Principles for the Conduct of Research in the Arctic
Prepared by the Social Science Talk
Force of the
U.S. Interagency Arctic Research Policy Committee
All researchers working in the North have an ethical
responsibility toward the people of the North ,their cultures, and
the environment. The following principles have been formulated to
provide guidance for researchers in the physical, biological,
behavioral, health, economic, political, and social sciences in the
humanities. These principles are to be observed when carrying out or
sponsoring research in Arctic and northern regions or when applying
the results of this research.
This statement addresses the need to promote mutual respect and
communication between scientists and northern residents. Cooperation
is needed at all stages of research planning and implementation in
projects that directly affect northern people. Cooperation will
contribute to a better understanding of the potential benefits of
Arctic research for northern residents and will contribute to the
development of northern science through traditional knowledge and
These "Principles for the Conduct of Research in the Arctic" were
prepared by the Interagency Social Science Task Force in response to
a recommendation by the Polar Research Board of the National Academy
of Sciences and at the direction of the Interagency Arctic Research
Policy Committee. This statement is not intended to replace other
existing federal, state, or professional guidelines, but rather to
emphasize their relevance for the whole scientific community.
Examples of similar guidelines used by professional organizations and
agencies in the United States and in other countries are listed in
All scientific investigations in the Arctic should be assessed in
terms of potential human impact and interest. Social science
research, particularly studies of human subjects, requires special
consideration, as do studies of resources of economic, cultural, and
social value to Native people. In all instances, it is the
responsibility of the principal investigator on each project to
implement the following recommendations.
1. The researcher should inform appropriate community authorities
of planned research on lands, waters, or territories used or occupied
by them. Research directly involving northern people or communities
should not proceed without their clear and informed consent. When
informing the community and/or obtaining informed consent, the
researcher should identify:
a. all sponsors and sources of financial support;
b. the person in charge and all investigators involved in the
research, as well as any anticipated need for consultants, guides and
c. the purposes, goals, and time frame of the research;
d. data-gathering techniques (tape and video recordings,
photographs, physiological measurements, and so on) and the uses to
which they will be put; and
e. foreseeable positive and negative implications and impacts of
2. The duty of researcher to inform communities continues after
approval has been obtained. Ongoing projects should be explained in
terms understandable to the local community.
3. Researchers should consult with and, and where applicable,
includes northern communities in project planning and implementation.
Reasonable opportunities should be provided for the communities to
express their interests and to participate in the research.
4. Research results should be explained in non-technical terms
and, where feasible, should be communicated by means of study
materials that can be used by local teachers or displays that can be
shown in local community centers or museums.
5. Copies of research reports, data descriptions, and other
relevant materials should be provided to the local community. Special
efforts must be made to communicate results that are responsive to
6. Subject to the requirements for anonymity, publications should
always refer to the informed consent of participants and give credit
to those contributing to the research project.
7. The researcher must respect local cultural traditions,
languages, and values. The researcher should, where practicable,
incorporate the following elements in the research design:
a. Use of local and traditional knowledge and
b. Use of the languages of the local people.
c. Translation of research results, particularly those of local
concern, into the languages of the people affected by the research.
8. When possible, research projects should anticipate and provide
meaningful experience and training for young people.
9. In cases where individuals or groups provide information of a
confidential nature, their anonymity must be guaranteed in both the
original use of data and in its deposition for future use.
10. Research on humans should only be undertaken in a manner that
respect their privacy and dignity:
a. Research subjects must remain anonymous unless they
have agreed to be identified. If anonymity cannot be guaranteed, the
subjects must be informed of the possible consequences of becoming
involved in the research.
b. In cases where individuals or groups provide information of a
confidential or personal nature, this confidentiality must be
guaranteed in both the original use of data and in its deposition for
c. The rights of children must be respected. All research
involving children must be fully justified in terms of goals and
objectives and never undertaken without the consent of the children
and their parents or legal guardians.
d. Participation of subjects, including the use of photography in
research, should always be based on informed consent.
e. The use and disposition of human tissue samples should always
be based on the informed consent of the subjects or next of kin.
11. The researcher is accountable for all project decisions that
affect the community, including decisions made by subordinates.
12. All relevant federal, state, and local regulations and
policies pertaining to cultural, environmental, and health protection
must be strictly observed.
13. Sacred sites, cultural materials, and cultural property cannot
be disturbed or removed without community and/or individual consent
and in accordance with federal and state laws and regulations.
In implementing these principles, researcher may find additional
guidance in the publications listed below. In addition, a number of
Alaska Native and municipal organizations can be contacted for
general information, obtaining informed consent, and matters relating
to research proposals and coordination with Native and local
interests. A separate list is available from NSF's Division of Polar
Arctic Social Science: An Agenda for Action. National
Academy of Sciences, Washington, D.C., 1989
Draft Principles for an Arctic Policy. Inuit Circumpolar
Conference, Kotzebue, 1986.
Ethics. Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council
of Canada. Ottawa, 1977.
Nordic Statement of Principles and Priorities in Arctic
Research. Center for Arctic Cultural Research, Umea, Sweden,
Policy on Research Ethics. Alaska Department of Fish and
Game, Juneau, 1984.
Principles of Professional Responsibility. Council of
the American Anthropological Association, Washington, D.C., 1971,
The Ethical Principles for the conduct of Research in the
North. The Canadian Universities for Northern Studies, Ottawa,
The National Arctic Health Science Policy. American
Public Health Association, Washington, D.C., 1984.
Protocol for centers for Disease Control/Indian Health Service
Serum Bank. Prepared by Arctic Investigations Program (CDC) and
Alaska Area Native Health Service, 1990. (Available through Alaska
Area Native Health Service, 255 Gambell Street, Anchorage, AK 99501.)
Indian Health Manual. Indian Health Service, U.S. Public
Health Service, Rockville, Maryland, 1987.
Human Experimentation. Code of Ethics of the World Medical
Association (Declaration of Helsinki). Published in British
Medical Journal 2:177, 1964.
Protection of Human Subjects. Code of Federal Regulations
45 CFR 46, 1974, rev. 1983.