The global inclusivity
Inclusion in an Indigenous context
In this section, we examine diversity and inclusion within an Indigenous context. Some questions are directed at academics who identify as having an Indigenous ancestry (19% of respondents), while others at those who conduct research into Indigenous communities (29% of respondents).
NB: In this section questions were only answered by those with direct professional and lived experience of Indigenous people or working in this topic area.
On this page
- What's it like to be an Indigenous researcher?
- Challenges of Indigenous research
- Challenges working in academia
- Top challenges for Indigenous researchers
- Specific challenges when conducting research
- More than half face challenges
- More action from publishers
- Academia must go further to be more inclusive of Indigenous research
- Read analysis by three of our expert contributors
- Indigenous voices
What's it like to be an Indigenous researcher?
Earlier we reported almost twice as many Indigenous researchers than non- Indigenous researchers experience racial discrimination (29% versus 15%). Despite initiatives to decolonise academia, many Indigenous researchers also experience other forms of discrimination and unconscious bias.
"I’ve seen people from minority communities not opening up easily from the fear of being unfairly persecuted." Woman academic in India
Non-Indigenous researchers who conduct Indigenous research experience issues too, with both groups facing issues related to access to Indigenous communities, research quality and perceived relevance to mainstream journals.
To understand more about these challenges, we asked Indigenous researchers about their personal experiences of academia. We then asked both Indigenous and non-Indigenous researchers about the barriers they face when conducting Indigenous research, academia’s role in furthering Indigenous research, and the publishers’ role in amplifying Indigenous voices.
Challenges working in academia
Question 11: Which of the following have you experienced when working in academia?
|Issue||% (Indigenous)||% non-Indigenous|
|Sexual orientation discrimination||7.5||6.5|
|I have experienced none of the above||25.3||24.5|
Top challenges for Indigenous researchers
Nineteen percent of 223 respondents identify as having Indigenous ancestry. They face challenges at every stage of the research process, from obtaining funding/ support, finding collaborators/networks through to accessing communities and research databases, and then hunting down an editor who is willing to publish the work. Discrimination appears to be at the heart of these issues, with Indigenous researchers saying their research is often viewed from a Western perspective and therefore considered inferior, irrelevant, and not referable.
Question 12: What challenges, if any, have you experienced when conducting research? (only asked to those who identify as having Indigenous ancestry).
Access to funding
"Gaining access to funding. It is a very, very exclusive club and almost impossible to get into unless you are the right caste/class." Woman researcher in Australia
"Lack of funding, and the way Indigenous values, knowledges and ways of being are considered or valued in academia. Using a Western lens to evaluate an Indigenous project time for Indigenous academics to carry out research." Woman academic in New Zealand
Not enough support
"Getting co-authors who agree to work and share the job equally. Generally, established researchers look to guide and nothing more." Man student in India
Lack of understanding
"Reviewers and editors don’t understand or value the research. Often the research is qualitative." Man researcher in US
"My Indigenous culture is not always acknowledged or spoken about (as a population, we are a minority in the country). We fall in-between the dominant economic minority (white people) and the dominant black majority (in population numbers), so often discussions, research, funding, and the like, are nor focused on us. Very few published research on our specific culture." Man academic in South Africa
"The EDI agenda and the predominance of white, middleclass liberals in all aspects of the university restricts the pursuit of truth." Researcher in UK
"Generally, Indigenous people are considered second-rate connoisseurs, and their ideas are often not seen with attention nor approved." Woman researcher in Portugal
Specific challenges when conducting research
Question 13: Using the scale of ‘1, there are no challenges at all’ to ‘5, there are very significant challenges’, to what degree do you feel there are specific challenges when conducting research in this area? Asked to all who have currently or have previously conducted research involving Indigenous peoples / communities.
More than half face challenges
Fifty four percent of Indigenous and non-Indigenous researchers say there are challenges/very significant challenges when conducting Indigenous research. Researchers struggle to obtain funding for Indigenous research and to find others willing to collaborate. Even with funding in place, they experience difficulties in accessing and communicating with communities, gaining trust and collecting data. Due to these issues, Indigenous research can often take much longer than funding and structures will allow.
When it comes to disseminating their findings, researchers have difficulty in finding publishers who are interested in their work and believe publishers lack interest because the research output is specific to a particular group and so deemed irrelevant to global reviewers and journals. Additionally they are concerned about the applicability of western social science theories to the Indigenous context and how this is evaluated by editors and their publishers.
"The main problem is that academia functions within a research system built on Western thought systems. The basic scientific process and knowledge creation system is therefore biased towards Western approaches, thought processes, and interpretation from the start." Academic in South Africa
"Challenges have a lot to do with the attitudes and values of various kinds of discrimination, including unconscious racism at many policy and decision-making levels. And violations of academic freedom by those who are basically old-fashioned imperialists or xenophobes who don’t think any of this should be included in teaching, supervision and research." Woman academic in UK
"Responsible research with Indigenous communities requires their full participation in deciding research goals, methods, products, and accessibility of results. Neither funders nor academic institutions will provide funding or opportunities for such a collaborative arrangement." Man researcher in USA
"1. Low funding for research. 2. Low or non-participation of Indigenous people while responding to interviews and surveys. 3. Woefully insufficient public attention given to research concerning Indigenous people." Man researcher in India
"Authorisation to gain access to isolated Indigenous communities; high cost for displacement, boat, plane, among others; risk of death due to the influence of drug traffickers; time available to carry out research versus available resources." Man researcher in Brazil
"Physically reaching Indigenous communities, language barriers, political presence, outsider effect of not opening up, lack of systematic record keeping on community including demographics." Man academic in India
"Because we are a minority, it often does not interest publishers. The research outputs are specific to a particular group – so academic journals are reluctant to publish it. Emerging economies Indigenous people issues are deemed irrelevant to global reviewers and journals." Man researcher in South Africa
Findings aren't relatable
"1. The inherent biases associated with Indigenous communities making the findings and applicability somewhat limited to the community. 2. The applicability of findings to create greater change and impact within the wider society." Woman student in UK
More action from publishers
Question 14: What could publishers do differently to be more inclusive of Indigenous research?
How can publishers support Indigenous research?
Academics believe publishers can further Indigenous research and call on them to act on the following:
- Include Indigenous reviewers on journal editorial boards
- Have clearer guidelines for reviewers about what’s acceptable
- Create more publishing options
- Offer more content forms and options
- Adjust publication criteria
- Allow more qualitative case study methodology research to be published
- Offer funding and free publication for Indigenous research
- Create special issues and more categories for publication
- Allocate space for Indigenous academics and topics
Overhaul editorial boards
"Change editorial boards now. Why do we always have so many white Western academics – usually USA dominated. Put Indigenous people in positions of power and influence, such as journal editors. Do this for mainstream journals as well as the more critical and socially minded outlets. This might force these outlets to be more aware of diversity and inclusion. Embed a commitment to diversity, inclusion and foregrounding Indigenous voices in all texts that you publish – don't treat this just as a niche area." Man researcher in Australia
Add reviewers who understand Indigenous research
"Ensure that those who participate in the peer review process have actually undertaken Indigenous research themselves." Man student in Australia
Create appropriate reviewer guidelines
"It's not a dumbing down of standards but a different set of parameters for evaluating research. Working with both authors and reviewers to get them to value Indigenous research – even some reviewers who are Indigenous often see Indigenous research as lesser in some way." Woman research manager New Zealand
Provide more publishing options
"Create more spaces for Indigenous work. Publishers should allow them to set up the parameters for meaningful publication i.e. it should be Indigenous led and created outside of traditional ways of publication." Man academic in Japan
Create more content forms
"Perhaps different formats? Some cultures are more oral. There has been an opening recently of presenting stories orally through podcasts. I have also seen audio abstracts. Increased use of these tools might be useful to opening up the audience for the research." Man academic in USA
Categorise the research differently
"Conscious attempt to be inclusive may compromise the quality of research. Better would be to have a separate category for Indigenous research." Woman academic in India
Create special issues
"Have special issues related to Indigenous research. Discounted rate for publishing if at least 50% of authors are Indigenous. Accept that randomised control trials are not the best way to do research within most Indigenous communities." Woman academic in Australia
Include in conventional journals
"More inclusion of Indigenous research as part of regular publications (e.g. rather than pointing out that Indigenous research is rare with the use of ‘special issues’ or features, better incorporate Indigenous research into the regular publication cycle – normalise it.) Provide workshops/webinars on conducting research with Indigenous populations." Woman librarian in USA
Support qualitative approaches
"Allow more qualitative case study methodology research to be published" Man academic in USA
Value Indigenous research
"Be more open to different schools of thought; place value on research coming from Indigenous communities rather than always preferring Western-based research on the topics." Woman academic in UK
Fund Indigenous research
"Free APCs, more special issues." Man researcher in Australia
Offer professional development
"Encourage a wide range of topics from Indigenous researchers, provide professional development for Indigenous researchers e.g. publishing etc. different types of reporting of work done, make your journal more accessible to Indigenous researchers, more inviting so that we feel like we can publish in your journal, we can do it and the process is inclusive and welcoming to everyone, offer more opportunities for special issues etc. on Indigenous topics/matters of concern." Demographic data not provided
Provide solutions to language barriers
"Consider taking positive action to ensure the barriers of language and topic choices are made non-existent; include public statement of support on their websites that encourages researchers to submit this kind of research." Woman academic in UK
Research integrity checks
"If there is research in a foreign country or about an Indigenous group that is published by a sole author, the publisher should ask why there is no member of the represented community on the author list. It rarely seems appropriate for a person of Euro-American descent to the sole author on a paper about another part of the world or about another ethnic group." Woman academic in USA
Academia must go further to be more inclusive of Indigenous research
Question 15: What could academia do differently to be more inclusive of Indigenous research?
Researchers want academia to do more to support the inclusion of Indigenous research and offer a range of suggestions:
- Hire more Indigenous staff
- Remove barriers to entry in recruitment and promotion
- Provide mentoring and training
- Develop more case studies of Indigenous leaders
- Conduct more Indigenous research
- Collaborate with Indigenous groups
- Share resources with less well-funded universities
- Design longer timeframes for data collection
- Be more open to different schools of thought and topics
"Hire more Indigenous staff. Put Indigenous people in positions of power and influence. Change hiring processes so they are less focused on Western, neoliberal ideology – affirmative action might be needed here with targets and quotas on hiring." Man researcher in Australia
Support Indigenous researchers
"Proactively seek Indigenous voices and support them in the work they do, financially and emotionally. Fund their work. Fund their research, their articles / publishing, and fund for open access. Actively listen." Woman librarian in US
Embrace Indigenous research
"Be more openminded and welcoming of difference without slipping into trite and narrow restrictive boundaries of acceptance – the opposite of what was intended in the first instance." Woman researcher in UK
"Conduct collaborative research between universities; senior researchers can be mentors for young researchers." Woman academic in Indonesia
"We need stronger support in terms of resources for easier access to research databases. Premier universities should have a policy of collaboration with lesser-known universities on this. There are brilliant researchers in many such universities who are constrained by the lack of access to research facilities/resources." Woman academic in India
Accommodate different approaches
"Design longer time frame for data collection in order to use familiarisation strategies to get into the heart of conservative communities for data collection. Academia should also design research to be a bit collaborative with the voice of the Indigenous people by making the report of outcome of the research available to them." Man researcher in Nigeria/
"Do not look down on Indigenous knowledge, work together with Indigenous communities and scholars, in understanding and collaboration. Do not assume the Western way of doing things (seeing the world, sharing information) is the only / ‘right’ way to do that." Woman researcher in the Netherlands
"Facilitate such research by providing funding, infrastructure support, local person to assist in research/ data collection etc., do some socially relevant work locally for trust building." Man academic in India
Reward the trust
"Stop pretending that actively discriminating against others is somehow a morally licit way to redress perceived discrimination. Publish and reward the best based on relevant factors. Colour and sexual orientation are not relevant to the intellectual virtues" Man academic in Australia
While we can see growing support for EDI in research across the sector, many people are still too often left out of the conversation. As research participants they may be overlooked in research design and as academics they may not have the same opportunities as their counterparts.
Understanding the challenges people face and how we can take the right steps to make real change happen is just one of the ways to create a fairer, more inclusive society and better outcomes for us all.