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Review of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander research ethics guidelines submission

This submission reflects the views of
Organisation Name: 
The University of Notre Dame Australia
Personal Details
Specific Questions
Question 1: 
The broader scope is only reflected specifically in the new draft guideline Ethical Conduct in Research with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and Communities: Guidelines for Researchers and Stakeholders. However, the principles from the 2003 Values and Ethics document remain, somewhat reframed, in the 2017 draft. Equality has been changed to Equity and Survival, and Protection to Cultural Continuity. The diagrammatic representation of the core values has also been changed. The five core values previously rendered as being encompassed by a spiral of Spirit and Integrity with time (past, present and future as continuum) has been changed to a more holistic set of core values with Spirit and Integrity as the central locus that links the other five core values. The obvious shift in focus from the health research emphasis of the 2003 guidelines does not detract from how the guidelines can be applied in a health context. As general principles, they are solid and the change in descriptor reflects how the sector has become more aware of the language it uses. The explanations of the core values are useful for researchers who are unfamiliar with the issues of relevance when researching in an Aboriginal context. The examples of how a value might be reflected and demonstrated in a research setting are useful. Greater context and explanation for the principles and application in a best practice research process is included in the companion draft document Keeping Research on Track II. However, it may take some time for all researchers conducting research with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and communities to understand how to apply the principles in non-health-related Indigenous research. Therefore, it may be helpful to include more examples throughout the documents for how the guidelines can be used for research that is not health-related.
Question 2: 
Intellectual property is included in both of the new draft guidelines, but is explained in greater detail in Keeping Research on Track II. Reading both draft guidelines, as well as the additional resources listed in each, provide a much strengthened guide compared to the 2003 Values and Ethics statement. The draft guidelines reinforce the importance of negotiated formal agreements, the rights of community and the obligations of researchers. Links are provided for researchers to seek further information regarding Intellectual Property; however, some of the key principles from these resources may be better placed within the relevant sections in the body of the documents.
Question 3: 
i) It would be useful to include a case study specifically about Intellectual Property. This is an area that many researchers and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities find most confusing, particularly when the project involves a Higher Degree by Research student. It may be useful to include a case study that is specific for Aboriginal researchers and one for non-Aboriginal researchers. An Aboriginal researcher would “have knowledge” whereas a non-Aboriginal researcher would be “collecting knowledge.” This distinction is important and would determine how ownership of Intellectual Property is discussed. ii) The Kimberley Land Council website (http://www.klc.org.au/) provides valuable resources for researchers about Intellectual Property that could be useful to both researchers and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. It would also be useful to include a case study where storytelling culture is investigated and how it pertains to Intellectual Property. Another case study example worth considering, relates to women and birthing. Birthing practices generally have cultural protocols with associated cultural responsibilities. The ownership of this written knowledge is important to consider from the perspective of Intellectual Property. iii) A case study would be useful for the section on Reciprocity. This case study could include examples of the kinds of resources, capacity, skills, infrastructure, employment and facilities that could potentially remain with a community as a consequence of the research activity. It would also be worth considering a case study about research projects involving the re-telling of personal experiences to construct historical events. Generally, within the holistic view of health, Aboriginal people do not speak about ill health. Capturing this information in a project, which is traditionally not spoken about, would be against cultural protocols and would affect how that information could be used by researchers. iv) Case studies about topics related to specific cultural norms that may be considered offensive in modern day society may be helpful e.g. folklore, beliefs, cultural responsibilities or cultural/gender roles. Negotiating how the research outcomes will be published and Intellectual Property is often difficult when these topics are explored in research projects.
General comments

Overall the new draft guidelines are an improvement to the 2003 Values and Ethics statement and embraces some of the original 1991 Guidelines. It is important that both documents be read by researchers when planning a research project, and therefore it may be useful to merge them.

Page reviewed: 2 August, 2018