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Australasian Human Research Ethics Consultancy Services Pty Ltd (AHRECS)

Indigenous Data Sovereignty (Books: Edited by Tahu Kukutai and John Taylor | November 2016)0

Posted by Admin in on August 2, 2018

As the global ‘data revolution’ accelerates, how can the data rights and interests of indigenous peoples be secured? Premised on the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, this book argues that indigenous peoples have inherent and inalienable rights relating to the collection, ownership and application of data about them, and about their lifeways and territories. As the first book to focus on indigenous data sovereignty, it asks: what does data sovereignty mean for indigenous peoples, and how is it being used in their pursuit of self-determination?

The varied group of mostly indigenous contributors theorise and conceptualise this fast-emerging field and present case studies that illustrate the challenges and opportunities involved. These range from indigenous communities grappling with issues of identity, governance and development, to national governments and NGOs seeking to formulate a response to indigenous demands for data ownership. While the book is focused on the CANZUS states of Canada, Australia, Aotearoa/New Zealand and the United States, much of the content and discussion will be of interest and practical value to a broader global audience.

‘A debate-shaping book … it speaks to a fast-emerging field; it has a lot of important things to say; and the timing is right.’ 
— Stephen Cornell, Professor of Sociology and Faculty Chair of the Native Nations Institute, University of Arizona

‘The effort … in this book to theorise and conceptualise data sovereignty and its links to the realisation of the rights of indigenous peoples is pioneering and laudable.’ 
— Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Baguio City, Philippines

Kukutai, T and Taylor, J (2016) Indigenous Data Sovereignty: Toward an agenda. ANU Press.

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Science needs clarity on Europe’s data-protection law – Nature (May 2018 | Editorial)0

Posted by Admin in on July 21, 2018

As a commendable European law on personal data comes into force, the research community must not let excessive caution about data sharing, however understandable, become the default position.

European policymakers have been discussing new rules on data protection for years, and scientists and universities — like everyone else across the continent — are about to see the results. Entering into force on 25 May, a new law known as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), is designed to protect the personal privacy of citizens and will overhaul how personal data are collected, handled, processed and stored. It’s a welcome move to safeguard individuals and is the biggest shake-up of data protection in more than 20 years.

Does your institution provide guidance to its researchers on the GDPR? The University Research Ethics Manual Gary Allen wrote will get a GDPR and National Statement (2018) update during the next few months. We included 10 links to other useful/interesting/topical items.

However, as this journal has noted before, earlier drafts of the law posed a problem for science and the research community. Of particular concern was the issue of consent — the draft language suggested researchers would be required to seek renewed consent to reuse data collected for a different purpose, which could have introduced delays and made some research impractical. But many in the research community worked relentlessly to warn policymakers of the potential harm. In response, officials put in place rules that exempt research from some of the requirements, provided the proper safeguards are in place. Universities and organizations have introduced plans to make sure they are. The bulk of the work should be done.

The passing of the final GDPR rules is, therefore, a good example of political engagement by researchers and their advocates, and a sensible and informed reaction from policymakers. Those involved, on both sides, deserve great credit. Harmonization of how data can be sourced, stored and used would, in theory, be good for research. It could smooth the difficulties that scientists face when they try to pool analysis of genomic data and tissue samples across national borders. Such sharing could help scientists to organize powerful trials with large numbers of participants.

Read the rest of this discussion piece

Self-Determination in Health Research: An Alaska Native Example of Tribal Ownership and Research Regulation (Vanessa Y. Hiratsuka, et al | 2017)0

Posted by Admin in on July 17, 2018


The idea of researchers building the trust of potential participants is sometimes viewed with caution (because of worry it will undermine the voluntary nature of participation) and scepticism (because of the time/resources required, that are needed to actually conduct the research). While such worries might seem reasonable, it is important to recognise: the historical experience of First Peoples and research has not been positive (and some of that ‘historical experience is fairly recent); Indigenous people are generally underrepresented in health research; and building trust is not only sound in terms of the ethical principle of Respect it’s likely to improve the usefulness of the results.

Alaska Native (AN) and American Indian (AI) people are underrepresented in health research, yet many decline to participate in studies due to past researcher misconduct. Southcentral Foundation (SCF), an Alaska Native-owned and operated health care organization, is transforming the relationship between researchers and the tribal community by making trust and accountability required features of health research in AN/AI communities. In 1998, SCF assumed ownership from the federal government of health services for AN/AI people in south central Alaska and transformed the health system into a relationship-based model of care. This change reimagines how researchers interact with tribal communities and established community oversight of all health research conducted with AN/AI people in the region. We describe the SCF research review process, which requires tribal approval of the research concept, full proposal, and dissemination products, as well as local institutional review board approval, and a researcher-signed contract. This review evaluates research through the lens of tribal principles, practices, and priorities. The SCF example provides a framework for other tribes and organizations seeking to reshape the future of health research in AN/AI communities.

Keywords: community review, Alaska Native, tribal, ethics, Native American, research, research conduct, trust, accountability

Hiratsuka, V. Y., Beans, J. A., Robinson, R. F., Shaw, J. L., Sylvester, I., & Dillard, D. A. (2017). Self-determination in health research: An Alaska Native example of Tribal ownership and research regulation. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 14(11), 1324.
Publisher (Open Access):

Conducting Research with Tribal Communities: Sovereignty, Ethics, and Data-Sharing Issues (Papers: Anna Harding, et al | 2011)0

Posted by Admin in on July 17, 2018


Background: When conducting research with American Indian tribes, informed consent beyond conventional institutional review board (IRB) review is needed because of the potential for adverse consequences at a community or governmental level that are unrecognized by academic researchers.

Objectives: In this article, we review sovereignty, research ethics, and data-sharing considerations when doing community-based participatory health–related or natural-resource–related research with American Indian nations and present a model material and data-sharing agreement that meets tribal and university requirements.

Discussion: Only tribal nations themselves can identify potential adverse outcomes, and they can do this only if they understand the assumptions and methods of the proposed research. Tribes must be truly equal partners in study design, data collection, interpretation, and publication. Advances in protection of intellectual property rights (IPR) are also applicable to IRB reviews, as are principles of sovereignty and indigenous rights, all of which affect data ownership and control.

Conclusions: Academic researchers engaged in tribal projects should become familiar with all three areas: sovereignty, ethics and informed consent, and IPR. We recommend developing an agreement with tribal partners that reflects both health-related IRB and natural-resource–related IPR considerations.

Keywords: American Indian, data sharing, informed consent, intellectual property, IRB, research ethics, sovereignty, tribal

Harding A, Harper B, Stone D, O’Neill C, Berger P, et al. (2011) Conducting Research with Tribal Communities: Sovereignty, Ethics, and Data-Sharing Issues. Environmental Health Perspectives.  120: 6–10. pmid:21890450
Publisher (Open Access):