Participatory Research and Indigenous Leadership in Research

Supporting meaningful and equitable collaborations among Arctic Indigenous communities and researchers

Scope of activities

Indigenous Peoples have been part of the Arctic region for millennia and their histories, cultures, and knowledge are critical to understanding Arctic systems. federally funded research efforts, however, have had varying levels of success (or failure) in regularly, sufficiently, and ethically including Arctic peoples. Indigenous Peoples deserve respect from researchers entering their communities, lands, and societies and should have the opportunity to benefit from the research as well as engage in meaningful consultation. IARPC is committed to cultivating participatory research with Arctic communities and populations and Indigenous leadership in research as a foundational activity across all four priority areas. While there are multiple types of leadership in research, the Arctic Research Plan 2022-2026 specifically calls Indigenous leadership to the forefront to address the ongoing ethically problematic lack of inclusion of Indigenous Peoples in research.

Participatory research ensures important research ideals are followed, such as free, prior, and informed consent (FPIC), and that rights of Indigenous communities to self-determination, sovereignty, and data sovereignty are observed. Participatory research also supports asset-based research and co-production of knowledge with the inclusion of Indigenous Knowledge or non-Indigenous place-based knowledge to the amount the community wants to participate. Indigenous leadership means leadership in research by Indigenous Peoples, entities, groups, and communities, and needs to be developed by Indigenous Peoples in this role.

Participatory research and Indigenous leadership in research is for all types of research, not solely for social science research or for research with Indigenous Peoples. IARPC recognizes that different forms of participation and Indigenous leadership in research may occur based on what a community desires, from full co-production which involves developing the research questions with the community and working through all stages of the research process with them, to more limited participation, such as a researcher discussing mutually beneficial research goals with community representatives before applying for a grant or initiating a project.

Thus, IARPC acknowledges that defining and supporting participatory and Indigenous leadership in research in the Arctic is a process that will evolve based on continued feedback from and in partnership with those living in the Arctic. Participatory research may look different with each project and in each Arctic region or community. IARPC will therefore support collaborations to implement participatory and Indigenous leadership in research and focus on the following objectives to inform federal policy, co-management actions, community priorities, and decision-making through more equitable frameworks:

  • Increasing Capacity for Participatory and Indigenous Leadership in Research: IARPC will host discussions about ongoing federal research projects and funding opportunities to build capacity for meaningful participatory research and Indigenous leadership in research. Similarly, IARPC will promote actions to identify ways that federal administrative structures can be adapted or changed to support this objective. IARPC will seek opportunities to support the development or expansion of community-driven programs, liaison offices, and existing resources for researchers on how to engage with community and Indigenous organizations already in place.
  • Enabling Communication and Coordination: IARPC will continue to support communication and coordination, including existing local and regional venues, between federal agencies and Indigenous and rural Arctic communities to ensure active participation and long-term engagement, and so that plans and outcomes of federal research programs are communicated appropriately. IARPC will work with and make researchers aware of existing Indigenous organizations, advisory committees, and co-management councils that focus on food security, community infrastructure, health and well-being, Indigenous practices, and species and ecosystems management. IARPC will also advance new venues where research activities can be informed by Indigenous Knowledge and the needs of Indigenous communities.
  • Sustaining Engagement and Building Trust: Successful partnerships rely on respect, trust, early and ongoing collaboration, sustained engagement, communication and coordination, and multigenerational participation. IARPC will continue to invest in activities that build trust among federal agencies, researchers, Arctic residents, Indigenous Peoples, and Tribal Nations to achieve sustainable outcomes.
  • Putting the IARPC Principles for Conducting Research in the Arctic into Practice: IARPC remains committed to the Principles for Conducting Research in the Arctic, which provides a framework for building trust, effective communication, and respecting Indigenous Peoples, cultures, and residents of the Arctic. IARPC will continue to promote the use of these principles and continue discussions on how Arctic residents and researchers can implement or revise them to enable participatory research.

Team leaders

Nicole M. Herman-Mercer
USGS - Water Resources Mission Area

Cana Uluak Itchuaqiyaq
Virginia Tech

Liam Frink
NSF OPP Arctic Social Science Program


To be added in 2023.