Genomic Research and American Indian Tribal Communities in Oklahoma: Learning From Past Research Misconduct and Building Future Trusting Partnerships

Am J Epidemiol. 2019 Jul 1;188(7):1206-1212. doi: 10.1093/aje/kwz062.


Research misconduct and consequential harms have been inflicted upon American Indian/Alaska Native communities for decades. To protect their people and culture and to retain oversight over research, many Native communities have established tribal health research and institutional review boards. The Treatment Options for Type 2 Diabetes in Adolescents and Youth (TODAY) Study showcases a successful, trusting research collaboration with tribal nations and academic investigators in Oklahoma. In 2006, the TODAY Study investigators proposed a modification of the study protocol to collect biological specimens from participants for genomic analyses and indefinite storage. Partnering American Indian tribal nations elected not to participate in the genomics collection and repository proposal. Reasons included 1) protection of cultural values, 2) concerns regarding community anonymity, 3) a potential threat to tribal services eligibility, 4) broad informed consent language, and 5) vague definitions of data access and usage. The nations believed the proposed genomics analyses presented a risk of harm to their people and nations without clear benefit. Since the 2006 proposal and the advancement of genomics research, many tribal communities in Oklahoma, appreciating the potential benefits of genomic research, are developing policies regarding oversight of/access to data and biological specimens to mitigate risks and provide members and communities with opportunities to participate in safe and meaningful genomic research.

Keywords: American Indian research; American Indians; collaborative research; genomic research.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Cooperative Behavior*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / genetics*
  • Genomics*
  • Humans
  • Indians, North American / genetics*
  • Oklahoma
  • Scientific Misconduct*
  • Trust*