IFGH 2012: Academic Research Partnerships Involving Zambia and the Global North Experiences from Zambian Researchers

January 27, 2012

Authors:Walsh A. 1, Brugha R. 1, 2, Byrne E. 1

Author Affiliations: 1Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, 2London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine

Option 1– Scientific / Empirical Research Findings

Presented as – Poster

Aims:

This study aimed to analyse researchers’ experiences of health research collaborations involving academic institutions in lower and higher income countries, using Zambia as a case study. This phase of the study takes the perspectives of Zambian researchers.

Methods:

A mapping of international health research collaborations was followed by in-depth interviews in March 2011 of 20 Zambian researchers, with sampling reflecting different types of partnerships, research experience, disciplines, and a gender balance.

Results:

  • Most Zambian researchers reported that research priority setting was done by northern research donors and researchers, and did not always coincide with Zambian priorities. However, proposal development was generally collaborative.
  • All interviewees reported inequities in funding mechanisms, which channelled funds exclusively through northern institutions.
  • Most collaborations received ethical approval in both Zambia and partner countries. Many interviewees reported that northern researchers’ lacked understanding of research ethical issues at local level, for example around informed consent.
  • Where northern researchers participated in data collection, they often visited Zambia for only short periods of time. Consequently, they had insufficient time to immerse themselves in the socio-cultural context of Zambia.
  • Participants reported that analysis was undertaken jointly between northern and Zambian researchers, although some reported the only role Zambians performed was one of data collector.
  • Zambian researchers report that that health research capacity in Zambia is lagging behind their northern partners. Many Zambian researchers undertake consultancies, which detract from producing research outputs.

Discussion/conclusions/ implications:

North-south power differences continue to dominate health research collaborations involving Zambia and the global north. To address this imbalance, Zambian researcher capacity must be augmented, not just to undertake research, but to manage and coordinate such collaborations. Additionally, northern researchers need a better understanding of Zambian research culture and context.

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