Fair collaborations

Expand All

There is a strong expectation from institutions and funders in the Global North that research in or about the Global South is conducted in partnership with local stakeholders (academics, government, civil society). Establishing effective collaborations is essential to ensure not only that local views, as well as cultural and social contexts, are adequately represented, but above all that the research delivers social value by addressing local needs and mapping onto local development priorities. North-South collaborations are also a vehicle to develop research capacity, so that over time, local knowledge production processes are strengthened and countries in the Global South become less reliant on development solutions generated elsewhere.   


There is not a single answer to this question as it will depend on the specific contexts and circumstances of the partnership. However, some general principles apply to all collaborations

  • Equitable division of labour: partners in the Global South should not be engaged as fieldwork assistants, tasked with data collection, while the most intellectually intensive aspects of the research are undertaken by partners in the Global North
  • Shared agendas: overseas partners should be involved from the early stages of the research design and planning of activities. They should have power to influence the research priorities according to local needs and social/cultural expectations. 
  • Shared resources: whilst funders often have specific financial management requirements, control over resources should be equally shared. All partners ought to be given a say in how funds should be distributed and managed. Transparency through agreed mechanisms for decision making are an essential component of fair partnerships.   

Having appropriate and robust governance procedures is key to ensure that overseas partners are involved in major decisions and have an equal status and say in the project's development as other research partners. The GCRF guidance advises setting up an Executive group which is responsible for plans, policies, responsibilities and key decisions and that overseas partners should be represented on this group.

Fairness is not just about equality. It is, above all,  about recognising the inherent power disparities between partners and taking positive steps to reduce them where possible. Open dialogue about issues of power is important at every step of the project. Over time, this builds the necessary trust that is at the heart of fair research collaborations.  


There are several pieces of guidance in answer to this question. Here are extracts from relevant University policy:

Personnel: The UAS guidance on staff working overseas is divided into two sections: new or existing UK-based employees undertaking work overseas and overseas residents working overseas.

Ethics: Guidance on responsibility for fieldworkers (Best Practice Guidance 01 on Researcher Safety)

Legal Services advise that the legal/employment status of overseas field workers paid in cash at a daily rate will depend on the applicable laws of the relevant country. Advice should be sought from qualified local lawyers about the University's tax and employment law obligations so that it can ensure that these are met. (This advice should be sought through Legal Services but funded by the department.)