As much as we rely on academic notions of empirical findings and validity in our research, it is critical to interrogate where our knowledge comes from and by whose standards it is being judged. The bureaucratic and institutional process of standard research practice can obscure such critical reflection, distancing the researcher from the lived realities of their participants. Particularly in the realm of drug research, the research process has the potential not only to support communities, but also, sadly, to misrepresent and pathologize them. These gaps translate into imperfect drug research and, in turn, less effective drug policy.
Through panel discussions and workshop activities, attendees examined how researchers can best engage and collaborate with community-based organizations and people who use drugs in ways that are ethical and respectful of their expertise. Our colleagues came up with best practices, based on their wealth experiences, for researchers working with people in the community of study and communities engaging with researchers. In addition, attendees learned about principles of decolonization which can guide researchers to work differently within existing power structures.