Making science work for development

Working towards creating equity in global research collaborations

Working towards creating equity in global research collaborations
15 March 2018

The Research Fairness Initiative (RFI) is designed to improve global research and innovation by asking stakeholders to report on their practices regarding collaboration in research. Doing this not only ensures transparency and fairness in research partnerships, but also increases the impact of research in all sectors. This initiative began its implementation in 2017, with 2018 being earmarked for more extensive roll out across the globe.

In February 2018, the World Health Organisation’s Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases (WHO/TDR) published the first ever RFI report. The report outlines exactly what WHO TDR’s current practices are and how they plan to improve over the next two years. As this is the first report of its kind, it acts as a great example for other institutions to follow. It provides potential partners and those who WHO/TDR funds with an opportunity to better understand how collaborating with WHO/TDR impacts them.

According to Dr John Reeder, the Director of WHO/TDR: 

The RFI provides a framework that allows an organization to take a step back and challenge itself to think about how its processes and approaches affect its partners. We found the process of completing the RFI rewarding and are ready to share our experiences with others.” 

WHO/TDR’s RFI Report indicated that there are many areas in which the programme is doing well, but that there are also some areas in which improvements can be made. This goes to show that it can be a useful exercise for all institutions, not only those with limited resources or in low and middle-income countries (LMIC). The RFI is ultimately geared towards creating a global learning platform where standards of best practice will emerge through the publication of and subsequent analysis of RFI reports written by institutions from all around the world.

To date, the RFI team has received reports from 3 Senegalese institutions which are currently under review, with another in the process of being written by the University of Lisbon’s IHMT. Additionally, we ran report writing workshops in 2017 in both South Africa and Kenya. We look forward to receiving many more reports soon!

This Sunday March 18, there will be a panel session on the RFI at the Consortium of Universities for Global Health’s 2018 conference, looking to examine the potential of the RFI for improving fairness and impact of global health research partnerships. Additionally, RFI will present at the Geneva Health Forum 2018 on April 11. The purpose of this session is to go beyond calls that research partnerships between high income countries/institutions and low & middle-income countries/institutions should be ‘fair’ and ‘equitable’, and see how these can be fostered in practice.

We encourage institutions from all over the globe to learn more about research fairness by taking a look at our website and seeing how the RFI could benefit them. If you are interested in the RFI or have any questions, please don’t hesitate to rfiatcohred [dot] org (contact us.)

Kirsty Klipp is the Research Fairness Initiative Implementation Manager at COHRED Africa.

Further information on equitable partnerships can be found in UKCDS’ paper "Building partnerships of equals": the first report to explore the essential role that funders can play throughout the research lifecycle to select and build equitable and effective international development research collaborations.


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  • Kirsty Klipp