Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Data Archive

Depositing a Dataset

To enable ATSIDA to manage the ingestion of the dataset smoothly, researchers should develop a data management plan at the beginning of the research process, including the selection of suitable, specified digital file formats, for example. ATSIDA assumes that the depositor or researcher knows the research context and is best able to set access conditions and advise on ethical issues. At the time of deposit specific requirements need to be considered so that conditions can be established for access, reuse and repatriation and so that the recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander contributors can be assured.

Setting access conditions

The conditions under which the data may be made available by the ATSIDA to other researchers are determined by the depositor with advice from ATSIDA to secure some consistency to facilitate management. The conditions of access may be stated in one of the standard forms below:

  • A – Unrestricted: Data can be shared openly and is made available for access and use in accordance with the relevant UTS/ATSIDA code of conduct and the ATSIDA Protocols, as amended from time to time.
  • B – Conditional: Access and use is subject to express conditions specified by the Indigenous cultural owners or the Data Depositor (see below). Applicants from research organisations will require proof of ethics approval from a relevant body.
  • C – Closed: Data is held for safekeeping and may not be accessed. There is no process in place to allow third parties to apply for access and use of the Data. This condition may be re-evaluated formally by Indigenous cultural owners and/or the Data Depositor.

In addition, an embargo period may be imposed. No access to the data would be permitted until after the date specified by the depositor. At the end of the embargo period, the data may be released under the access conditions set by the depositor.

The depositor can identify access conditions to give effect to their specific preferences for the use of the data in the future. For example, if the principal investigators assured the respondents that the data would only be used for academic purposes, they could stipulate that the data may only be made available to university staff. If they want to ensure that other researchers cannot pre-empt their findings, they can stipulate that the data be made available only after they have had time to publish their results.

Indigenous Australian cultural protocols recognise community practices that govern access to, reproduction of, and circulation of traditional knowledge. As many researchers know, such practices are typically fluid: information or knowledge may move along a continuum of openness and closure depending upon the context (for example, who is present, who has the right to speak). Moreover, and perhaps more to the point, the status of expressions of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander knowledge sitting in archives may change from open to restricted (or vice versa) over long periods of time. Looked at another way, while there are a number of general principles for observing Indigenous Australian cultural protocols, these do not hold for many particular cases. For example, the prohibition on displaying images of the deceased may be in force in one region but not in another and the period of restriction may vary.  Thus, it is incumbent upon the depositor to make local conditions explicit to the archive during the depositing process. ATSIDA intends to develop a policy for periodic review of the access status of datasets so that they may be managed appropriately in the long term.

Restricted material

Applications may be made by ATSIDA users to access material that the depositor has specified to be restricted but applications will be considered in terms of the conditions imposed at the time of deposit and any subsequent reconsideration.

Recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander contributors

The recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander research contributors is an important ethical concern for ATSIDA; it is also one gaining in importance for Indigenous people who can often feel forgotten after contributing to research projects. It may be important to provide sources in cases where particular expressions of Indigenous knowledge are contested within a community. Against this, it is also imperative that confidentiality agreements are upheld and that the personal details of informants are protected in line with the requirements of the Privacy Act 1988 and any undertakings which may have been given. It is the responsibility of the depositor to advise ATSIDA how such issues could be best managed to protect the rights and interests of their Indigenous research associates, their families, and wider communities.

Research ethics

Datasets deposited with ATSIDA should comply with best practice research ethics for research involving Indigenous people. ATSIDA, through its operation by the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS), is guided by policies developed by the UTS Human Research Ethics Committee. If research was not conducted through UTS or a similar institution, ATSIDA will need to be satisfied/may require confirmation that the research was conducted within an appropriate ethical framework.