July 14, 2020

Cultural, Ethical, Research, Legal and Scientific Guidelines Review

Cultural, Ethical, Research, Legal and Scientific Guidelines Review

In 2018, the Cultural, Ethical, Research, Legal and Scientific (CERLS) Issues in Rongoā Maori Research Guidelines was launched as the result of Ngā Pae o te Māramatanga seeding funding research.  As a commitment to the ongoing pastoral care of these Guidelines, we committed to conducting a review every two years to monitor impact and influences on the Rongoā and research communities. A bi-annual meeting was held on Wednesday 03 June 2020, during which a planned review was conducted by Dr Amohia Boulton, Donna Kerridge and Dr Glenis Mark. The results of the review are as follows:

There were 100 printed copies of the guidelines distributed, and to date, there have been an additional 84 online downloads of this document.

The following points were discussed to show the impact of the guidelines on healers and researchers.

Impact on Healers

  • The CERLS guidelines do appear to be useful to healers. Evidence from the sector indicated that healers are better informed about the role of researchers and what questions they should be asking of healers, prior to becoming involved in a study.  For example, healers will now ask whether researchers include Māori on their research teams.
  • The CERLS guidelines have become a reference for healers.  Healers will now direct researchers with Rongoā research enquiries to the guidelines.  Healers have observed that doing so has led most researchers to abandon the subject, or the practitioner.

International interest

  • Despite other countries having similar resources, the CERLS guidelines document has been a popular reference for  other Indigenous researchers.
  • Researchers overseas involved in Indigenous studies have found the guidelines to be a valuable resource for informing culturally appropriate ways of researching with other Indigenous peoples.
  • The guidelines were presented at the International Congress on Complementary Medicine Research Conference, held in Brisbane in May 2019 during the keynote presentation, Pathways and Partnerships for Researching Indigenous Medicine.  There was significant interest from international researchers at the conference wanting to access copies of the guidelines.

Impact on Researchers

  • The guidelines have not been well utilised by researchers, as some have failed to reference this document, particularly in grant applications, even though they are incorporating Rongoā elements in their research.

Issues in Rongoā research

  • Since the CERLS document was released, healers have observed the following behaviours:
  • researchers making enquires of Rongoā practitioners about potential future Rongoā research, and when asked to refer to the CERLS document, make no further contact;
  • researchers asking Rongoā Practitioners for letters of support but not showing those practitioners the final project grant application documentation, which contained elements that contradict Rongoā healing principles. Had healers been aware of the research findings contradicting Rongoā principles, the healers would have withdrawn support from such studies;
  • Rongoā Practitioners being involved in an advisory capacity with Rongoā research but researchers not communicating openly or showing a strong commitment to Rongoā healing principles. In these instances, Rongoā practitioners have withdrawn their support for the study; and
  • Rongoā Practitioners being expected to travel and contribute to research projects but not being compensated for their effort, time or travel. Often an excuse in these cases is that the researcher “didn’t put it in the budget”.  Rongoā practitioners are being expected to give of their knowledge and time with zero thought for their compensation.

In response to the issues that continue to arise in relation to Rongoā research, we have decided to contact the Health Research Council to articulate that this document would be very valuable to the research community.  We recommend that the HRC includes reference to this document in all Māori health funding documentation, in case of Rongoā inclusion in funding applications.

Recommended changes

There were several changes recommended to the CERLS guidelines:

  • Funder understands that the community (or organisation) owns the research.  (Kenneth Ho, Hawaii, November 2018).
  • Healers should be valued when consulted, for example, $500 per consultation.  That way their value will be set, similar to a market value, and all people will accept it in time (Fleur Palmer, Auckland, December 2018).
  • Introduction to Rongoā:
  • I think this needs to be greatly expanded. One of the big issues is that researchers come to research aspects of Rongoā knowing very little about what Rongoā actually is. That can be quite a handicap. A much more extensive description of what Rongoā is might help to overcome this, maybe? There are many references in the guidelines about the holistic view of healing that is important to Rongoā. The introduction needs to explain what that is much more fully.
  • There is one sentence I disagree with on page 11: "We refer to this as  wairua, the invisible connections that bind all things in this world". That's not wairua; it's mauri. Wairua relates to the heavens; mauri is the connection between Ranginui and Papatuanuku, as in the saying from Whanganui: " Ko te wairua ki te Rangi, ko te tinana ki te Whenua, ko te mauri ki te takiwa".
  • In many ways, mauri is the foundation of Rongoā - again a Whanganui teaching. I am surprised it is not included in the principles on page 18 - 19. Mauri is described very nicely on page 46: "The goal of Rongoā Māori is to restore and strengthen mauri, our life force. Mauri is the glue that maintains the balance between the physical and the spiritual world of which we are a part'. It is mentioned again on page 47; "Te essence of Rongoā Māori and its ability to heal one's mauri, to heal, resides in the connections that preceded its applications......". That's a thread that could be worked through the whole guidelines (Pa Robert McGowan, Tauranga, December 2018).

We are very grateful for, and acknowledge, these changes suggested to the CERLS guidelines.  Should the guidelines be reprinted, we will be able to incorporate these changes at that time.

General review

We were very pleased with the presentation and release of the CERLS guidelines which had a good response.  However, the target audience of researchers have yet to pick up and follow the guidelines. Although we know the CERLS guidelines make a valuable contribution to Rongoā research, it may take some time to filter through to any future researchers who wish to incorporate a Rongoā element in their research.

Next review

The next CERLS review will be held in 2022.

If you have any queries about this review or the guidelines, please contact amohia@whakauae.co.nz for more details.

The full CERLS document can be downloaded here.

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