Principles for the Conduct of Research in the Arctic
All researchers working in the North have an ethical responsibility toward the people of the North, their cultures, and the environment. The following principles have been formulated to provide guidance for researchers in the physical, biological, behavioral, health, economic, political, and social sciences and in the humanities. These principles are to be observed when carrying out or sponsoring research in Arctic and northern regions or when applying the results of this research.
This statement addresses the need to promote mutual respect and communication between scientists and northern residents. Cooperation is needed at all stages of research planning and implementation in projects that directly affect northern people. Cooperation will contribute to a better understanding of the potential benefits of Arctic research for northern residents and will contribute to the development of northern science through traditional knowledge and experience.
These "Principles for the Conduct of Research in the Arctic" were prepared by the Interagency Social Science Task Force in response to a recommendation by the Polar Research Board of the National Academy of Sciences and at the direction of the Interagency Arctic Research Policy Committee. This statement is not intended to replace other existing Federal, State, or professional guidelines, but rather to emphasize their relevance for the whole scientific community. Examples of similar guidelines used by professional organizations and agencies in the United States and in other countries are listed in the publications.
All scientific investigations in the Arctic should be assessed in terms of potential human impact and interest. Social science research, particularly studies of human subjects, requires special consideration, as do studies of resources of economic, and social value to Native people. In all instances It is the responsibility of the principal investigator on each project to implement the following recommendations.
- The researcher should inform appropriate community authorities of planned research on lands, waters, or territories used by or occupied by them. Research directly involving northern people should not proceed without their clear and informed consent. When informing the community and/or obtaining informed consent, the researchers should identify:
a. all sponsors and sources of financial support;
b. the person in charge and all investigators involved in the research, as well as any anticipated need for consultants, guides, or interpreters;
c. the purposes, goals, and time-frame of the research;
d. data-gathering techniques (tape and video recordings, photographs, physiological measurements etc.) and the uses to which they will be put;
e. foreseeable positive and negative implications and impacts of the research
a. use of local and traditional knowledge and experience;
b. use of the languages of the local people;
c. translation of research results, particularly those of local concern, into the languages of the people affected by the research;
a. Research subjects must remain anonymous unless they have agreed to be identified. If anonymity cannot be guaranteed, the subjects must be informed of the possible consequences of becoming involved in the research.
b. In cases where individuals or groups provide information of a confidential or personal nature, this confidentiality must be guaranteed in both the original use of data and its deposition for future use.
c. The rights of children must be respected. All research involving children must be fully justified in terms of goals and objectives and never undertaken without the consent of the children and their parents or legal guardians.
d. Participation of subjects, including the use of photography in research, should always be based on informed consent.
e. The use and deposition of human tissue samples should always be based on the informed consent of the subjects or next of kin.
In implementing these principles, researchers may find additional guidance in the publications listed below. In addition, a number of Alaska Native and municipal organizations can be contacted for general information, obtaining informed consent, and matters relating to research proposals and coordination with Native and local interests. A separate list is available from NSF's Office of Polar Programs.
Drumming and dancing during "Nalukataq" whaling Festival, Barrow, Alaska. (Photo courtesy of Henry Huntington.)