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Sharing worlds of knowledge: Research protocols for communities

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Title: Sharing worlds of knowledge: Research protocols for communities
Issue Date: 02 Mar 2013
Description: Academic research in Indigenous and other communities moves increasingly to a collaborative or empowerment model (e.g., Cameron et al. 1993, Czaykowska-Higgins 2009, Yamada 2007). At the same time, communities are increasingly aware of issues such as access to information, intellectual property, and representation of research results. One fairly new response to these trends is the development of community research protocols, statements which specify how research is conducted in a community. This paper reports on the development of one such protocol. It is hoped that this example will be helpful to other communities and researchers.

Context: When (author 1) established initial contact with an Indigenous community in Saskatchewan, Canada, the wish for a research protocol was expressed by both (author 1) and community members: The community had recently experienced a breach of trust by visiting researchers and wished to prevent such incidents in the future. At the same time, (author 1) asked for the community's guidance in conducting research properly and respectfully. As a consequence, a protocol was developed collaboratively by community members including (author 2), and (author 1).
Content: The protocol focuses on language and culture research and sets the context by expressing the significance of the language and culture to the community. It explicitly states the community's goal to maintain and preserve its language and culture, and specifies that all research must support this goal. From there, the protocol moves to topics such as informed consent, representation of research, intellectual property, access, and process. Intellectual property, in particular, is an area where there are few legal or other precedents, and some innovative methods of safeguarding Indigenous intellectual property are used (see Thom 2006).

Outcomes: The protocol is an attempt to formalize principles of respect and mutuality in "sharing worlds of knowledge"; while these principles can never adequately be ensured by a written document, the process involved in putting them on paper does have the effect of strengthening them. The process has increased awareness about the intangible value of language and culture, and has been very satisfying for those involved. A sense of trust has emerged between community members and the researcher. It has also become obvious that protocol development is an interdisciplinary effort, drawing on the "worlds of knowledge" of the community, of linguistics and anthropology, and of law.
Rights: Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported
Appears in Collections:3rd International Conference on Language Documentation and Conservation (ICLDC)

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