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Guidelines for Research in Partnership with Developing Countries

11 Principles

Commission for Research Partnership with Developing Countries, KFPE, 1998

Translation of the German version by J.M.Jenkins, Swiss Tropical Institute, Basel

You may download the 11 Principles as
.pdf (Size 80 KB) or
.rtf - Document (Size 180 KB).

Below you find the Table of Contents and the foreword.

Table of Contents

Foreword: Setting a new course - in research too?
Why change course?
What are we steering towards?


Introduction to the Guidelines
Basic principles
About the contents

The 11 Principles of Research Partnership
1. Decide on the objectives together
2. Build up mutual trust
3. Share information; develop networks
4. Share responsibility
5. Create transparency
6. Monitor and evaluate the collaboration
7. Disseminate the results
8. Apply the results
9. Share profits equitably
10. Increase research capacity
11. Build on the achievements

1. Case studies
1.1 The Prosopis Project in Peru
1.2 Meningitis in northern Ghana
1.3 The Lake Victoria Project: implementation of a local Agenda 21
2. Snags and difficulties frequently encountered in research partnerships between developing and industrialised countries
3. The Charter of North-South Partners (J.Gaillard)



Foreword: Setting a new course1 - in research too?

Why change course?
For decades, scientists have been issuing warnings about the results of a further increase in the worldís population, the destruction of the environment and the steadily-advancing changes in the climate. If they are right, human life under any acceptable conditions will be seriously endangered in the foreseeable future2. Scientific research can and must help to solve the problems that confront us. However, research can only make a decisive difference if two preconditions are met. Firstly, the world-wide potential for scientific research must be more evenly distributed around the globe. Secondly, scientists, the public, and political and economic powers, must work together.
Both solidarity and commonsense therefore demand that the capacity to do research in developing countries should be furthered to the point where it is possible to carry out, on a world-wide scale, the kind of cooperative research that has long been normal in industrialised countries. «Cooperation» here is not aimed at improving economic competitiveness, as was frequently the case in the past. It means a responsible common search for solutions to the problems confronting humanity as a whole. Competition is no longer appropriate - what is needed is complementarity and synergy.
This idea is gradually gaining ground in some industrialised countries3,4 (Appendix 3). The same is true of developing countries, as is demonstrated by the activities of the Third World Academy of Sciences (TWAS)5. The Academy was founded in 1983, and now has representatives from more that 70 developing countries, and has become perhaps the most important forum for science in the South. Its activities are based on the desire to bring about a breakthrough in scientific knowledge and research in the developing countries, so that scientific activities will be given the importance they deserve, and will be able to become independent.
These efforts can only be welcomed, and deserve our fullest support. Nevertheless, they do bear the risk of creating a new polarisation of research between North and South, which can only be detrimental to the idea of one world-wide scientific community6. This ideal is also made more difficult to reach by the differences that exist between the countries that are lumped together under the description «Third World» or «Developing Countries»7. Strictly speaking, this kind of categorisation is no longer valid. The differences between the «least developed» and the «newly-industrialised», or «threshold» countries are often larger that the differences between the latter and the industrialised countries. The established expression , «developing countries» is used in the following text for want of a better one - but with the understanding that working together in partnership will need to be tackled quite differently from one country to another.

What are we steering towards?
As a possible way of reducing the imbalance in research between developing and industrialised countries, the «Swiss Strategy for the Promotion of Research in Developing Countries»8 suggests that research partnerships should be set up. These are characterised as projects in which groups of scientists from two or more partner-countries carry out long-term, trans-disciplinary collaborative research on problems that are important to all the partners. As far as possible, teams should be chosen on a basis of equal representation, and all those involved should have opportunities for continuing education and training9. Research partnership in this sense represents a clear break with previous practice. Research cooperation with developing countries still tends to occur only in isolated instances. This is certainly the case in Switzerland. Furthermore, when there are cooperative projects, attention is generally concentrated on the results of the research, rather than on the methods used, or on any effect the project might have on the development of the partner-countries, or on the building-up of their capacity for carrying out independent research. Happily, there are exceptions10,11,12.They show that research partnership is indeed possible, and can make an enduring contribution to increasing the research capacity of partner-countries13.
Research partnerships make heavy and unusual demands on the partners. Those taking part need to be free of preconceived ideas, modest, and ready to accept other scales of values. These are preconditions for bridging the gap between cultures. It is because the situation is new that these Guidelines have been written. They are intended in the first instance for those who are applying for grants for research projects in partnership, and for government and private funding agencies. They are therefore tailored in the first instance to the needs of the (Swiss) research community. Nevertheless, it is hoped that they will also be useful to partners in the South who are planning projects, and to those who have to evaluate research activities.
At present, the international research community is going through a demanding learning process. This can be seen in the many conferences held and documents written in both developing and industrialised countries (see Epilogue). One result of this process is the growing awareness that the results of scientific activities are not the only criteria by which they should be judged. The interaction between scientists and the public, and between research and everyday life, must also be included - though the way in which this is to be achieved has yet to be defined. The present Guidelines should be seen as a further expression of the firm will of a growing body of people in Switzerland, who are involved in doing research or formulating research policy, to make their own specific contribution to the creation and establishment of research capacity in the countries of the South, and thus to make a lasting contribution to world-wide sustainable development.