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Knowing, doing and being

Interdisciplinary Indigenous network secures more than $2.4-million investment

By Jeff Green

Part of an ongoing series of Gazette stories celebrating researchers who received support as part of the federal government’s major investment in science and research on Aug. 29.

A research collaboration led by Memorial is receiving a major contribution to strengthen and enhance connections among international Indigenous scholars and community members.

The project, the IndigeLab Network: Building Research Collectives Through Gendered Indigenous Theories of Change, is receiving a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Partnership Grant valued at nearly $2.5 million over seven years.

The initiative is led by Dr. Max Liboiron, professor, Department of Geography, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences.

“Strong togetherness is a skill — the IndigeLab Network brings together 18 researchers in Canada and the U.S. to innovate ways to bring gendered, Indigenous ways of knowing and doing into lab cultures and other research collectives,” said Dr. Liboiron. “We’ll be sharing knowledge through lab exchanges, elder and artist-in-residence programs, co-publication and co-training.”

It’s expected more than 300 students will be involved in the network, which includes partners such as the non-profit organization Open Researcher and Contributor ID (ORCiD), scholarly journals, academic professional organizations and groups at Memorial such as the Botanical Garden.

“The group is already inspiring and we’re only going to get stronger over the next seven years.” — Dr. Max Liboiron

The network will include many early career researchers and students.

Dr. Liboiron says the funding will be invaluable for them to help set up their labs, as well as bringing them into an intergenerational, gender minority, Indigenous network of thinkers who have been doing this kind of work for decades.

“The funding gives us the ability to maintain this community.”

Supportive infrastructure

One of the goals of the network is to update Canadian and U.S. research infrastructure so it can support different Indigenous ways of knowing and doing.

For example, the team will work with The Carpentries, a non-profit group that teaches coding and data science to incorporate Indigenous data sovereignty into data training.

“We’ve been talking to ORCiD, which maintains researcher identification numbers, about youth and community-level IDs,” Dr. Liboiron noted. “We’re partnering with the open-access journal Engaging Science, Technology, and Society to create guidelines for peer review of Indigenous community research.”

Dr. Liboiron says the insight of students, partners, artists-in-residence and elders-in-residence will help inform policies, standards and training guidelines at post-secondary institutions and other organizations.

They say that while there is a lot of equity, diversity and inclusion work going on in universities, it usually relies on theories of change where Indigenous people are meant to simultaneously enrich/deepen and challenge/change institutional cultures while remaining a minority.

This situation often leads to alienation, burn out and other sacrifices, they say.

“The IndigeLab Network is a hub of entirely gender minority — women, non-binary, genderqueer — Indigenous researchers where our work together is based in theories of change characterized by generosity, accountability and sharing.”

‘True’ network

Through the new project, Indigenous students will also have the opportunity to work with multiple Indigenous mentors and committee members, and visit other Indigenous-led labs.

Dr. Liboiron says that while many of the participants in the IndigeLab Network have been strapping together collaborations, meetings and support for one another for years, the SSHRC Partnership Grant allows the researchers to become a “true” network for Indigenous-led, lab-based work that can serve as a hub and a home for new faces.

“The group is already inspiring and we’re only going to get stronger over the next seven years.”

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