The ICC helps researchers to behave more ethically

Ditch the PowerPoint and listen more than you talk. These are just some of the Inuit Circumpolar Council’s recommendations to researchers going to the Arctic.

 

By Nicoline Larsen

 

A great deal of research is done here in Greenland. Researchers come for many reasons, but many are here to seek answers to the questions raised by climate change. Unfortunately, the research sometimes escape the Greenlandic people’s notice.

 

“Research regarding the Arctic “cryosphere” has emerged without a full understanding of Inuit Nunaat — our traditional homelands and territory, which includes Inuit, our way of life and our knowledge.” Dalee Sambo Dorough, then International Chair of the Inuit Circumpolar Council writes.

That is why the ICC has recently published the report, “Circumpolar Inuit Protocols for Equitable and Ethical Engagement”, which states recommendations that are intended, among other things, for researchers so they know how to behave when they visit areas inhabited by Inuit to conduct their research.

The report lists eight procotols:

  • ‘Nothing About Us Without Us’- Always Engage with Inuit
  • Recognize Indigenous Knowledge in its Own Right
  • Practice Good Governance
  • Communication with Intent
  • Exercising Accountability – Building Trust
  • Building Meaningful Partnerships
  • Information, Data Sharing, Ownership and Permissions
  • Equitably Fund Inuit Representation and Knowledge

The ICC writes in their report that they ”invite scientists, researchers, funders and decision-makers to digest and ultimately implement these protocols with the Inuit.”

Ditch the PowerPoint

In the report, ICC reviews each of the eight protocols and explains how researchers can ensure that they occur in practice. Among other things, it provides concrete advice on how to communicate in a good and efficient way, such as:

Listen more than you talk

Another piece of advice is to listen more than you talk. “Researchers, decision-makers and international forums often assume that they know more than we do,” the ICC writes. “They often focus on teaching and explaining what the problems and solutions are. Our voices contain knowledge and expertise, which must be respected in our communication.”

 

They also recommend providing fair compensation to those who contribute to the research, prioritize hiring locals and respect hunting seasons.

Finally, the ICC writes that researchers should ensure that their results do not just end up in a scientific magazine. Instead, they encourage researchers to share their research with the public in “appropriate and accessible language.”

Many good initiatives

The ICC protocols are not specific to Greenland, but apply to the entire Arctic. So far, there are no overarching Greenlandic guidelines for how researchers should conduct ethically sound, culturally grounded and community-centred research in Greenland.

 

The Arctic Hub is a hub for research in Greenland, and it bids all ICCs initiatives welcome, says Anna-Sofie Skjervedal, head of the secretariat at the hub. It often happens that external researchers turn to the Arctic Hub to find out if there are any general ethical guidelines they need to follow when they conduct research in Greenland.

 

“We are pleased that we can now refer the researchers to the ICC protocols when they contact us. Our experience is that researchers want to do as well as possible in terms of involving local citizens and behaving ethically. At the same time as the ethical aspects can help to improve the quality of their research, it can also give them very concrete advice on how to give something back to society,” says Anna-Sofie Skjervedal.

 

In addition to ICC’s work, there are also initiatives underway that work towards developing guidelines that are more specific to Greenland. Arctic Hub and a number of other local research institutions support and contribute to this work.

 

In the meantime, Arctic Hub continues to refer external researchers to existing reports, advice and best practice cases from the local Greenlandic research environment. If you are curious to peruse these, you can find them here.

Images
All images belong to: Inuit Circumpolar Council. 2022. "Circumpolar Inuit Protocols for Equitable and Ethical Engagement"