On local knowledge in polar science studies

One of a cluster of articles on the Arctic region in today’s Nature magazine is by Henry Huntington, who has a Ph.D. in polar studies from Cambridge University and is Arctic science director for the Pew Environment Group in Eagle River, Alaska. He notes that the “concept of scientists using indigenous or traditional knowledge in their research has received increasing attention” in recent decades and that scientists are “finding value in collaborating with these populations.”

It is good that scientists are learning of the importance of indigenous, “traditional,” or “local” knowledge. It is good that funding agencies are beginning to realize the value of documenting indigenous knowledge.

I very much hope that the “value” scientists are finding in indigenous knowledge is not good only for the scientists’ resumes. I hope that all such research projects are truly collaborative and have direct benefits for indigenous peoples of Arctic regions. In the quotation in paragraph one, the verb “using” indigenous knowledge is a bit alarming.

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