A relational framework for microbiome research with Indigenous communities
Ethical practices in human microbiome research have failed to keep pace with scientific advances in the field. Researchers seeking to ‘preserve’ microbial species associated with Indigenous groups, but absent from industrialized populations, have largely failed to include Indigenous people in knowledge co-production or benefit, perpetuating a legacy of intellectual and material extraction. We propose a framework centred on relationality among Indigenous peoples, researchers and microbes, to guide ethical microbiome research. Our framework centres accountability to flatten historical power imbalances that favour researcher perspectives and interests to provide space for Indigenous worldviews in pursuit of Indigenous research sovereignty. Ethical inclusion of Indigenous communities in microbiome research can provide health benefits for all populations and reinforce mutually beneficial partnerships between researchers and the public.
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National Science Foundation