Data collection and ownership

When undergoing the data collection phase, DH researchers often engage in a reflexive testing of culturally imposed power imbalances in digital systems. This critical position presents unique challenges to RDM as a set of commonly adopted practices. At the same time, the bias towards principles of Open Scholarship makes DH an excellent gestation ground for best practices of culturally sensitive, cross-disciplinary, globally oriented data collecting and sharing.

There are many examples of self-defined communities that have their own tacit or explicit community or collective ownership protocols that impact your data collection process. All these approaches require the long-term development of community relations and may take timelines that surpass your funding deadlines. In these cases, the requirements of Research Ethics Boards (TCPS2), or the parameters of intellectual property law, do not go far enough to establish ethical approaches to data collection and subsequent sharing.

A laser sharp example of this need to work with community protocols is the assertion of data sovereignty by First Nations, Métis, and Inuit peoples in solidarity with global movements for Indigenous data sovereignty. This movement asks researchers who are working with Indigenous communities or with data that has Indigenous ownership to recognize that existing personal and individual consent and data privacy protections do not respect community privacy, or the collective consent and data privacy protections, supported via community-controlled data infrastructure, that are essential to ethical Indigenous data practices. Additionally, this movement recognizes that the intellectual property laws of colonial nations are in competition with the protocols of Indigenous law, traditional knowledge, and cultural expression. For example, the CARE principals can provide guidance in this area, or when working with First Nations communities, the OCAP® principles apply.

All of this attention to protocols feeds into the data collection phase as you need to work with the community before collecting data to ensure their rights, heritage and practices are respected. As described by the First Nations Information Governance Centre, “First Nations have an interest in information that describes them. It does not matter whether information is collected or held by First Nations or held by another entity such as government or a university. First Nations assert the right to govern how the information will be used and disclosed, and what limitations or conditions must be placed on its use. The right of First Nations communities to own, control, access, and possess information about their peoples is fundamentally tied to self‐determination and to the preservation and development of their culture.” (OCAP®)

The FAIR principles, as well as the DH, push for open data, more sharing and open licenses conflicts with the Indigenous rights to assert control and ownership of the collection and use of Indigenous knowledge. The Global Indigenous Data Alliance (GIDA) and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) bring the expressions of sovereignty that take place in this global and local context to bear on data management best practices, and whereas these tools can be a good place to learn about working with First Nations, Métis, or Inuit communities, each individual community will have their own specific protocols to work with.


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Data Primer: Making Digital Humanities Research Data Public Copyright © 2022 by Felicity Tayler; Marjorie Mitchell; Chantal Ripp; and Pascale Dangoisse is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.