Wednesday, 14 December 2022

Raising rivals' costs - research edition

Leave aside for the moment noble intentions and think through effects. 

Academics have discretion over what research questions get pursued, and over approaches for answering them. Some questions are general and could find useful data anywhere. Others are more specific.

Suppose you substantially increase the cost of pursuing quantitative work on a subset of the population in a country that has only ever been of peripheral research interest to the major journals in any field. 

What are the likely effects?

Academics with discretion shift from topics that can only be answered using data on that population subset to questions that can be answered using other groups, and from using data involving those groups for answering more general questions to using data from other groups.

And research focused on that group is left to qualitative researchers, and those quantitative researchers with the strongest idiosyncratic interest in that subgroup. 


Colonial approaches to data by universities are harming Indigenous communities throughout the world.

That’s a finding from the 10th International Indigenous Research Conference, hosted in Aotearoa last month and attended by more than 600 researchers from across the globe.

Now, a collaboration of academics from the conference are urging universities to fundamentally shift the way they collect, analyse, store and distribute indigenous data.

AUT Professor Jacquie Kidd (Ngāpuhi) was part of that collaboration and said a key problem for universities was a lack of involvement in the research process.

“So we know that ethics committees are really interested in how indigenous data is collected and managed and made available,” she said.

“Increasingly, they're looking at the principles of data sovereignty, but universities tend to step outside of that.”

If this goes ahead, expect fewer research projects that answer questions relating to outcomes among indigenous peoples, that research in those areas becomes less quantitative, and that any findings in the area become less open to being examined and contested by external views. 

If you don't want those outcomes, you're going to need substantial funding boosts for research in these areas if you want to encourage quantitative researchers to front those costs. 

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