The Practicum Ethics Process

Faculty, staff, and students in the Institute for Critical Indigenous Studies/CIS and its affiliated programs (First Nations and Indigenous Studies/FNIS, First Nations and Endangered Languages/FNEL, and the Musqueam Language Program/MLP) recognize that universities and other research institutions have a long and ugly history of colonial extraction, abuse, and violence against Indigenous peoples. Our curriculum teaches students about that history and about ways that researchers can be in more ethical, respectful, and reciprocal relationship with Indigenous communities.

All Practicum projects for FNIS must follow ethical research protocols and pass a research ethics review. Research ethics are the methods, practices, and principles of research that ensure it does as little harm as possible and, whenever possible, makes a meaningful contribution to the communities and organizations with which we are in relationship. This is particularly the case with projects that require personal information from people, such as interviews, testimony, surveys, etc., but also includes potentially sensitive materials in archives, records, and databases. The purpose of the CIS Ethics Review is not to interfere with or substitute for an organization’s existing research ethics processes, but to complement them or, if there are no processes in place, to offer a template for such work. If your organization already has research ethics protocols, please let your Practicum student know early in the process.

In advance of Practicum our students receive extensive training in understanding what research ethics are, how the principles of consent, confidentiality, transparency, and reciprocity should ground their work, how to observe community and organization protocols for research, and how to balance the needs and obligations of their partner organization with their professional responsibilities as a student researcher.

In early October, after students have partnered with an organization and have developed a solid plan for the project and its deliverables, students begin a focused research ethics application, answering a series of questions about the scope of the project, its potential positive and negative impacts, and mitigation plans for reducing harm. This process takes a few weeks at minimum, and students work with one another (within the scope of confidentiality protocols) and with the Practicum instructional staff, as well as with their organization supervisor(s), to address any potential areas of concern throughout October and into November.

In mid-November, completed applications are submitted to the CIS Ethics Review Committee, which includes faculty from FNIS and FNEL, representatives from the University-level ethics review board, a graduate student with experience in the research ethics process, and a community member. The Committee examines each application in detail and responds with questions or concerns. Students must respond to each of the Committee queries (called provisos) and resubmit to the Ethics Committee Chair. Sometimes this process can take quite a bit of back and forth, but when the final provisons have been resolved and approved, the student can then use the research application plan as a guide for completing their project in a respectful and responsible way.

At any time, please feel free to contact Daniel Heath Justice, David Gaertner, or Practicum instructional staff at fnis.practicum@ubc.ca with any questions you have about the process. Our goal is for this to be a help, not a hindrance, and to ensure that our students provide the most careful and accountable research for your shared project together.