On Academic Research; Who Benefits

Often because of the work that I do I get asked to participate in university studies and I am very critical about how information is taken from communities of cash poor folks, folks of colour and 'at-risk' youth. Community members are rarely compensated individually or collectively and those who execute the study end up benefitting professionally, academically or personally from our strategies, our resilience and our wisdom. I wrote this response back to an ask I got, and I thought it was worth sharing for others who may be participating on either end of studies like these:

"I have a few questions.
 

Where will this information be housed and how will it be made accessible to communities that are its focus? Too often I think research projects are done about our communities harvesting incredible knowledge and wisdom and community members broadly do not have access to the information and continue to lack the autonomy and support to make decisions about the content and/or recommendations.

Does this study take into account the way other communities (i.e. through processes of gentrification) over exploit 'at-risk' communities? The term developing or underdeveloped when it refers to countries obscures the fact that these countries are in fact over exploited by the global north for labour, resources and as sites of waste. The use of this language for me suggests that there isn't an awareness of the ways that underdevelopment is intentional.

The development of joint policies and action plans also means holding governments responsible for the ways in which they contribute to the pathology of sickness within urban communities as well the ways that health institutions in this city are homophobic, transphobic, racist and sexist. What are the levels of commitment from the various partners to engage in institutional transformation to make our communities safer? Part of the ways that privilege plays out is the the ones in positions of authority are often exempt from perpetuating social inequity - this looks like pathologizing our communities as 'at-risk' as opposed to examining the systems that not only create it, but function based upon it.

I look forward to your detailed responses."

If there are any questions that you ask when considering your participation in academic studies, please share below.