Infrastructures of research: towards equitable and responsible North-South collaborations

February 23, 2022

UniPID hosted a roundtable and a workshop on Infrastructures of research: towards equitable and responsible North-South collaborations, a special event in the Development Days Conference 2022

Last week UniPID had the pleasure of hosting a roundtable and a workshop on Infrastructures of research: towards equitable and responsible North-South collaborations, a special event in the Development Days Conference 2022. What are infrastructures of research? Why is this discussion important? What do we need to make research infrastructures more equitable? And what are good examples of practices that have managed to overcome these inequalities? These were some of the questions raised during the enlightening discussions in the event.

Infrastructures of research are a set of practices that facilitate research, promote research collaboration, and reinforce research and innovation capacity and know-how. Practices and norms around intellectual property rights, research funding, authorship, and publishing are just a few examples of the components that contribute to infrastructures of research. Although these are relevant in both national and global contexts, they are nevertheless affected by, and sometimes replicating, global inequalities.

In the efforts to stimulate discussion on the importance of equitable and mutually beneficial partnerships and the importance of taking into account partners’ contexts, cultures, practices, and regulations, and the differences between them, Johanna Kivimäki, Director of UniPID, Melissa Plath, Senior Specialist at UniPID, and Roseanna Avento, Global Development Manager of the University of Eastern Finland and member of the UniPID Board, brought together four panelists for the roundtable: Dr. Yolanda Davids, Assistant Director, Research Development, University of Witwatersrand; Dr. Karoliina Snell, chair, University of Helsinki Ethical Review Committee in Human Sciences; Dr. Laura Rovelli, Coordinator, Latin American Forum for Research Assessment; and Elizabeth Marincola, Senior Advisor, Science for Africa Foundation. Each shared their unique perspective from their work experience, highlighting the differences even within similar contexts, the need for bottom-up and top-down approaches and solutions, open access and data sharing, equal access to funding opportunities, investment in research centers in the South, community ownership and responsibility of researchers, and in general for all parties to be heard as ways to make research infrastructures and collaborations more equitable. (Watch the recording of the session here).

The roundtable was followed by a workshop, designed to have a needs-based, solution-oriented approach, answering to three different but not mutually exclusive settings:

  • Management and division of work: roles in partnerships, authorship issues, capacities, language, funding, and finances;
  • Benefit-sharing in practice: authorship issues, capacities, access and means for using results, and language;
  • Regulatory frameworks: IPR, EU regulations and GDPR, materials of historic value, natural resources, funding schemes and regulations, research assessment, and ranking.

The participants identified needs for guidance, articulation, compatibility, and flexibility: Guidance on how to build equal partnerships; compatibility with the local contexts, practices, and behaviors; articulation with the contexts, needs, expectations, and roles of partners, and flexibility of the current frameworks to meet higher expectations of equity and responsibility. Also existing good practices were mentioned such as taking time for mutual knowledge sharing, explicitly define roles and responsibilities, mutually agreeing on contributions, jointly developing codes of conduct, collaborative funding schemes, and better engaging the research community and stakeholders in these issues.

What is next? Building more equitable and responsible North-South collaborations is an ongoing process. UniPID has initiated collaboration with the Finnish National Board of Research Integrity (TENK) to strengthen the existing work on research integrity with ethical guidelines for research collaborations with the Global South. We have also engaged with the Finnish HEIs global pilot networks to create spaces for dialogue with Global South partners and offer a training on how to create more equitable academic partnerships.

Want to know more about our work on this topic? Please do not hesitate to contact us at . Also, stay up to date with our work on this issues and more, through our Newsletter and follow us on Twitter @unipidfinland.

Photo credits: Patrick Fore, 2020 on Unsplash