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Greenland's research and education is based on foreign practices and structures - it is time to rethink it


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Rachael gives a keynote address at Greenland Science Week in Katuaq (photo credit: Emil Stach & Arctic Hub)

So argued Rachael Lorna Johnstone, Professor of Law at Ilisimatusarfik and at the University of Akureyri, Iceland at Greenland Science Week.

But what is the problem, exactly?

In areas such as mining, airport and road construction, and trade, Greenlanders are taking more control over their own affairs. However, the university still follows European and especially Nordic models when it designs academic programmes and courses, hires and promotes staff, and examines students’ work. Foreign academics are paid to check the quality of education at Ilisimatusarfik. But they may not know very much about Greenland or the different ways in which Greenlanders think about law, education, social work or other fields, argued Johnstone.

There are many Greenlanders with PhDs working in the university and in other important roles and some of them are trying to reform research and education to make it more Greenlandic. However, there are many more Greenlanders with important knowledge and experience that do not have advanced degrees. Johnstone called for more Inuit control over research in Greenland.

"It is important to include Greenlanders at all levels of scientific research, for example deciding what should be studied, how to study it, interpreting results, and communicating results".

She added that experts that bring indigenous and traditional knowledge to projects should be paid at the same rate as the academics but the current wage agreements focus too much on narrow academic qualifications.

Research in Greenland can become another 'extractive industry'

Professor Johnstone asked researchers in Greenland to read the recent Ethical and Equitable Engagement Synthesis Report published by Inuit Circumpolar Council. It explains how researchers can conduct inclusive research in Greenland that respects, values and credits indigenous knowledge.

"Without Greenlandic involvement, research can become another 'extractive industry' - where outsiders fly in, acquire knowledge, and fly out, without leaving any benefit in Greenland", she added. Johnstone also noted that the draft Greenland Research Strategy recognizes that more needs to be done to include Greenlanders in scientific decision-making and research.

Johnstone lives in Iceland but has been teaching law and researching Greenland for ten years. She is well aware that she is "not the expert here" and added that people like her "need to talk less and listen more".


Also watch Rachael explaining some of the challenges to Arctic Hub (video credit: Arctic Hub):

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