What we do

The Collaboratory for Indigenous Data Governance develops research, policy, and practice innovations for Indigenous data sovereignty. Indigenous data sovereignty draws on the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples that reaffirms the rights of Indigenous nations to control data about their peoples, lands, and resources. 

A growing number of institutions recognize the need to create policies and practices that uphold Indigenous Peoples’ rights to data. Indigenous Peoples’ data encompass data and information (1) at the individual and collective levels, (2) about humans and their non-human relations, and (3) arising from Indigenous Peoples’ knowledges. Institutions include but are not limited to: Indigenous governments, research funding agencies, universities, libraries, museums, industry, and nonprofits. Institutions hold already existing data while also creating new data every day. Oftentimes, digital data or data collections do not reflect the principles of free, prior, and informed consent. Lack of provenance, permissions, and ethical norms defined by Indigenous Peoples in the collection, storage, and use of data hinder Indigenous access to data and the ability to maintain relationships throughout the data lifecycle and across data ecosystems. 

We are building upon and supporting the movement to develop new institutional frameworks that center the terms of Indigenous communities around research and data partnerships. Collaboratory team members engage tribal rights holders and institutional stakeholders through research, education, and advocacy to understand the barriers that they face and to identify opportunities for change. Our goal is to move beyond mere recognition of Indigenous Peoples’ rights to data towards institutional policy and practice changes that protect and strengthen Indigenous Peoples’ relationships with their data, information, and knowledge. 

The Collaboratory partners with Indigenous Peoples and nations in the US Southwest and across the globe, as well as national and international networks of Indigenous data sovereignty and governance experts. The team’s disciplinary breadth includes public health, law, business, geography, sociology, social work, public policy, and environmental and climate sciences.

Impact of COVID-19 on Food Access in Indigenous Communities in the Arctic and U.S. Southwest: A Comparative Landscape Analysis

Lab Group Researchers: Stephanie Russo Carroll, Mary Beth Jäger

Research Advisory Committee: Amy Juan, Althea Walker, Kaare Erickson, Lydia Jennings, Shawna Larson, and Wendy Smythe

Funding: National Science Foundation

Project Contact: jager@arizona.edu

Established in 2018, the Indigenous Foods Knowledges Network (IFKN), a National Science Foundation (NSF) funded Research Coordination Network (OPP 1745499), has created connections among Indigenous and allied leaders, citizens, and scholars focused on research and community capacity related to food sovereignty and resilience in the Arctic and US Southwest. While in-person Network meetings are on hold during the COVID-19 pandemic, IFKN and researchers at the University of Arizona and the University of Colorado Boulder were awarded a NSF RAPID COVID-19 grant, “Impact of COVID-19 on Food Access in Indigenous Communities in the Arctic and U.S. Southwest: A Comparative Landscape Analysis,” from the Office of Polar Programs (OPP-2035161). A key component of this one-year project is a COVID-19 research advisory committee composed of members of IFKN who will work with the research team to co-develop the research design, process, and outputs to focus on concerns and questions of Indigenous Peoples from both regions about the impacts of COVID-19 on food security and sovereignty.

An Indigenous data governance approach for enhancing ethical research policies and practices

Lab Group Researchers: Stephanie Russo Carroll, Ibrahim Garba, Dominique David-Chavez

Funding: National Science Foundation

Project Contact: stephaniecarroll@arizona.edu

In order to address barriers that have historically impeded ethical and responsible research practices, research institutions must foster a culture of integrity and trustworthiness. The 4-year National Science Foundation Ethical and Responsible Research (SES 2024269) project, “An Indigenous data governance approach for enhancing ethical research policies and practices,” applies an Indigenous data governance framework to review institutional norms and practices that promote or inhibit ethical design, outcomes, and approaches across the STEM research landscape to advance university policies and improve research and data cultures.

Funding for this grant comes through the University of Arizona’s Udall Center for Public Policy and the Native Nations Institute. The research team comprises scholars from a diverse array of disciplines across campus, including Dr. John Hildebrand (neuroscience), Dr. Jane Bambauer (data law), Dr. Dominique David-Chavez (climate sciences, also at Colorado State University), Ibrahim Garba (Indigenous law and bioethics), and Mercury Fox (data policy), as well as Noor Johnson (Arctic sciences) University of Colorado Boulder.

The Indigenous Foods Knowledges Network

Lab Group Researchers: Stephanie Russo Carroll, Mary Beth Jäger

Funding: National Science Foundation

Project Contact: jager@arizona.edu

The Indigenous Foods Knowledges Network (IFKN) was initiated under a four-year National Science Foundation Research Coordination Network grant (OPP 1745499) “Networking Indigenous Arctic and U.S. Southwest Communities on Knowledge Co-Production in Data Sciences,” under the direction of a research team at the University of Colorado Boulder and the University of Arizona.

The goal of IFKN is to develop a network comprised of Indigenous leaders, community practitioners, and scholars (both Indigenous and non-Indigenous) who are focused on research and community capacity related to food sovereignty and Indigenous Knowledge. The network seeks to build connections among Indigenous communities in the Arctic and the US Southwest. Indigenous Peoples in these two regions share common challenges around sustaining, revitalizing, and adapting food and knowledge practices in the context of environmental and social change. Network members collectively work to improve understanding of these topics by promoting and carrying out research and hands-on activities that embrace and respect Indigenous Knowledge systems and support Indigenous communities.

Article in AGU EOS about IFKN: Network Connects Indigenous Knowledges in the Arctic and U.S. Southwest January 15, 2021

How are we supporting Indigenous data stewards?: Aligning Indigenous and federal environmental science research ethics guidelines

Lab Group Researchers: Dominique David-Chavez, Serena Natonabah, Brianne Lauro, Stephanie Russo Carroll

Funding: National Science Foundation

Project Contact: dmdchavez@arizona.edu

For decades, government agency researchers have been conducting studies on tribal lands with little accountability regarding how that research impacts those communities. Tribal communities are working to restore inherent rights over their knowledge systems, languages, and practices after centuries of suppression and genocide driven by settler colonial agendas. In the U.S., Indigenous communities recognize an ongoing need for improving access to data that reflects the needs, values, and priorities of their communities, rather than externally driven agendas. Scientific forums are also increasingly recognizing the importance of Indigenous knowledge systems for addressing the complex and dynamic challenges we face today, such as extreme climate variability, and social and environmental justice issues. Under a National Science Foundation Fellowship Award grant (SMA/SBE 1911673) “Supporting Indigenous scholars as data stewards and leaders in STEM,” our main research objective focuses on answering two critical questions: 1) What factors and indicators represent effective and ethically responsible research practice in Indigenous communities? and 2) To what extent are these factors and indicators represented in codes of ethics and responsible research guidelines that U.S. federal agencies currently provide to tribal, agency, and academic researchers? We are centering this study around existing Indigenous ethics frameworks/guidelines, such as the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) and the International Society of Ethnobiology Code of Ethics,  to build our analytical framework that we will then apply to federal research guidelines for Indigenous environmental research. We will use our findings to help communicate how agencies can refine their guidelines to ensure the ethical responsibility of researchers and to support capacity for Indigenous data stewards.

Indigenous self-determination in US research governance: an analysis of law, policy, and mechanisms

Lab Group Researchers: Ibrahim Garba, Danella Hall, Stephanie Russo Carroll

Funding: Morris K. Udall and Steward L. Udall Foundation

Project Contact: stephaniecarroll@arizona.edu

In the past, Indigenous Peoples’ engagement with research in the United States and elsewhere was hampered by a lack of standardized guidelines, institutional partnerships, and tribal control, resulting in group harms. More recently, Indigenous nations in the US have been using a number of tools to govern research within their human, geographic, and/or issue-based jurisdictions. While previous scholarship has explored the variety of models used in specific areas of research (e.g., biospecimens, cultural intellectual property), this project develops a comprehensive review of tribal research governance mechanisms generally. 

This project currently focuses on tribal codes as expressions of self-determination and, where pertinent, refers to research governance documents from tribal colleges/universities (TCUs) and regional Institutional Review Boards (IRBs). Aims include (1) identifying self-governance practices in research oversight; (2) promoting development of a model tribal governance framework for research that has international relevance for Indigenous Peoples; (3) informing policy development; and (4) supporting Indigenous nation research governance.

We gathered publicly available tribal research codes as well as tribal, tribal college, and regional Indigenous IRB documents through web searches and emails to tribal, tribal college, and organization offices. The team created an expanded set of document coding criteria based on those in Garrison et al., “Genomic research through an indigenous lens: understanding the expectations.” Annual review of genomics and human genetics 20 (2019). Our extended set includes (1) Jurisdiction, (2) Engagement and Participation, (3) Review, (4) Costs, (5) Appeals, (6) Enforcement/Sanctions, (7) Evaluation, (8) Values, Culture, Tradition, Knowledge, Religion/Spirituality, (9) Ownership and Control, (10) Intellectual Property, (11) Prepublication Review, (12) Authorship and Acknowledgement, and (13) Commercial Applications and Financial Benefit. Two researchers coded each set of documents with a third mediating any discrepancies.

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