in November 2021 to help prosecute Donald Trump and 14 remaining defendants on charges of election interference.

Wade and Willis each testified under oath that their relationship began in spring 2022 and ended in summer 2023. But defense lawyers contend the relationship began as early as 2019 and that Willis profited from it, so they should be disqualified from the case.

Terrence Bradley, a former law partner of Wade who represented him in his divorce, testified he didn’t know when the relationship began. “I have no personal knowledge of when it actually happened,” Bradley said.

More: Bombshell witness? A look at the man who may know all the secrets in the Fani Willis Trump drama

Merchant, who represents Mike Roman, and Steve Sadow, who represents Trump, say they have evidence Bradley knows more, which he refused to divulge, from the divorce case, citing attorney-client privilege. Merchant and Sadow argued Fulton County Superior Judge Scott McAfee should force Bradley to testify because the privilege can’t be wielded to protect illegal acts like perjury.

“We’re talking about perjury, lying to the court,” Merchant said. “The witness, Mr. Wade, has committed perjury on the witness stand,” Sadow added later.

Anna Cross, a prosecutor, argued there is simply a conflict of evidence from witnesses in the case. Andrew Evans, Wade’s personal lawyer, declined comment and referred questions to the district attorney’s office.

McAfee didn’t force Bradley to testify about his communications with Wade. But McAfee said he might question Bradley confidentially with his lawyer present, to get answers about what more Bradley might know.

--Bart Jansen

‘So many death threats’: DA Fani Willis’s father

John Floyd, Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis’s father, testified about the threats that forced her to move out of her new, four-bedroom house – and why he remained to guard it.

“Somebody needed to protect the house,” Floyd said.

Willis was sworn in Jan. 1, 2021, and on Feb. 3 at 5 a.m. a crowd of protesters appeared.

“There were people outside her house cursing and yelling calling her the B-word and the N-word,” Floyd, a retired criminal defense lawyer, said. “It was bizarre.”

Willis has moved four times since then. Floyd said he remained until December 2022, as a police car parked outside the house permanently and authorities sent a man with a bomb-sniffing dog around the house daily.

“They had been so many death threats,” Floyd said. “They said they were going to blow up the house. They were going to kill her. They were going to kill me. They were going to kill my grandchildren. I was concerned for her safety.”

Willis’s father testifies he never met prosecutor boyfriend during key time 2019 to 2021

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis’s father, John Floyd, testified that she had a different boyfriend than prosecutor Nathan Wade during a period when defense lawyers in the election interference case against Donald Trump contend Willis and Wade were in a romantic relationship.

Defense lawyers contend Willis and Wade were dating in 2019 and 2020 – before she hired him for the case in November 2021 – and that she should be disqualified because she profited from the relationship.

Floyd said he moved from South Africa into her house in the spring or summer of 2019 and remained after she left because of threats in early 2021. Floyd said her boyfriend during that period was a disc jockey named Deuce, who was at the house nearly every day.

“I saw him often,” Floyd said.

Floyd said he didn’t recall meeting Wade until 2023. Floyd said he and his daughter don’t discuss their romantic relationships, and that he learned about her and Wade about seven weeks ago when it was publicized.

“I just found out when other folks found out,” Floyd said.

--Bart Jansen 

Former Georgia Gov. Roy Barnes testifies he turned down Trump special prosecutor job

Popular former Georgia Gov. Roy Barnes testified Friday that he was approached by Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis for the job of special prosecutor in the election fraud case against former President Donald Trump, but he declined for personal and professional reasons.

“I had mouths to feed at a law office and I could not, I would not do that,” Barnes said under questioning by Adam Abbate of the DA's office.

Barnes said he met with Willis – and likely Wade, he couldn’t recall – in a conference room at the DA’s office, and told them he wasn’t interested. Besides his duties at his law firm, Barnes also cited unspecified threats as to why he didn’t want the job.

Barnes response: “I lived with bodyguards for four years and I didn’t like it and I didn’t want to live with bodyguards for the rest of my life.”

Defense lawyers, including Ashleigh Merchant and Steve Sadow, also questioned Barnes in an effort to determine what Barnes knew about why Willis ultimately hired private lawyer Nathan Wade for the top prosecutor job.

-- Josh Meyer

Hearing paused while waiting for witness

McAfee recessed the hearing about whether to disqualify District Attorney Fani Willis from the case against Trump and 14 remaining co-defendants because a witness was at a doctor’s appointment.

The witness, Terrence Bradley, was a former law partner of prosecutor Wade who represented Wade in his divorce. Bradley appeared Thursday, but refused to answer questions.

“I have a law license and I don’t want to lose it,” said Bradley, who acknowledged representing Wade starting in 2018.

More: 'Lies': Fani Willis fights push to remove her from Donald Trump Georgia case

McAfee ruled Friday that Bradley could refuse to answer questions based on attorney-client privilege.

Defense lawyers contend they can ask Bradley about what he observed about the relationship between Willis and Wade, without discussing legal communications he had with Wade. Defense lawyers are trying to show Willis and Wade became romantic in 2019. Willis and Wade previously acknowledged the romance began in 2022.

A representative for Bradley said he was at a doctor’s appointment and wasn’t expected at the courtroom until 10:30 a.m.

– Bart Jansen

Trump hits social media to bash Willis

Trump has spent the morning bashing Willis on social media and claiming the proceedings in Georgia have tainted the case against him.

"It was a FAKE CASE from the start," Trump said in one post on Truth Social, "now everybody sees it for what it is."

– David Jackson

More: Fani Willis admits to relationship with prosecutor. What does that mean for the Trump case?

Fani Willis doesn’t testify again

Prosecutors decided not to recall Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis because they had no other questions for her.

“The state has no further questions for Ms. Willis so no need to recall,” said Anna Cross, a prosecutor on the case.

Willis testified Thursday that she had a relationship with prosecutor Nathan Wade, which is why defense lawyers are trying to disqualify her from the case. She and Wade each said the relationship from April 2022 to summer 2023 was no reason for Fulton County Superior Judge Scott McAfee to remove them.

Prosecutors have 3 or 4 witnesses who could take 5 hours

Anna Cross, one of the prosecutors, said she expects to call three or four witnesses whose testimony could take four to five hours.

One witness will be John Floyd, the father of Willis.

Other witnesses will challenge the testimony of Robin Yeartie, a former longtime friend and work colleague of Willis. Yeartie said the relationship between Willis and Wade began in 2019.

But Willis and Wade each said it started in 2022. Willis said she felt Yeartie betrayed their friendship.

Prosecutors to question Willis

Prosecutors initially sought to block a subpoena for Willis to testify, describing it as usual to call an opposing lawyer to testify. But Willis raced to the courtroom asking to give her side of the story.

Willis described having a romantic relationship with Wade from April 2022 to summer 2023. This contrasted with defense allegations of a relationship that began years earlier before she hired Wade, and the county paid him hundreds of thousands of dollars in fees, and the two took international trips together.

Willis and Wade said they split travel expenses, with her repaying him in cash. Defense lawyers questioned the lack of documentation for the reimbursement.

Defense lawyers have completed their questioning of Willis, but prosecutors will take their turn Friday morning.

No decision about whether to remove Willis expected Friday

McAfee told defense lawyers he didn’t expect to get to final arguments about the evidence on Friday because of the length of expected testimony.

He said he would play it by ear about when the issue would be resolved.

Defense lawyers have at least 2 more witnesses, dispute about 3rd

Ashleigh Merchant, a lawyer representing co-defendant Mike Roman − who has been leading the push to remove Willis − said she expects to call two witnesses Friday.

Another defense lawyer, Craig Gillen, who represents another co-defendant, Georgia Republican Party Chairman David Shafer, said he would like to call a witness. But prosecutors have objected.

McAfee said the two sides would debate the matter Friday.

National Academies Press: OpenBook

Eager to Learn: Educating Our Preschoolers (2001)

Chapter: 9&#9;findings, conclusions, and recommendations, 9 findings, conclusions, and recommendations.

T HE RESEARCH ON EARLY CHILDHOOD learning and program effectiveness reviewed in this report provides some very powerful findings:

Young children are capable of understanding and actively building knowledge, and they are highly inclined to do so. While there are developmental constraints on children’s competence, those constraints serve as a ceiling below which there is enormous room for variation in growth, skill acquisition, and understanding.

Development is dependent on and responsive to experience, allowing children to grow far more quickly in domains in which a rich experiential base and guided exposure to complex thinking are available than in those where they receive no such support. Environment—including cultural context—exerts a large influence on both cognitive and emotional development. Genetic endowment is far more responsive to experience than was once thought. Rapid growth of the brain in the early years provides an opportunity for the environment to influence the physiology of development.

Education and care in the early years are two sides of the same coin. Research suggests that secure attachment improves

both social competence and the ability to exploit learning opportunities.

Furthermore, research on early childhood curricula and pedagogy has implications for how early childhood programs can effectively promote development:

Cognitive, social-emotional (mental health), and physical development are complementary, mutually supportive areas of growth all requiring active attention in the preschool years. Social skills and physical dexterity influence cognitive development, just as cognition plays a role in children’s social understanding and motor competence. All are therefore related to early learning and later academic achievement and are necessary domains of early childhood pedagogy.

Responsive interpersonal relationships with teachers nur ture young children’s dispositions to learn and their emerging abilities. Social competence and school achievement are influenced by the quality of early teacher-child relationships, and by teachers’ attentiveness to how the child approaches learning.

While no single curriculum or pedagogical approach can be identified as best, children who attend well-planned, high- quality early childhood programs in which curriculum aims are specified and integrated across domains tend to learn more and are better prepared to master the complex demands of formal schooling. Particular findings of relevance in this regard include the following:

Children who have a broad base of experience in domain-specific knowledge (for example, in mathematics or an area of science) move more rapidly in acquiring more complex skills

More extensive language development—such as a rich vocabulary and listening comprehension—is related to early literacy learning.

Children are better prepared for school when early childhood programs expose them to a variety of classroom structures, thought processes, and discourse patterns. This does not mean adopting the methods and curriculum of the elementary school; rather it is a matter of providing children with a mix of whole

class, small group, and individual interactions with teachers, the experience of different kinds of discourse patterns, and such mental strategies as categorizing, memorizing, reasoning, and metacognition.

While the committee does not endorse any particular cur riculum, the cognitive science literature suggests principles of learning that should be incorporated into any curriculum:

Teaching and learning will be most effective if they engage and build on children’s existing understandings.

Key concepts involved in each domain of preschool learning (e.g., representational systems in early literacy, the concept of quantity in mathematics, causation in the physical world) must go hand in hand with information and skill acquisition (e.g., identifying numbers and letters and acquiring information about the natural world).

Metacognitive skill development allows children to solve problems more effectively. Curricula that encourage children to reflect, predict, question, and hypothesize (examples: How many will there be after two numbers are added? What happens next in the story? Will it sink or float?) set them on course for effective, engaged learning.

young children who are living in circumstances that place them at greater risk of school failure—including poverty, low level of maternal education, maternal depression, and other fac tors that can limit their access to opportunities and resources that enhance learning and development—are much more likely to succeed in school if they attend well-planned, high-quality early childhood programs. Many children, especially those in low-income households, are served in child care programs of such low quality that learning and development are not enhanced and may even be jeopardized.

The importance of teacher responsiveness to children’s differences, knowledge of children’s learning processes and capabilities, and the multiple developmental goals that a quality pre-

school program must address simultaneously all point to the centrality of teacher education and preparation.

The professional development of teachers is related to the quality of early childhood programs, and program quality pre dicts developmental outcomes for children. Formal early childhood education and training has been linked consistently to positive caregiver behaviors. The strongest relationship is found between the number of years of education and training and the appropriateness of a teacher’s classroom behavior.

Programs found to be highly effective in the United States and exemplary programs abroad actively engage teachers and provide high-quality supervision. Teachers are trained and encouraged to reflect on their practice and on the responsiveness of their children to classroom activities, and to revise and plan their teaching accordingly.

Both class size and adult-child ratios are correlated with greater program effects. Low ratios of children to adults are associated with more extensive teacher-child interaction, more individualization, and less restrictive and controlling teacher behavior. Smaller group size has been associated with more child initiations, more opportunities for teachers to work on extending language, mediating children’s social interactions, and encouraging and supporting exploration and problem solving.

CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

What is now known about the potential of the early years, and of the promise of high-quality preschool programs to help realize that potential for all children, stands in stark contrast to practice in many—perhaps most—early childhood settings. How can we bring what we know to bear on what we do?

A committee of the National Research Council recently addressed that question with regard to K-12 education (National Research Council, 1999). While the focus of this report differs from theirs, the conceptual framework for using research knowledge to influence educational practice applies. In this model, the impact of research knowledge on classroom practice—the ultimate goal—is mediated through four arenas, as depicted in Fig-

what is findings conclusions and recommendations

FIGURE 9–1 Arenas through which research knowledge influences classroom practice.

ure 9–1 . When teachers are directly engaged in using research-based programs or curricula, the effect can be direct. This is the case in some model programs. But if research knowledge is to be used systematically in early childhood education and care programs, preservice and in-service education that effectively transmits that knowledge to those who staff the programs will be required.

While we have argued that the teacher is central, effective teachers work with curricula and teaching materials. In Chapter 5 we refer to exemplary curricula that incorporate research knowledge. Changing practice requires that teachers know about, and have access to, a store of teaching materials.

Quality preschool programs can be encouraged or thwarted by public policy. Regulations and standards can incorporate research knowledge to put a floor under program quality. Public funding and the rules that shape its availability can encourage quality above that floor, and can ensure accessibility to those most in need. And finally, program administrators and teachers, as well as policy makers, are ultimately accountable to parents and to the

public. Parents’ expectations of, and support for, preschool programs, as well as their participation in activities that support early development, can contribute to program success.

The chance of effectively changing early childhood education will increase if the four arenas that influence practice are addressed simultaneously and in a mutually supportive fashion. The committee’s recommendations address each of these four arenas of influence.

Professional Development

At the heart of the effort to promote quality preschool, from the committee’s perspective, is a substantial investment in the education and training of preschool teachers.

Recommendation 1: Each group of children in an early childhood education and care program should be assigned a teacher who has a bachelor’s degree with specialized education related to early childhood (e.g., developmental psychology, early childhood education, early childhood special education). Achieving this goal will require a significant public investment in the professional development of current and new teachers.

Sadly, there is a great disjunction between what is optimal pedagogically for children’s learning and development and the level of preparation that currently typifies early childhood educators. Progress toward a high-quality teaching force will require substantial public and private support and incentive systems, including innovative educational programs, scholarship and loan programs, and compensation commensurate with the expectations of college graduates.

Recommendation 2: Education programs for teachers should provide them with a stronger and more specific foundational knowledge of the development of children’s social and affective behavior, thinking, and language.

Few programs currently do. This foundation should be linked to teachers’ knowledge of mathematics, science, linguistics, literature, etc., as well as to instructional practices for young children.

Recommendation 3: Teacher education programs should require mastery of information on the pedagogy of teaching preschool-aged children, including:

Knowledge of teaching and learning and child development and how to integrate them into practice.

Information about how to provide rich conceptual experiences that promote growth in specific content areas, as well as particular areas of development, such as language (vocabulary) and cognition (reasoning).

Knowledge of effective teaching strategies, including organizing the environment and routines so as to promote activities that build social-emotional relationships in the classroom.

Knowledge of subject-matter content appropriate for preschool children and knowledge of professional standards in specific content areas.

Knowledge of assessment procedures (observation/performance records, work sampling, interview methods) that can be used to inform instruction.

Knowledge of the variability among children, in terms of teaching methods and strategies that may be required, including teaching children who do not speak English, children from various economic and regional contexts, and children with identified disabilities.

Ability to work with teams of professionals.

Appreciation of the parents’ role and knowledge of methods of collaboration with parents and families.

Appreciation of the need for appropriate strategies for accountability.

Recommendation 4: A critical component of preservice preparation should be a supervised, relevant student teaching or internship experience in which new teachers receive ongoing guidance and feedback from a qualified supervisor.

There are a number of models (e.g., National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education) that suggest the value of this sort of supervised student teaching experience. A principal goal of this experience should be to develop the student teacher’s ability to integrate and apply the knowledge base in practice. Col-

laborative support by the teacher preparation institution and the field placement is essential. Supervision of this experience should be shared by a master teacher and a regular or clinical university faculty member.

Recommendation 5: All early childhood education and child care programs should have access to a qualified supervisor of early childhood education.

Teachers should be provided with opportunities to reflect on practice with qualified supervisors. This supervisor should be both an expert teacher of young children and an expert teacher mentor. Such supervisors are needed to provide in-service collaborative experiences, in-service materials (including interactive videodisc materials), and professional development opportunities directed toward improvement of early childhood pedagogy.

Recommendation 6: Federal and state departments of education, human services, and other agencies interested in young children and their families should initiate programs of research and development aimed at learning more about effective preparation of early childhood teachers.

Of particular concern are strategies directed toward bringing experienced early childhood educators, such as child care providers and prekindergarten and Head Start teachers, into compliance with standards for higher education and certification. Such programs should ensure that the field takes full advantage of the knowledge and expertise of existing staff and builds on diversity and strong community bonds represented in the current early childhood care and education work force. At the same time, it should assure that the fields of study described above are mastered by those in the existing workforce. These programs should include development of materials for early childhood professional education. Material development should entail cycles of field testing and revision to assure effectiveness.

Recommendation 7: The committee recommends the development of demonstration schools for professional development.

Many people, including professional educators of older chil-

dren, do not know what an early childhood program should look like, what should be taught, or the kind of pedagogical strategies that are most effective. Demonstration schools would provide contextual understanding of these issues.

The Department of Education should collaborate with universities in developing the demonstration schools and in using them as sites for ongoing research:

on the efficacy of various models, including pairing demonstration schools in partnership with community programs, and pairing researchers and in-service teachers with exemplary community-based programs;

to identify conditions under which the gains of mentoring, placement of pre-service teachers in demonstration schools, and supervised student teaching can be sustained once teachers move into community-based programs.

Educational Materials

Good teachers must be equipped with good curricula. The content of early childhood curricula should be organized systematically into a coherent program with overarching objectives integrated across content and developmental areas. They should include multiple activities, such as systematic exploration and representation, planning and problem solving, creative expression, oral expression, and the ability and willingness to listen to and incorporate information presented by a teacher, sociodramatic and exercise play, and arts activities.

Important curriculum areas are often omitted from early education programs, although there is research to support their inclusion (provided they are addressed in an appropriate manner). Methods of scientific investigation, number concepts, phonological awareness, cultural knowledge, languages, and computer technology all fall into this category.

Because children differ in so many respects, teaching strategies used with any curriculum, from the committee’s perspective, need to be flexibly adapted to meet the specific needs and prior knowledge and understanding of individual children. Embedded in the curriculum should be opportunities to assess children’s

prior understanding and mastery of the skills and knowledge being taught.

Teachers will also need to provide different levels of instruction in activities and use a range of techniques, including direct instruction, scaffolding, indirect instruction (taking advantage of moments of opportunity), and opportunities for children to learn on their own (self-directed learning). The committee believes it is particularly important to maintain children’s enthusiasm for learning by integrating their self-directed interests with the teacher-directed curriculum.

Recommendation 8: The committee recommends that the U.S. Department of Education, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and their equivalents at the state level fund efforts to develop, design, field test, and evaluate curricula that incorporate what is known about learning and thinking in the early years, with companion assessment tools and teacher guides.

Each curriculum should emphasize what is known from research about children’s thinking and learning in the area it addresses. Activities should be included that enable children with different learning styles and strengths to learn.

Each curriculum should include a companion guide for teachers that explains the teaching goals, alerts the teacher to common misconceptions, and suggests ways in which the curriculum can be used flexibly for students at different developmental levels. In the teacher’s guide, the description of methods of assessment should be linked to instructional planning so that the information acquired in the process of assessment can be used as a basis for making pedagogical decisions at the level of both the group and the individual child.

Recommendation 9: The committee recommends that the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services support the use of effective technology, including videodiscs for preschool teachers and Internet communication groups.

The process of early childhood education is one in which interaction between the adult/teacher and the child/student is the

most critical feature. Opportunities to see curriculum and pedagogy in action are likely to promote understanding of complexity and nuance not easily communicated in the written word. Internet communication groups could provide information on curricula, results of field tests, and opportunities for teachers using a common curriculum to discuss experiences, query each other, and share ideas.

States can play a significant role in promoting program quality with respect to both teacher preparation and curriculum and pedagogy.

Recommendation 10: All states should develop program standards for early childhood programs and monitor their implementation. These standards should recognize the variability in the development of young children and adapt kindergarten and primary programs, as well as preschool programs, to this diversity. This means, for instance, that kindergartens must be readied for children. In some schools, this will require smaller class sizes and professional development for teachers and administrators regarding appropriate teaching practice, so that teachers can meet the needs of individual children, rather than teaching to the “average” child. The standards should outline essential components and should include, but not be limited to, the following categories:

School-home relationships;

Class size and teacher-student ratios;

Specification of pedagogical goals, content, and methods;

Assessment for instructional improvement;

Educational requirements for early childhood educators; and

Monitoring quality/external accountability.

Recommendation 11: Because research has identified content that is appropriate and important for inclusion in early childhood programs, content standards should be developed

and evaluated regularly to ascertain whether they adhere to current scientific understanding of children’s learning.

The content standards should ensure that children have access to rich and varied opportunities to learn in areas that are now omitted from many curricula—such as phonological awareness, number concepts, methods of scientific investigation, cultural knowledge, and language.

Recommendation 12: A single career ladder for early childhood teachers, with differentiated pay levels, should be specified by each state.

This career ladder should include, at a minimum, teaching assistants (with child development associate certification), teachers (with bachelor’s degrees), and supervisors.

Recommendation 13: The committee recommends that the federal government fund well-planned, high-quality center-based preschool programs for all children at high risk of school failure.

Such programs can prevent school failure and significantly enhance learning and development in ways that benefit the entire society.

Policies that support the provision of quality preschool on a broad scale are unlikely without widespread public support. To engender that support, it is important for the public to understand both the potential of the preschool years, and the quality of programming required to realize that potential.

Recommendation 14: Organizations and government bodies concerned with the education of young children should actively promote public understanding of early childhood education and care.

Beliefs that are at odds with scientific understanding—that maturation automatically accounts for learning, for example, or that children can learn concrete skills only through drill and practice—must be challenged. Systematic and widespread public

education should be undertaken to increase public awareness of the importance of providing stimulating educational experiences in the lives of all young children. The message that the quality of children’s relationships with adult teachers and child care providers is critical in preparation for elementary school should be featured prominently in communication efforts. Parents and other caregivers, as well as the public, should be the targets of such efforts.

Recommendation 15: Early childhood programs and centers should build alliances with parents to cultivate complementary and mutually reinforcing environments for young children at home and at the center.

FUTURE RESEARCH NEEDS

Research on early learning, child development, and education can and has influenced the development of early childhood curriculum and pedagogy. But the influences are mutual. By evaluating outcomes of early childhood programs we have come to understand more about children’s development and capacities. The committee believes that continued research efforts along both these lines can expand understanding of early childhood education and care, and the ability to influence them for the better.

Research on Early Childhood Learning and Development

Although it is apparent that early experiences affect later ones, there are a number of important developmental questions to be studied regarding how, when, and which early experiences support development and learning.

Recommendation 16: The committee recommends a broad empirical research program to better understand:

The range of inputs that can contribute to supporting environments that nurture young children’s eagerness to learn;

Development of children’s capacities in the variety of cog-

nitive and socioemotional areas of importance in the preschool years, and the contexts that enhance that development;

The components of adult-child relationships that enhance the child’s development during the preschool years, and experiences affecting that development for good or for ill;

Variation in brain development, and its implications for sensory processing, attention, and regulation;

The implications of developmental disabilities for learning and development and effective approaches for working with children who have disabilities;

With regard to children whose home language is not English, the age and level of native language mastery that is desirable before a second language is introduced and the trajectory of second language development.

Research on Programs and Curricula

Recommendation 17: The next generation of research must examine more rigorously the characteristics of programs that produce beneficial outcomes for all children. In addition, research is needed on how programs can provide more helpful structures, curricula, and methods for children at high risk of educational difficulties, including children from low-income homes and communities, children whose home language is not English, and children with developmental and learning disabilities.

Much of the program research has focused on economically disadvantaged children because they were the targets of early childhood intervention efforts. But as child care becomes more widespread, it becomes more important to understand the components of early childhood education that have developmental benefits for all children.

With respect to disadvantaged children, we know that quality intervention programs are effective, but better understanding the features that make them effective will facilitate replication on a large scale. The Abecedarian program, for example, shows many developmental gains for the children who participate. But in addition to the educational activities, there is a health and nutrition component. And child care workers are paid at a level

comparable to local public school teachers, with a consequent low turnover rate in staff. Whether the program effect is caused by the education component, the health component, or stability of caregiver, or some necessary combination of the three, is not possible to assess. Research on programs for this population should pay careful attention to home-school partnerships and their effect, since this is an aspect of the programs that research suggests is important.

Research on programs for any population of children should examine such program variations as age groupings, adult-child ratios, curricula, class size, looping, and program duration. These questions can best be answered through random assignment, longitudinal studies. Such studies raise concerns because some children receive better services than others, and because they are expensive. However, random assignment between programs that have very similar quality features, but vary on a single dimension (a math curriculum, for example, or class size) would seem less controversial. The cost of conducting such research must, of course, be weighed against the benefits. Given the dramatic expansion in the hours that children spend in out-of-home care in the preschool years, new knowledge can have a very high payoff.

Research is also needed on the interplay between an individual child’s characteristics, the immediate contexts of the home and classroom, and the larger contexts of the formal school environment in developing and assessing curricula. An important line of research is emerging in this area and needs continued support.

Recommendation 18: A broad program of research and development should be undertaken to advance the state of the art of assessment in three areas: (1) classroom-based assessment to support learning (including studies of the impact of methods of instructional assessment on pedagogical technique and children’s learning), (2) assessment for diagnostic purposes, and (3) assessment of program quality for accountability and other reasons of public policy.

All assessments, and particularly assessments for accountability, must be used carefully and appropriately if they are to resolve, and not create, educational problems. Assessment of young

children poses greater challenges than people generally realize. The first five years of life are a time of incredible growth and learning, but the course of development is uneven and sporadic. The status of a child’s development as of any given day can change very rapidly. Consequently assessment results—in particular, standardized test scores that reflect a given point in time— can easily misrepresent children’s learning.

Assessment itself is in a state of flux. There is widespread dissatisfaction with traditional norm-referenced standardized tests, which are based on early 20th century psychological theory. There are a number of promising new approaches to assessment, among them variations on the clinical interview and performance assessment, but the field must be described as emergent. Much more research and development are needed for a productive fusion of assessment and instruction to occur and if the potential benefits of assessment for accountability are to be fully realized.

Research on Ways to Create Universal High Quality

The growing consensus regarding the importance of early education stands in stark contrast to the disparate system of care and education available to children in the United States in the preschool years. America’s programs for preschoolers vary widely in quality, content, organization, sponsorship, source of funding, relationship to the public schools, and government regulation.

As the nation moves toward voluntary universal early childhood programs, parents, and public officials face important policy choices, choices that should be informed by careful research.

Recommendation 19: Research to fully develop and evaluate alternatives for organizing, regulating, supporting, and financing early childhood programs should be conducted to provide an empirical base for the decisions being made.

Compare the effects of program variations on short-term and long-term outcomes, including studies of inclusion of children with disabilities and auspices of program regulation.

Examine preschool administration at local, county, and state levels to assess the relative quality of the administrative and support systems now in place.

Consider quality, infrastructure, and cost-effectiveness.

Review the evidence that should inform state standards and licensing, including limits on group size and square footage requirements.

Develop instruments and strategies to monitor the achievement of young children that meet state and national accountability requirements, respect young children’s unique learning and developmental needs, and do not interfere with teachers’ instructional decision making.

At a time when the importance of education to individual fulfillment and economic success has focused attention on the need to better prepare children for academic achievement, the research literature suggests ways to make gains toward that end. Parents are relying on child care and preschool programs in ever larger numbers. We know that the quality of the programs in which they leave their children matters. If there is a single critical component to quality, it rests in the relationship between the child and the teacher/caregiver, and in the ability of the adult to be responsive to the child. But responsiveness extends in many directions: to the child’s cognitive, social, emotional, and physical characteristics and development.

Much research still needs to be done. But from the committee’s perspective, the case for a substantial investment in a high-quality system of child care and preschool on the basis of what is already known is persuasive. Moreover, the considerable lead by other developed countries in the provision of quality preschool programs suggests that it can, indeed, be done on a large scale.

Clearly babies come into the world remarkably receptive to its wonders. Their alertness to sights, sounds, and even abstract concepts makes them inquisitive explorers—and learners—every waking minute. Well before formal schooling begins, children's early experiences lay the foundations for their later social behavior, emotional regulation, and literacy. Yet, for a variety of reasons, far too little attention is given to the quality of these crucial years. Outmoded theories, outdated facts, and undersized budgets all play a part in the uneven quality of early childhood programs throughout our country.

What will it take to provide better early education and care for our children between the ages of two and five? Eager to Learn explores this crucial question, synthesizing the newest research findings on how young children learn and the impact of early learning. Key discoveries in how young children learn are reviewed in language accessible to parents as well as educators: findings about the interplay of biology and environment, variations in learning among individuals and children from different social and economic groups, and the importance of health, safety, nutrition and interpersonal warmth to early learning. Perhaps most significant, the book documents how very early in life learning really begins. Valuable conclusions and recommendations are presented in the areas of the teacher-child relationship, the organization and content of curriculum, meeting the needs of those children most at risk of school failure, teacher preparation, assessment of teaching and learning, and more. The book discusses:

  • Evidence for competing theories, models, and approaches in the field and a hard look at some day-to-day practices and activities generally used in preschool.
  • The role of the teacher, the importance of peer interactions, and other relationships in the child's life.
  • Learning needs of minority children, children with disabilities, and other special groups.
  • Approaches to assessing young children's learning for the purposes of policy decisions, diagnosis of educational difficulties, and instructional planning.
  • Preparation and continuing development of teachers.

Eager to Learn presents a comprehensive, coherent picture of early childhood learning, along with a clear path toward improving this important stage of life for all children.

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Ransomware Retrospective 2024: Unit 42 Leak Site Analysis

  • 5,785 people reacted
  • 17 min. read

By Doel Santos

February 5, 2024 at 3:00 AM

Category: Ransomware

Tags: Advanced Threat Prevention , Advanced URL Filtering , Advanced WildFire , ALPHV , Cloud-Delivered Security Services , Cortex XDR , Cortex Xpanse , Cortex XSIAM , DNS security , Hive , next-generation firewall , Prisma Cloud , Ransomed , Royal Ransomware , Trigona , Vice Society

A pictorial representation of ransomware leak site data tracked by Unit 42. A hand offers money to another hand holding keys. In the background is a computer screen with the biohazard symbol on it.

This post is also available in: 日本語 ( Japanese )

Executive Summary

The ransomware landscape experienced significant transformations and challenges in 2023. The year saw a 49% increase in victims reported by ransomware leak sites, with a total of 3,998 posts from various ransomware groups.

What drove this surge of activity? 2023 saw high-profile vulnerabilities like SQL injection for MOVEit and GoAnywhere MFT services. Zero-day exploits for these vulnerabilities drove spikes in ransomware infections by groups like CL0P, LockBit and ALPHV (BlackCat) before defenders could update the vulnerable software.

Leak site data reveals at least 25 new ransomware groups emerged in 2023, indicating the continued attraction of ransomware as a profitable criminal activity. Despite the appearance of new groups such as Darkrace, CryptNet and U-Bomb, many of these new ransomware threat actors did not last and disappeared during the second half of the year.

2023 was an active year for international law enforcement agencies as they intensified their focus on ransomware. This focus led to the decline of groups like Hive and Ragnar Locker, and the near-collapse of ALPHV (BlackCat). Law enforcement actions in 2023 reflect the increasing challenges faced by ransomware groups.

Ransomware threat actors targeted a wide range of victims with no preference for specific industries.

Leak site data collected by Unit 42 indicates that manufacturing was the most affected industry in 2023, signaling significant vulnerabilities in this sector. Although organizations from at least 120 different countries have been impacted by ransomware extortion, the U.S. stood out as the primary target of ransomware. 47% of ransomware leak site posts in 2023 revealed victim organizations based in the U.S.

Palo Alto Networks customers are better protected from the threats discussed in this article through our Next-Generation Firewall with Cloud-Delivered Security Services , including Advanced WildFire , DNS Security , Advanced Threat Prevention and Advanced URL Filtering .

Cortex Xpanse can be used to detect vulnerable services. Cortex XDR and XSIAM customers have been protected from all known active ransomware attacks of 2023 out of the box, without additional protections having to be added to the system. The Anti-Ransomware Module helps prevent encryption behavior, local analysis helps prevent the execution of ransomware binaries, and Behavioral Threat Protection helps prevent ransomware activity. Prisma Cloud Defender Agents can monitor Windows VM instances for known malware.

If you think you might have been compromised or have an urgent matter, contact the Unit 42 Incident Response team .

Table of Contents

Leak Sites and Our Dataset Key Findings Critical Vulnerabilities Newcomers in 2023 Goners in 2023 Hive Ragnar Locker RansomedVC Trigona ALPHV (Blackcat): Almost a Goner Possible Rebrands Leak Site Statistics for 2023 Group Distribution Monthly and Weekly Averages Affected Industries Geographic Impact Conclusion Protections and Mitigations Additional Resources

Leak Sites and Our Dataset

Analysis for this article is based on data from ransomware leak sites, sometimes known as dedicated leak sites and abbreviated as DLS.

Ransomware leak sites first appeared in 2019 , when Maze ransomware began using a double extortion tactic. Stealing a victim’s files before encrypting them, Maze was the first known ransomware group to establish a leak site to coerce a victim and release stolen data .

These threat actors pressure victims to pay – not only to decrypt their files, but to prevent the attackers from publicly exposing their sensitive data. Since 2019, ransomware groups have increasingly adopted leak sites as part of their operations.

Our team monitors data from these sites, often accessible through the dark web, and we review this data to identify trends. Since leak sites are now commonplace among most ransomware groups, researchers often use this data to determine overall levels of ransomware activity and pinpoint the date a specific ransomware group was first active.

However, defenders should use leak site data with caution because it might not always reflect actuality. A ransomware group might start without a leak site as it builds its infrastructure and expands operations. Furthermore, if a victim offers immediate payment, the ransomware incident might not appear on a group’s leak site. As a result, leak sites do not always provide a clear or accurate picture of a ransomware group's activities. The true scope of ransomware's impact might be different from what these sites suggest.

Despite these drawbacks, data pulled from ransomware leak sites provides valuable insight on the state of ransomware operations in 2023.

Key Findings

The dataset we have compiled reveals the rise and fall of ransomware groups in 2023, along with affected industries and geographical distribution of attacks. Most importantly, the volume of ransomware activity reflects the large-scale impact of zero-day exploits targeting critical vulnerabilities.

Critical Vulnerabilities

In 2023, we observed 3,998 posts from ransomware leak sites, compared to 2,679 posts in 2022. This marks approximately a 49% increase for the year as illustrated below in Figure 1.

Image 1 is a column graph comparing ransomware leak site reports from 2022 to 2023. There were 2,679 instances in 2022. There were 3,998 in 2023.

The increase in activity can likely be attributed to zero-day exploits targeting critical vulnerabilities such as CVE-2023-0669 for GoAnywhere MFT or CVE-2023-34362, CVE-2023-35036 and CVE-2023-35708 for MOVEit Transfer SQL Injection .

CL0P has taken credit for exploiting the MOVEit transfer vulnerability. In June 2023, the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency (CISA) estimated TA505, a group known for leveraging CL0P ransomware, has compromised more than 3,000 US-based organizations and approximately 8,000 victims globally. The scale of these attacks forced vulnerable organizations to shorten their response times so they could effectively counter the threat. However, the sheer volume of data from compromised websites also forced ransomware groups to adapt.

For example, the CL0P ransomware group updated its extortion tactics in 2023. By midyear, CL0P was leveraging torrents to distribute stolen data – a quicker and more efficient method than hosting stolen data on the group’s Tor website. We previously reported this activity in September 2023, and our article provides notable insight on recent CL0P ransomware operations.

CL0P was not the only group exploiting critical vulnerabilities. Ransomware groups like LockBit , Medusa , ALPHV (BlackCat) and others leveraged a zero-day exploit for the Citrix Bleed vulnerability CVE-2023-4966, which led to numerous compromises by these groups in November 2023.

When reviewing the number of compromises reported by ransomware leak sites in 2023 on a month-by-month basis, we find increased compromises during certain months as shown below in Figure 2. These increases loosely align with the dates ransomware groups began exploiting specific vulnerabilities.

Image 2 is a bar graph comparing monthly counts of leak site posts by ransomware groups in 2023. Included are specific vulnerabilities. These include GoAnywhere, PaperCut CVE-2023-27350, MOVEit and Citrix Bleed.

Not all ransomware threat actors are capable of leveraging zero-day vulnerabilities. Some ransomware groups are run by inexperienced threat actors who will leverage anything at their disposal.

For example, an unknown ransomware group targeted VMware ESXi environments during a campaign nicknamed ESXiArgs . This campaign exploited CVE-2021-21974 , a vulnerability already two years old at the time of the attacks.

According to CISA , ESXiArgs impacted over 3,800 servers. These types of campaigns are usually not posted on ransomware leak sites because the threat actors are interested in a quick payout instead of extorting victims for maximum impact or selling their data. Even though these groups use older exploits, their campaigns can have as much impact as efforts by more experienced ransomware threat actors.

But experienced or not, ransomware threat actors have come and gone in the evolving threat landscape. Let's review the new ransomware threat actors seen in 2023.

Newcomers in 2023

Due to high payouts by victims in recent years, cybercriminals are often enticed by the idea of ransomware as a source of revenue. As these criminals form new ransomware groups, not every attempt is successful or sustainable.

A new ransomware group must consider several challenges not applicable to other malware, such as communicating with victims and increased operational security. The public nature of ransomware operations increases their risk of detection by law enforcement agencies, security vendors and other defenders.

Ransomware groups must also consider their competition. Profit sharing, software capabilities and affiliate support can significantly impact a new group's standing in the highly competitive criminal market for ransomware.

Despite these challenges, the data reveals 25 new leak sites in 2023. These groups have at least launched a ransomware-as-a-service (RaaS) offering, hoping to become a contender in the ransomware marketplace. The names of these threat groups are shown below in Table 1.

Table 1. Names of 25 new leak sites for ransomware that appeared in 2023.

Of note, at least three of these sites were reported as first active sometime in 2022. But we consider these ransomware families as new in our analysis for two reasons. First, even if analysis indicates these ransomware families started operations sometime in 2022, they were all first publicly reported in 2023. Second, leak sites are necessary to become a notable player in today’s criminal ransomware market.

The three ransomware families that reportedly started in 2022 with newly established leak sites in 2023 are:

The new groups reflected by leak site data reveal a competitive criminal market for ransomware. Of the 25 groups with newly established leak sites in 2023, at least five had no new posts in the second half of 2023, indicating these groups might have shut down. Table 2 shows a list of these new ransomware leak sites that might have shut down before the end of 2023.

Table 2. Last known date of leak site posts from five new ransomware groups in 2023.

A lack of leak site posts does not necessarily mean these groups have ceased operations. Criminals from these groups could have moved to other types of operations, retreated from public view or merged with other ransomware groups.

If some of these groups did not last the entire year, new threat actors can fill the void. The second half of 2023 revealed posts from 12 new leak sites, indicating these groups might have started later in the year, as indicated below in Table 3.

Table 3. First date of leak site posts from 12 ransomware groups in 2023.

These 25 new leak sites contributed to approximately 25% of the total ransomware posts from 2023. Of these new groups, Akira led with the most posts as illustrated in Figure 3.

First observed in March 2023, Akira has been described as a fast-growing ransomware group, and researchers have linked this group to Conti through cryptocurrency transactions associated with the Conti leadership team.

Second place in the number of leak site posts in 2023 is 8Base ransomware. 8Base is one of the ransomware groups active since 2022, but this group started publicly disclosing its victims in May 2023 .

Image 3 is a column chart of post count of new 2023 ransomware leak sites. The top three posts are from Akira, 8Base, NoEscape.

Goners in 2023

2023 saw the downfall of several prominent ransomware groups. Reasons include overexposure and aggressive tactics, which attracted the attention of law enforcement agencies and cybersecurity organizations. These ransomware groups were under a spotlight that led to increased pressure and operational challenges.

The crucial role played by international law enforcement agencies in 2023 cannot be overstated. Their increased collaborative efforts led to major successes in disrupting ransomware operations.

These actions include providing decryption keys to victims, seizing infrastructure and arresting key threat actors. Law enforcement efforts destabilized notable ransomware groups and prevented them from earning as much money. The results forced affiliates to abandon these groups and seek more profitable alternatives.

Let's review some of the notable ransomware operations that appear to have ceased activity in 2023.

One of the most prolific groups in 2022, Hive ransomware was shut down as part of a law enforcement-led operation reported in January 2023. This operation captured the group's decryption keys and offered them to victims worldwide, saving victims over $130 million in potential ransom payments.

The FBI seized Hive ransomware's main site as shown below in Figure 4. Hive affiliates scattered, and this group disappeared for the remainder of 2023.

Image 4 is a screenshot of the Tor site for Hive ransomware after it had been seized by the FBI. This hidden site has been seized. Hive logo and name. The Federal Bureau Of Investigation seized this site as part of a coordinated law enforcement action taken against Hive Ransomware. There are six logos of law enforcement agencies from around the world and multiple flags of countries.

Ragnar Locker

Ragnar Locker also felt the wrath of international law enforcement agencies. This group originally started in 2019 and had been very active since then.

In October 2023, Europol reported a coordinated international law enforcement effort that seized Ragnar Locker infrastructure , and the main perpetrator was subsequently presented to the Paris Judicial Court. Figure 5 shows a screenshot of Rangar Locker's Tor site in 2023 shortly after it was taken over by law enforcement.

Image 5 is a screenshot of the Tor site for Ragnar Locker after its seizure by law enforcement. This service has been seized as part of a coordinated international law enforcement action against the RagnarLocker group. There are many logos of law enforcement agencies from around the world.

Ransomed.Vc

Ransomed.Vc started operations in August 2023 and brought attention to itself by claiming responsibility for a compromise of Sony in September . Also known simply as Ransomed, this group ceased operations and put its available infrastructure up for auction near the end of October , making its success very short-lived.

The shutdown likely occurred due to law enforcement intervention. The following month, six individuals affiliated with this group were allegedly arrested .

Trigona was another noteworthy ransomware departure in 2023. First spotted in 2022, Trigona was taken down not from law enforcement action, but from the efforts of pro-Ukrainian hacktivists.

A hacktivist group that calls itself the Ukrainian Cyber Alliance took advantage of a Critical vulnerability in Confluence and used a zero-day exploit to access Trigona's infrastructure. The hacktivist group erased all of Trigona's data , an action that ultimately led to the ransomware group's demise.

Below, Figure 6 shows a screenshot of Trigona's Tor site after it was defaced by the Ukrainian Cyber Alliance.

Image 6 is a screenshot of Trigona’s Tor site after it had been defaced by the Ukrainian Cyber Alliance. Picture of owl made out of circuits. Trigona is gone! The servers of the Trigona ransomware gang has been exfiltrated and wiped out. Welcome to the world you created for others. Hacked by Ukrainian Cyber Alliance. Disrupting Russian criminal enterprises (both public and private) since 2014.

ALPHV (BlackCat): Almost a Goner

Also known as BlackCat, the ALPHV group was hit hard during 2023. In December, the FBI disrupted ALPHV (BlackCat) operations and released a decryption tool that allowed compromised victims to recover their data. This was a huge setback for ALPHV, and it offered incentives to keep its criminal affiliates from being spooked by the FBI. Meanwhile, other ransomware groups like LockBit began poaching ALPHV affiliates .

The ALPHV group has since responded to the FBI disruption and fought back against law enforcement action . But if this group cannot fix its reputation, it could shut down and rebrand as a new ransomware gang.

Possible Rebrands

2023 also saw the sudden disappearance of Royal ransomware and Vice Society . Both were active in 2022 through the first half of 2023 performing multi-extortion strategies, and both have attracted the attention of law enforcement.

Royal ransomware was created by former members of Conti , and it has been involved in multiple high-profile attacks against critical infrastructure . The Royal leak site ceased operations sometime in July 2023. Various sources have reported similarities in code between Royal and the newly established BlackSuit ransomware, indicating a possible rebranding from Royal to BlackSuit .

Vice Society attracted the attention of the public and law enforcement by targeting organizations in healthcare and education. This group stopped posting on its leak site in June 2023, but Vice Society might not have completely vanished. Multiple researchers have linked Vice Society to the newly established Rhysida ransomware , suggesting a rebrand.

One of the new ransomware groups in 2023 appears to have been rebranded during the same year. Leak site data indicates Cyclops ransomware was active in July 2023, but a version 2.0 update of Cyclops was rebranded as Knight ransomware . Cyclops had no more leak site posts after July 2023, while Knight’s leak site posts started later that year in September.

Leak Site Statistics for 2023

Analyzing leak site data provides key insight into the ransomware threat. We reviewed 3,998 leak site posts from 2023, and this data suggests the most active groups, the most affected industries and areas of the world that have been hit hardest by ransomware.

Group Distribution

Of the 3,998 leak site posts from 2023, LockBit ransomware remains the most active, with 928 organizations accounting for 23% of the total.

Operating since 2019 with minimal breaks, LockBit has been the most prolific ransomware group for two years in a row now. With the downfall of groups like Conti , Hive and Ragnar Locker , LockBit has become the ransomware of choice for many threat actors who have subsequently become its affiliates .

LockBit has launched multiple variants that affect both Linux and Windows operating systems. By repurposing freely available software tools and taking advantage of LockBit’s fast encryption , affiliates can tailor ransomware operations to meet their individual needs.

Second place in leak posts was ALPHV (BlackCat) ransomware, with roughly 9.7% of the total leak site posts in 2023. Third place was CL0P ransomware, with approximately 9.1% of 2023’s posts.

CL0P is notorious for utilizing zero-day exploits of critical vulnerabilities like those for Progress Software's MOVEit and Fortra’s GoAnywhere MFT . However, the number of organizations reported by CL0P on the group's leak site might not accurately reflect the full impact of these vulnerabilities.

For example, CL0P's leak site data indicates it had compromised 364 organizations during the year, but a report analyzing CL0P's exploitation of the MOVEit vulnerability in 2023 states 2,730 organizations were affected . This is a prime example of the disparities we often find between leak site data and real-world impact.

Figure 7 illustrates the leak site post count from different ransomware families in 2023.

Image 7 is a column chart of post count of all 2023 ransomware leak site posts by group. The top three posts are from LockBit 3.0, ALPHV, Cl0p. LockBit is significantly higher than the rest.

Monthly and Weekly Averages

The 3,998 ransomware posts we reviewed mean ransomware groups generated an average of 333 posts per month in 2023. This annual number also equates to an average of almost 77 posts each week. The numbers for 2023 show a growth in ransomware activity compared to 2022.

2022 saw a total of 2,679 leak site posts with an average of 223 each month and an average of 52 each week. The annual total marks a 49% increase of ransomware leak site posts in 2023 compared to the previous year.

The number of leak site reports in 2023 was highest in July, with 495 posts. CL0P had the most posts that month, probably due to its large-scale exploitation of the MOVEit vulnerability.

According to the leak site post count, January and February were the least active months for ransomware in 2023. A line graph illustrating the occurrence of leak site posts throughout the year is shown in Figure 8.

Image 8 is a chart of leak site post counts by month through all of 2023. The highest amount is over 70 in August.

Affected Industries

Some ransomware groups might focus on specific countries or industries, but most are opportunistic and primarily concerned with making a profit. As a result, many ransomware groups compromise organizations across multiple industries.

Leak site posts in 2023 reveal the manufacturing industry was most impacted by ransomware, with 14% of the total posts as shown below in Figure 9.

Image 9 is a column chart of industries affected in 2023 by ransomware leak site posts. The top three industries are manufacturing, professional and legal services and high technology.

Why was manufacturing hit the most by ransomware? Manufacturers usually have limited visibility into their operational technology (OT) systems , often lack adequate network monitoring and occasionally fail to implement best security practices.

Geographic Impact

Leak site data reveals most victims in 2023 were based in the U.S., with 47.6% of the total posts. The U.K. was second at 6.5%, then Canada at 4.6% and Germany at 4%. See Figure 10 for a pie chart showing the most affected locations.

Image 10 is a pie graph of leak site post distribution by country in 2023. The majority is the United States at 47.6%, followed by the UK at 6.5%, Canada at 4.6%, Germany at 4%, and France at 3.4%.

Organizations in the U.S. have been the top target of ransomware since leak sites first appeared in 2019. The U.S. presents a very attractive target, especially when examining the Forbes Global 2000 , which ranks the largest companies in the world according to sales, profits, assets and market value. In 2023, the U.S. accounted for 610 of these organizations, consisting of almost 31% of the Forbes Global 2000, indicating a high concentration of wealthy targets.

While ransomware groups tend to target wealthy regions like the U.S., this threat remains a widespread global issue. Leak site data from 2023 reveals victims from at least 120 different countries across the world.

2023 presented a thriving and evolving ransomware landscape as reflected in posts from ransomware leak sites. Posts from these sites indicate a notable increase in activity, and this data also reflects new ransomware groups that have appeared and existing groups that have declined. Although the landscape remains fluid, law enforcement's growing effectiveness in combating ransomware signals a welcome change.

Ransomware groups such as CL0P have used zero-day exploits against newly discovered critical vulnerabilities, which represent a complex challenge for potential victims. While ransomware leak site data can provide valuable insight on the threat landscape, this data might not accurately reflect the full impact of a vulnerability. Organizations must not only be vigilant about known vulnerabilities, but they must also develop strategies to quickly respond to and mitigate the impact of zero-day exploits.

Protections and Mitigations

Palo Alto Networks customers are better protected from ransomware through the following products:

  • Advanced WildFire : The Advanced WildFire machine-learning models and analysis techniques are frequently updated with information discovered from our day-to-day research on ransomware.
  • Cortex Xpanse : Cortex Xpanse can be used to detect vulnerable services exposed directly to the internet that might be exploitable and infected by ransomware.
  • Anti-ransomware module to prevent encryption behaviors on Windows
  • Local Analysis prevention for ransomware binaries on Windows
  • Behavioral Threat Protection (BTP) rule helps prevent ransomware activity on Windows as well as Linux
  • Advanced URL Filtering and DNS Security block related malicious URLs and domains as ransomware, command and control (C2), and malware categories.
  • Advanced Threat Prevention can block ransomware threats at both the network and application layers, including port scans, buffer overflows and remote code execution.
  • Prisma Cloud : Any cloud infrastructure running Windows virtual machines (VMs) should monitor their Windows-based VMs using Cortex XDR Cloud Agents or Prisma Cloud Defender Agents. Both agents will monitor the Windows VM instances for known malware, using signatures pulled from Palo Alto Networks WildFire.

If you think you might have been compromised or have an urgent matter, get in touch with the Unit 42 Incident Response team or call:

  • North America Toll-Free: 866.486.4842 (866.4.UNIT42)
  • EMEA: +31.20.299.3130
  • APAC: +65.6983.8730
  • Japan: +81.50.1790.0200

Additional Resources

The following reports were referenced in this article. These can provide more insight on ransomware operations, individual ransomware families or specific operations related to ransomware in 2023.

  • Dedicated Leak Sites (DLS): Here’s what you should know – Group-IB
  • What is Multi-Extortion Ransomware? – Palo Alto Networks
  • Allied Universal Breached by Maze Ransomware, Stolen Data Leaked – Bleeping Computer
  • What is a zero-day exploit? – IBM
  • Tor (Network) – Wikipedia
  • Summary of the Investigation Related to CVE-2023-0669 – Fortra GoAnywhere Blog
  • Threat Brief - MOVEit Transfer SQL Injection Vulnerabilities: CVE-2023-34362, CVE-2023-35036 and CVE-2023-35708 – Unit 42, Palo Alto Networks
  • #StopRansomware: CL0P Ransomware Gang Exploits CVE-2023-34362 MOVEit Vulnerability – U.S. Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA)
  • CL0P Seeds ^_- Gotta Catch Em All! – Unit 42, Palo Alto Networks
  • Understanding Ransomware Threat Actors: LockBit – U.S. Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA)
  • Medusa Ransomware on the Rise: From Data Leaks to Multi-Extortion – The Hacker News
  • #StopRansomware: ALPHV Blackcat – U.S. Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA)
  • What Is Citrix Bleed? The Next Ransomware Patch You Need – Government Technology ESXiArgs: Questions & Answers – VMware
  • CVE-2021-21974 – CVE List, The MITRE Corporation
  • ESXiArgs Ransomware Virtual Machine Recovery Guidance – U.S. Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA)
  • 8Base Ransomware: A Heavy Hitting Player – VMware Security Blog
  • Hackers use new 3AM ransomware to save failed LockBit attack – Bleeping Computer
  • Abyss Locker Ransomware Looks to Drown VMware's ESXi Servers – Dark Reading
  • Akira, again: The ransomware that keeps on taking – Sophos
  • [PDF] BlackSuit Ransomware – HC3: Analyst Note
  • CACTUS Ransomware Exploits Qlik Sense Vulnerabilities in Targeted Attacks – The Hacker News
  • Ransomware review: October 2023 – Malwarebytes
  • Cloak Ransomware: Who’s Behind the Cloak? – Cyberint
  • Netskope Threat Coverage: CrossLock Ransomware – Netskope
  • New RaaS CryptNet Advertised for Double Extortion Attacks in Dark Web Forums – Retail & Hospitality ISAC
  • Knight: An analysis of Cyclops’ ransomware successor – Acronis
  • Unmasking the Darkrace Ransomware Gang – Cyble
  • Hunters International Cyberattackers Take Over Hive Ransomware – Dark Reading
  • Inc. Ransom – SentinelOne
  • Novel LostTrust ransomware operation emerges – SC Media
  • NoEscape Ransomware – HC3: Analyst Note
  • Nokoyawa – SentinelOne
  • Vanderbilt University Medical Center investigating cybersecurity incident – Recorded Future
  • New Money Message ransomware demands million dollar ransoms – Bleeping Computer
  • Newly identified RA Group compromises companies in U.S. and South Korea with leaked Babuk source code – Cisco Talos
  • Ransomware Roundup - Rancoz – Fortinet
  • The Emergence of Ransomed: An Uncertain Cyber Threat in the Making – Flashpoint
  • #StopRansomware: Rhysida Ransomware – U.S. Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA)
  • U-Bomb – SentinelOne
  • Bee-Ware of Trigona, An Emerging Ransomware Strain – Unit 42, Palo Alto Networks
  • Conti and Akira: Chained Together – Arctic Wolf
  • 8Base Ransomware [PDF] – Health Sector Cybersecurity Coordination Center (HC3): Analyst Note
  • #StopRansomware: Hive Ransomware – U.S. Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA)
  • U.S. Department of Justice Disrupts Hive Ransomware Variant – Office of Public Affairs, U.S. Department of Justice
  • Hive Ransomware Operation Shut Down by Law Enforcement – Security Week
  • Ragnar Locker ransomware gang taken down by international police swoop – Europol
  • Sony was attacked by two ransomware operators – Malwarebytes
  • Get your very own ransomware empire on the cheap, while stocks last – The Register
  • Ransomed.vc gang claims to shut down after six affiliates allegedly arrested – Recorded Future
  • CVE-2023-22515 - Broken Access Control Vulnerability in Confluence Data Center and Server – Atlassian Support
  • Ukrainian activists hack Trigona ransomware gang, wipe servers – Bleeping Computer
  • Servers of the Trigona ransomware gang has been exfiltrated and wiped out – X (Twitter)
  • Justice Department Disrupts Prolific ALPHV/Blackcat Ransomware Variant – Office of Public Affairs, U.S. Department of Justice
  • AlphV ransomware site is “seized” by the FBI. Then it's "unseized." And so on. – ArsTechnica
  • LockBit ransomware now poaching BlackCat, NoEscape affiliates – Bleeping Computer
  • BlackCat Rises: Infamous Ransomware Gang Defies Law Enforcement – Infosecurity Magazine
  • Threat Assessment: Royal Ransomware – Unit 42, Palo Alto Networks
  • Vice Society: Profiling a Persistent Threat to the Education Sector – Unit 42, Palo Alto Networks
  • #StopRansomware: Royal Ransomware Update [PDF] – U.S. Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA)
  • CISA, FBI warn that Royal ransomware gang may rebrand as ‘BlackSuit’ – Recorded Future
  • Rhysida, the new ransomware gang behind British Library cyber-attack – The Guardian
  • Threat Alert: Cortex vs. LockBit 3.0 – Palo Alto Networks
  • Conti Ransomware Operation Shut Down After Brand Becomes Toxic – Security Week
  • LockBit wins ransomware speed test, encrypts 25,000 files per minute – The Register
  • Clop ransomware gang begins extorting GoAnywhere zero-day victims – Bleeping Computer
  • Ransomware Attacks Increasingly Targeting Manufacturers – NAM News Room, National Association of Manufacturers
  • ​​Unpacking the MOVEit Breach: Statistics and Analysis – Emsisoft
  • The Global 2000 – Forbes

Updated on Feb. 20, 2024 at 12:56 p.m. PT. 

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