Data collection versus knowledge theft: relational accountability and the research ethics of Indigenous knowledges

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Many opportunities exist for researchers to take knowledge, publish it and become an expert. As a Pairebeenne Trawlwoolway Aboriginal woman of lutruwita/Tasmania, Australia, I converse with the work of other Indigenous scholars to theorise ideas of relational accountability, refusal and Indigenous Data Sovereignty. Reflecting on my own research experiences, I seek to move away from concepts of ‘data collection’ and ‘fieldwork’ by understanding data as knowledge and the field as a place of relations, not a research location to fly in and fly out of. An ethical practice that engages with cultural protocols and relationality decentres the academy as instigator and arbiter of ethical research and brings forth an ethical practice that is held in relationship with those who produce and own the knowledge, both people and Country. Whilst many development researchers already work in collaborative and relational ways with their research communities, this chapter invites us to do more; advocating for stronger research protocols, ongoing relations of accountability, and real engagement with Intellectual Property, copyright and co-authorship.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationChallenging global development
Subtitle of host publicationtowards decoloniality and justice
EditorsHenning Melber, Uma Kothari, Laura Camfield, Kees Biekart
Place of PublicationCham, Switzerland
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Number of pages26
ISBN (Electronic)9783031303081
ISBN (Print)9783031303074
Publication statusPublished - 2024

Publication series

NameEADI Global Development Series
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
ISSN (Print)2947-8529
ISSN (Electronic)2947-8537

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2024. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


  • Indigenous research methodologies
  • Research ethics
  • Indigenous knowledges
  • Relationality
  • Indigenous cultural and intellectual property
  • Indigenous Data Sovereignty


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