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New research protocol marks new era in Otago/Pacific relationships

Library bookshelf

Tuesday 29 November 2011 12:01pm

University of Otago Vice-Chancellor Professor Harlene Hayne will today launch a new Pacific Research protocol.

The University has a thriving Pacific Research Cluster and Pacific Health is taught in all of the health professional courses. 

The document, which will be made available to all Otago researchers, and for other New Zealand Universities to use if they wish, sets out a range of guidelines researchers should consider when they interact and collaborate with Pacific peoples as part of their projects.

“The development of these guidelines represents a significant step forward for our University, at a time when ties between Otago researchers and people in and from the Pacific are very strong. The guidelines are designed to foster research with Pacific peoples and to maximise the outcomes for both researchers and participants,” Professor Hayne says.

“The main purpose is to ensure that all of our research is conducted in a manner which is sensitive to the cultural ways and protocols of individual Pacific communities.”

It will also be used by the University’s Human Ethics Committee as a resource when ethical approval for research projects is sought.

Associate Dean Pacific for the University of Otago’s Health Science Division Dr Faafetai Sopoaga says the guidelines will be important for Otago staff and students engaging with Pacific communities.

“It will provide reassurance that the University takes its relationship with Pacific communities seriously with respect to research and developing mutually beneficial relationships in this area,” she says.

The protocol will be officially launched at a function in the University Clocktower today.

The protocol is the work of a University working group spearheaded by History Professor Judy Bennett. A draft protocol has been widely consulted among Pacific community representatives, and within the University of Otago, including the Wellington and Christchurch campuses as well as Pacific-based universities with which Otago has Memorandums of Understanding.

“It was seen as a necessity as the University focuses more and more on research in the Pacific area. We needed something which highlighted the complexities of the different communities, and that would allow researchers to be aware and tread carefully and respectfully,” says Professor Bennett.

“We hope researchers will make themselves familiar with these guidelines when they are conducting Pacific community-based research. There are differences in the way people should be spoken to and there needs to be an awareness of their issues and aspirations. An important one is the way that Christianity is practised in these societies can be quite different to the way it is practiced by palangi or pakeha New Zealand Christian communities.

“These are all important aspects researchers need to know about,” she says.

Key points in the document include the need for respect, cultural competency, and protection of values as well as cognisance of the Christian faith.

At present the University has Memorandums of Understanding with three Pacific Island universities; it has Otago House, an accommodation facility in Samoa for joint use between Otago and the National University of Samoa; summer school papers in Samoa teaching research skills; and numerous other research projects, including the “Mothers’ Darlings; children of indigenous women and World War 2 soldiers” project currently being run out of the History Department.

For further information, contact

Jo Galer
Senior Communications Advisor
University of Otago
Tel 64 3 4798263

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