Communicating research on indigenous peoples: The role of journals and publishers
Taken strictly, the term “indigenous peoples” means the original inhabitants of a given area, though it is commonly used to mean people living in their ancestral area who have maintained traditional customs and culture from before contact with colonizing cultures. The Indigenous peoples of the world have rich cultures, languages, histories, and knowledge systems that deserve to be recognized and respected in academia. However, much of the research on indigenous communities reflects a colonial mindset. Furthermore, many Indigenous scholars face challenges and barriers when trying to publish their research in mainstream academic journals (such as discrimination and lack of appreciation of Indigenous sources of knowledge). In this blogpost, we aim to highlight the importance of amplifying Indigenous voices in academia and offer some ways that academic journals and publishers can improve their practices when communicating research on Indigenous peoples.
Importance of amplifying Indigenous voices in academia
Indigenous peoples are far from monolithic, but many groups have a common history of being marginalized, oppressed, and silenced by colonialism and its legacy. Their knowledge and perspectives have often been dismissed or appropriated by dominant Western or other imperial paradigms, resulting in a lack of representation of Indigenous peoples and respect for their contributions to various fields.
Indigenous peoples have often been investigated in fields such as linguistics, anthropology, and ethnobotany, but this has often been as subjects. Nowadays, more people from Indigenous communities participate actively in research, but their contributions are too often not properly credited properly in studies; part of a problem referred to as “helicopter research.”
Amplifying Indigenous voices in academia is not only a matter of justice and equity, but also a matter of quality and relevance. Indigenous scholars bring valuable insights and solutions to address complex and urgent issues that affect us all, including how to educate others. Their research reflects their values and worldviews, which can challenge and even transform the dominant modes of thinking.
Promoting Indigenous voices in academia can foster more inclusive academic communities that respect different forms of knowledge. We can also create more opportunities for collaboration, and mutual learning between Indigenous and non-Indigenous scholars, as well as between academia and Indigenous communities.
Guidelines to follow when communicating research on indigenous peoples
Academic journals and publishers are critical to the dissemination of knowledge. Therefore, they are responsible for ensuring that communication practices are ethical and culturally appropriate.
Publishers must assure that appropriate language is used. This can be done by creating guidelines on language usage with a comprehensive list of stigmatizing or inaccurate terms that should be avoided. Consulting existing style books can be helpful.
While paper authors are often given primacy over the data they present in their manuscripts, it is important to recognize the rights and interests of Indigenous peoples over their knowledge, data, and cultural expressions. Thus, proper acknowledgment and authorship should be offered, and appropriate policies to ensure these rules are followed should be put in place. The CONSIDER statement is a 17-point checklist of guidelines addressing how to report studies on indigenous peoples.
Journals should also encourage and support the submission of manuscripts by Indigenous authors or co-authors, as well as manuscripts that use Indigenous languages. Another valuable way of supporting and including Indigenous scholars is by including citation guidelines for communication from Indigenous knowledge keepers.
Finally, publishers should ensure that Indigenous communities have access to research that concerns them or which they have participated in. Rather than paywalling articles on Indigenous peoples, putting in place an open access policy and appropriately indexing papers can allow Indigenous peoples to reap the benefits of research conducted on their communities.
Disseminating of indigenous knowledge fairly
When Indigenous people share their knowledge, they should expect reciprocity and positive relationships from those disseminating it. Therefore, academic journals and publishers must respect the cultural values, protocols, and preferences of Indigenous peoples.
Indigenous authors or communities should be consulted on how they want their knowledge to be disseminated, who they want to reach, and what impact they want to achieve. The protocols and taboos of Indigenous peoples should be respected at all stages of this process. For example, some Indigenous communities like the Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders have specific restrictions on reproducing the names and photographs of deceased persons (which Australian journalists, documentary makers, and media are required to follow).
After an article is published, journals or publishers can work with authors to seek feedback from and engage in dialogue with communities about the outcomes and implications of the research. This will help ensure they remain involved in the ongoing conversations about and implications of their traditional knowledge.
Besides traditional journal articles, supporting the development of alternative or complementary platforms or formats, such as podcasts, videos, websites or oral presentations, can help Indigenous knowledge to be communicated more effectively to wider audiences.
Incorporating indigenous perspectives in peer review
Peer review is key to ensuring that academic research is valid and properly presented. However, peer review processes are often influenced by dominant Western norms, standards and expectations that may not be appropriate or relevant for evaluating research on Indigenous peoples. Therefore, academic journals and publishers should incorporate Indigenous perspectives in their peer review. How this should be done remains debated, but research has been conducted on this issue. Some ideas include:
- Invite Indigenous scholars or experts as reviewers or editors who can provide constructive feedback and guidance on the publication. However, it is important to understand the community’s capacity and not overburden them with excessive requests for their time.
- Include a community involvement statement or a validation of community approval.
- Encourage and facilitate dialogue, negotiation and consensus-building between Indigenous communities and stakeholders to address any issues, concerns or disagreements that may arise during the peer review process.
- Provide feedback and recognition to reviewers and editors for their contribution and expertise in reviewing research on Indigenous peoples.
- Let Indigenous communities or organizations determine their own involvement in the process to avoid false representation or tokenism.
Journals and publishers of note
The International Indigenous Policy Journal (IIPJ)
IIPJ is an online, peer-reviewed journal that publishes original research and policy analysis on Indigenous issues from a multidisciplinary perspective. The journal aims to provide a forum for Indigenous and non-Indigenous scholars, practitioners, and community members to share their knowledge to support evidence-based policy making. IIPJ shared the draft of the Aboriginal chapter of the Tri-Council Policy Statement, which is Canada’s main set of guidelines for ethical research on humans.
AlterNative: An International Journal of Indigenous Peoples
AlterNative is a peer-reviewed scholarly journal that publishes research on Indigenous peoples. The journal seeks to “present scholarly research on Indigenous worldviews and experiences of decolonization from Indigenous perspectives from around the world”. AlterNative also has a diverse editorial board of Indigenous or non-Indigenous scholars from various countries and clear guidelines on ethically reporting on Indigenous peoples.
Routledge Studies in Indigenous Peoples and Policy
Routledge, a global publisher of academic books focusing mainly on the humanities and social sciences, has recently began publishing a series of multidisciplinary books on Indigenous studies edited by esteemed academics Jerry P. White and Susan Wingert.
Communicating research on Indigenous peoples requires careful consideration and respect. Academic journals and publishers have a key role and responsibility in ensuring that their practices are culturally appropriate and ethical when publishing and disseminating research on Indigenous peoples. By doing so, they can contribute to amplifying Indigenous voices in academia and promoting the fair and equitable dissemination of Indigenous knowledge.