Guidelines for Responsible Research

I. Introduction

The following document represents a guideline for communications planning to assist Northern Contaminants Program (NCP) project leaders in initiating community contacts and developing research agreements with communities. Ultimately, the objective is that communications/ participation planning will become integral to research proposal development.

II. Key points

The following are key points to consider when planning communications and community participation in NCP projects:

A. Engagement

  1. Engage early with the Regional Contaminants Committees (RCCs) and Inuit Research Advisors (IRAs), before and during the development of a proposal.
  2. During engagement, researchers should explain the potential beneficial and harmful effects of the research on individuals, communities and/or the environment.
  3. No undue pressure should be applied to obtain consent for participation in a research project.
  4. Greater consideration should be placed on the risks to cultural values than to potential contributions of the research to knowledge.

B. Research Obligations

  1. Research should include community participation in the identification of research topics, Indigenous knowledge and priorities.
  2. Community participation in project planning and implementation goes beyond "moral" obligations; rather it is a legal and constitutional requirement associated with land claims.
  3. For all parties to benefit from research, efforts should be made, where practical, to employ and train local (especially Indigenous) researchers and assistants.
  4. It is important to develop approaches to research that are responsive to local or regional needs. The Regional Contaminants Committees (RCCs) and Aboriginal organizations are good mechanisms for achieving this.
  5. Research must respect sacred sites, cultural materials, and cultural properties.
  6. Subject to requirements for confidentiality, publications should give appropriate credit to everyone who contributes to the research.
  7. All project leaders are required to prepare a report on their project for inclusion in the annual NCP Synopsis of Research report to be used by the RCCs for communications purposes.

C. Research Relationships

  1. Community-researcher relationships should be established early on in the project planning process, outlining details of "level of engagement" and "mutual obligations" for each partner. This will ensure a meaningful two-way exchange of information.
  2. Researchers and communities may wish to set out the parameters of their agreements and understandings in a Memorandum of Understanding.
  3. From the NCP perspective, development of researcher-community relationships is a dynamic and evolving process. As research projects progress, common elements will emerge regarding the perceptions, needs, and resource/capacity strengths of individual communities and researchers, including their criteria and preferred form of participation in scientific research projects.
  4. The right to refuse participation always rests with the individual at any point in any study.


D. Communications

  1. Researchers are advised to contact the appropriate Regional Contaminants Committee (RCC) and Inuit Research Advisor (IRA) for advice on communications planning during the development of their proposal.
  2. Researchers should incorporate advice on communication into their proposal. Communication of results should include consideration of media other than printed reports. Examples of effective methods for information dissemination include:  face-to-face discussion, local radio, DVD, pamphlets, videos and web sites. Many of these can successfully present highlights of several projects or categories of research activity over several years. Public presentations that allow for little interaction are seldom regarded as useful. RCCs will direct the project leader if communication of results is required.
  3. Communication support materials, such as pamphlets, posters and videos, should not be seen as solutions to communications problems, but as tools to be used in combination with person-to-person communication. Communications support materials should be sent to the appropriate Territorial/regional Contaminants Committee for review.
  4. Translation of summary reports into local languages is recognized as critical and should be done wherever possible/appropriate.


E. Reporting of Specific Health Risk Results

  1. The existing protocol for reporting results from human health risk assessments (from analysis of fish/wildlife contaminants burdens) must be adhered to. The decision to conduct such assessments is part of this protocol.
  2. Researchers must ensure the accuracy of their results since these may influence decisions and policy that can directly affect individuals and communities.
  3. There is a process to prepare contingency plans if results are reported that require some form of intervention or action, in relation to reporting of individual human results. This is done by the responsible health authority (e.g. regional departments of health and social services) in consultation with the Regional Contaminants Committees, the four NCP Indigenous Partners, and the NCP Management Committee.