Responsible global academic partnerships

Academic partnerhsips are relationships of academic nature. These range from the relationship built between researcher and research participant (fieldwork) to more institutional collaborations such as memorandums of understanding, joint degree programmes, and joint institutes or centres.

Global academic partnerships and other types of scientific and international cooperation are needed to respond to global issues. The research outputs of such collaborations can help inform policy and decision-making on issues like funding. However, the nature of such collaborations and the framework for building them affects the knowledge produced, and ethical considerations are necessary for addressing inherent inequities in collaborations with asymmetrical power-relations. Partnerships between the Global South and the Global North often display such relations and can therefore be extractive in their nature.

UniPID has been a forerunner in advocating for responsibility and fairness in global academic partnerships far before they have become more widely acknowledged in Finland. It is in the core of the network's actions to support its member universities and the academic community by offering tools for building responsible global partnerships. While UniPID is eager to continue learning more about and contribute to equitable collaborations and exploring good practices, it also aims to share the lessons learned with its stakeholders.

How can ethical guidelines help decolonise academic partnerships?

In Finland, the research community is committed to guidelines by the Finnish National Board on Research Integrity (TENK). The guidelines are in line with the international codes of conduct. Ethics for Global South related research and collaboration, however, has not been considered as a whole in Finland. Therefore, UniPID, supported by an international steering group*, has embarked a journey to develop complementary guidelines for Global South related research and partnerships since the amount of Finland’s national initiatives for academic collaboration with the Global South has increased while the framework, discourses and practices for collaboration prevails Eurocentric.

At UniPID we see that developing these ethical guidelines for responsible academic engagement with the Global South can provide a conceptual framework and strengthen the understanding of the ethical issues that may rise in this context. Additionally, ethical guidelines offers practical tools to help prevent risks and develop more reciprocal, equitable and responsible partnerships. While we understand that the topic is wide, issues are rooted in the global and local historic, cultural, political and economic contexts and power relations, the ethical guidelines can be seen as a way to build, manage and implement more responsible academic collaboration. Further decolonising requires systemic and structural policy level changes in the global landscape for academic work and partnerships.

Main activities:

  • Convening an international steering committee of research integrity experts to overview the process and give their feedback
  • Participatory workshop to map researchers’ experiences and needs related to creating more responsible and equitable academic partnerships;
  • Questionnaire for relevant academics in Finland and in the Global South to map key issues of research ethics and integrity and to gather practical experiences and good practices;
  • Stakeholder event to discuss the draft guidelines;
  • Launch event of the guidelines.
  • Creating and disseminating the complementary guidelines


Photo credits: Tomas Kirvéla, 2019 on Unsplash