The pressures of the political on rigorous and ethical research in indigenous contexts

Year: 2012

Author: Trimmer, Karen, Gower, Graeme

Type of paper: Abstract refereed


This paper explores dilemmas that can arise when research methodology and findings do not align with directions from the funding body and the impact this may have on the rigor of the research, the published outcomes of the research and personal impacts on the researcher.  As a component of governance, research and evaluations are often commissioned by the relevant government Departments to provide information on the effectiveness of implemented initiatives and to develop strategic plans to introduce policy change.  In many cases there is significant vested interest for individuals or groups in having positive, or at least not adverse, findings arising from such research.  In an evaluation of Aboriginal and Islander Education Officer Program that broadly reviewed the effectiveness of the program in public schools across one State, a range of dilemmas arose for the research team when methodology was requested that was not rigorous and also inappropriate for the Indigenous respondents.  It was therefore inadequate to meet the stated outcomes for the research project. Negotiation was undertaken to determine comprehensive research questions, assure unbiased and representative sampling, include illustrative case studies and a balanced interpretation of the results.  These dilemmas are explored from the perspective of a research manager employed by government and an Indigenous researcher funded to conduct the research.