Research Ethics

Community-UP Research Practices

Research on, with, and/or for people involves the gathering of information which may be done for its own sake but is often done with a view to informing resource allocation and facilitating control (even if these tasks are carried out by a third party, other than the researcher). Research is therefore about power and power commands resources (Te Awekotuku, 1991). Maori research, by, with and for Maori, is about regaining control over Maori knowledge and Maori resources. However such research is not done in a vacuum – in the past non-Māori researchers have committed many transgressions against Maori. This has led to suspicion and a lack of trust of research within Maori communities.

Kaupapa Māori is about the centering of the Māori world and the legitimation of Māori realities. Kaupapa Māori research must take into account the history of Māori experiences with non-Māori researchers and how Māori have been denied sovereignty within these processes. Our practice must also take into account Māori protocols and customs. In this we are primarily accountable to Māori.

Seven Māori cultural values can guide Kaupapa Māori research (Cram, 2009; Smith, 1999). These were first mentioned by Linda Smith in her 1999 book, Decolonizing methodologies, and then picked up by Fiona Cram in her writing about Kaupapa Maori and Indigenous research ethics. They have since become known as Community-Up Research Practices in acknowledgement that they are good practices for all researchers to follow. They can also spark communities to come up with own guidelines for how they want to be treated within research projects.

  1. Aroha ki te tangata - a respect for people that within research is about allowing people to define the research context (e.g., where and when to meet). It is also about maintaining this respect when dealing with research data (e.g., quantitative research), and extends to the physical sciences when research involves, for example, the examination of human tissue samples.

  2. He kanohi kitea - being a face that is seen and known to those who are participating in research. For example, researchers should be engaged with and familiar to communities so that trust and communication is developed.

  3. Titiro, whakarongo...kōrero - Look, listen and then, later, speak. Researchers need to take time to understand people's day-to-day realities, priorities and aspirations. In this way the questions asked by a researcher will be relevant.

  4. Manaaki ki te tangata - looking after people. This is about sharing, hosting and being generous with time, expertise, relationships, etc.

  5. Kia tupato - be cautious. Researchers need to be politically astute, culturally safe, and reflexive practitioners. Staying safe may mean collaborating with elders and others who can guide research processes, as well as the researchers themselves within communities.

  6. Kaua e takahia te mana o te tangata - do not trample on the mana (dignity) of people. People are often the experts on their own lives, including their challenges, needs and aspirations. Look for ways to collaborate on research reports, as well as research agendas.

  7. Kia mahaki - be humble. Researchers should find ways of sharing their knowledge while remaining humble. The sharing of expertise between researchers and participants leads to shared understanding that will make research more trustworthy.

In discussions of research paradigms (or worldviews) (Guba & Lincoln, 2005) ethics is considered under axiology. Axiology is defined in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary as the study of the nature, types, and criteria of values and of value judgments especially in ethics. Indigenous research and evaluation has been described as a paradigm (Cram & Phillips, 2012; Wilson, 2008), a methodology (Chilisa, 2012; Smith, 1999), or even an approach, framework or lens. Regardless of how it is named, the axiological assumptions underpinning Indigenous research and evaluation should be clearly articulated.

There are now research guidelines being produced by funding agencies (e.g., Health Research Council of New Zealand), research and evaluation organisations (e.g., anzea), government agencies and Indigenous communities themselves (e.g., Assembly of First Nations large file). There is no longer any excuse for poor research practices and the mis-representation of research participants.


Chilisa, B. (2012). Indigenous research methodologies. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Cram, F. (2009). Maintaining indigenous voices. In D. Mertens & P. Ginsberg (Eds.), SAGE Handbook of social science research ethics. Thousand Oaks, California: SAGE. pp.308-322.Cram, F., & Phillips, H. (2012). Reclaiming a culturally safe place for Māori researchers within multi-cultural, transdisciplinary research groups. International Journal of Critical Indigenous Studies, 5 (2), 36-49.Guba , E. G., & Lincoln, Y. S. (2005). Paradigmatic, controversies, contradictions, and emerging confluences. In N. Denzin, & Y. Lincoln (Eds.), The Sage Handbook of Qualitative Research (pp. 191-216). Thousand Oaks: SAGE. Smith L.T. (1999). Decolonising methodologies: Research and indigenous peoples. New York: Zed Books & Dunedin: Otago University Press.Te Awekotuku, N. (1991). He tikanga whakaaro: Research ethics in the Maori community. Manatu Maori: Wellington.Wilson, S. (2008). Research is ceremony. Indigenous research methods. Black Point, Nova Scotia, Canada: Fernwood Publishing.

Further reading

Castellano, M.B. (2004). Ethics of Aboriginal research. Journal of Aboriginal Health, January, 98-114. From abstract: This paper proposes a set of principles to assist in developing ethical codes for the conduct of research within the Aboriginal community or with external partners.Cram, F. (1997). Developing partnerships in research: Māori research and Pākehā researchers. SITES, 35, 44-63.Cram, F. (2001). Rangahau Māori: Tona Tika, Tona Pono. In M. Tolich (Ed.), Research Ethics in Aotearoa. Auckland: Longman. p.35-52.Hudson, M. (2004). He Matatika Māori - Māori and ethical review in health research. Unpublished MHSc thesis, Auckland University of Technology.Hudson, M., Milne, M., Reynolds, P., Russell, K. & Smith, B. (2010). Te Ara Tika. Guidelines for Māori research ethics: A framework for researchers and ethics committee members. Auckland: Health Research Council.Kennedy, V. & Cram, F. (2010). Ethics of researching with whānau collectives. MAI Review, Issue 3, Article 2.Kennedy, V. & Wehipeihana, N. (2006). A stock take of national and international ethical guidelines on health and disability research in relation to Indigenous People. Research Report prepared for the National Ethnics Advisory Committee.Nikora, L.W. (Ed.) (1993). Cultural justice & ethics. Proceedings of a symposium held at the Annual Conference of the New Zealand Psychological Society, University of Victoria, Wellington, 23-24 August 1993. Hamilton: National Standing Committee on Bicultural Issues, New Zealand Psychological Society.Ormond, A., Cram, F. & Carter, L. (2006). Researching our relations: Reflections on ethics. Alternative: an international journal of indigenous scholarship, Special supplement 2006 – Marginalisation, 180-198.