Research FAQs for Indigenous groups, governments, and Nations
This FAQ is a living document and will be updated.
Q: How do I approach a researcher we might be interested in engaging?
For academics, cold calling (or emailing) is a normal practice to begin a research relationship. It is not considered rude to email a researcher whose work you think would benefit your community. Initial emails are usually formal (Dear Dr. So-and-so) and relatively short, but with enough specific information about: 1) who you are and who you represent, 2) What specific work you’re interested in engaging on, 3) what a collaboration might look like (is the researcher going to be contracted to do research autonomously, or will it be community-lead, for example). If you are unsure about whether you want to work with a particular researcher, we recommend asking around informally to see how their other partnerships have gone, rather than relying on publications, awards, and media accounts. It is normal for researchers to have their resumes (called a CV in academia, for curriculum vitae) online, or at least list their research areas and publications on a departmental website.
Q: How do we deal with our ownership, access, and control of data?
This is decided between you (or your governing body) and the researcher. Any data contract can be tailored to each group’s needs. Memorial has an experienced team in the Research Initiatives & Services (RIS) who work on this sort of thing.
Some existing Indigenous-created guidelines for research data is covered here:
- First Nations Assembly of Canada. “First Nations Principles of OCAPTM (ownership, control, access, and possession)”;
- Kukutai, T., and Taylor, J. (Eds.). (2016). Indigenous data sovereignty: Toward an agenda (Vol. 38). Anu Press;
- Rainie, Stephanie Carroll, Desi Rodriguez-Lonebear, and Andrew Martinez. 2017. Policy Brief (Version 2): Data Governance for Native Nation Rebuilding. Tucson: Native Nations Institute.
Q: How do we hold our own grants?
Different granting agencies have different rules about what kind of organizations and individuals can hold research grants. The best route is to contact the funding body to ask. Funding bodies that we know allow Indigenous individuals, NGOS, and/or governing bodies to hold research grants include:
Q: What do we do if a researcher is not following protocols?
There are many steps that can be taken. They are listed here in order of severity.
- Talk to the researcher directly. Sometimes researchers do not know they are breaking protocol or acting disrespectfully. Many have not had specific training on these things.
- If the researcher is a graduate student, talk to their advisor via phone or email.
- If the breach of protocol is a breach of ethics regarding human subjects, where the protocols not being followed were written on a consent form, a permit, or other university-recognized document, you may call the body responsible for the permissions. To contact Memorial’s Interdisciplinary Committee on Ethics in Human Research (ICEHR), see this link. To contact Memorial’s Animal Care and Veterinary Resources (ACVR), see this link.
- If you would like to revoke consent for Indigenous research, the governing body that granted the consent can email the Research Initiatives and Services team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A researcher came and said they would get back to us with results, copies of our interviews, or other follow ups and we haven’t heard from them. What can we do?
If your enquiries to the researcher have gone unanswered (email often works best for academics, and even two emails is within normal communication practices), you can reach out to a few different groups, depending on the situation. If you are not sure how to proceed, you can also contact the Office of Indigenous Affairs at email@example.com.
- If the researcher used consent forms with individual interviewees/participants saying something would happen and it has not, you can contact Memorial’s Interdisciplinary Committee on Ethics in Human Research (ICEHR).
- If the researcher had a contract or Memorandum of Understanding with a governing body, NGO, or other formal group, you can contact Memorial’s Research Initatives and Services at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- If there was a verbal promise, you can reach out to the researcher’s dean (the head of their university faculty), and/or the Office of the Vice-President (Research) at email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.
- There is also a severe type of breach called gross misconduct, which includes the following:
- fabrication, falsification, or plagiarism but not factors intrinsic to the process of academic research, such as honest error, conflicting data or differences in interpretation or assessment of data or of experimental design; or
- willful or deliberate destruction or destruction resulting from the failure to take reasonable measures to ensure the safety of one's own research data within a period of five (5) years after publication of the research results, or the deliberate tampering with or destruction of the research of another; or
- once the results of the research have been published, refusal without good and sufficient reason, to provide access to the data that resulted in the published document, for the purpose of verification by bona fide academic researchers for a period of five (5) years from the date of publication; or
- failure to respect agreements concerning privileged access to information or ideas obtained from confidential manuscripts or applications; or
- the use of unpublished scholarly work of others without their permission when that permission is explicitly required; or
- significant failure to comply with relevant federal or provincial statutes or regulations or national or international standards for the protection of researchers, human subjects, or the health and safety of the public, or for the welfare of laboratory animals, or significant failure to meet other legal requirements that relate to the conduct of research
Complaints of Misconduct in Research have a special process at the university outlined in the Procedure for Investigating Reports of Misconduct in Research and are handled directly by the President’s Office.
Q: Where can we get support on creating a formal ethics protocol or process?
While the Research Grant and Contract Services 0ffice can provide templates the university has used to enter an agreement in the past, they cannot advise directly on creating or changing formal ethics or permissions processes. However, there are many Indigenous groups who have them. Here are some examples:
- Indigenous Research Protection Act by Indigenous Peoples Council on Biocolonialism
- Model Tribal Research Code by the American Indian Law Center
- The Canadian Aboriginal AIDS Network MOU on Principles of Research Collaboration
- The Memorandum of Understanding for the Community Organizing Part of Community Action Against Asthma (Between: University of Michigan School of Public Health, Detroiters’s Working for Environmental Justice (DWEJ), the Detroit Hispanic Development Corporation (DHDC) and Warren Conner Development Coalition (WCDC)).
- Healthy African American Families Community Participatory Research Collaboration Agreement
- Language Revitalization In Vancouver Island Salish Communities project
Q: Who at Memorial can authorize a grant or project? How do I know a research project is legitimate?
There are only a few people at Memorial University who can say that a project is approved by the university. None of them are faculty. As of November 2018, these people are: Neil Bose, David Miller, and Paula Clarke. These signatures on a grant award letter, contract, or MOU let you know that Memorial University is aware of the research and has approved it. Otherwise it is not legally binding, nor officially supported by the university.