Go back

Networking ‘pre-grants’ could make partnerships more equal

 Image: Morsa Images, via Getty Images

Global integrity conference hears calls for more support in design phase of international collaborations

Research funders have been urged to support pre-grant networking to promote equal research partnerships between high- and low-income countries. 

The call was made during a session of the World Conference on Research Integrity that took place in Athens, Greece, this week.

Lyn Horn, director of the research integrity office of the University of Cape Town in South Africa, told the conference on 4 June that it still happens that partners in low- and middle-income countries are invited onto research projects when the direction of the project is all but set.

She said “this can lead to power imbalances between teams”, which in turn can result in projects neglecting local priorities. It can even scupper the research outcome if the study design does not fully understand the communities in which the research is being done, she said.


One solution to this problem would be for funders to offer “pre-funding” for people to get together and set their research priorities before submitting their application, Horn said.

Counting how many partnership programmes offer such support could be one way of measuring progress in fighting inequity in research, she added. 

“I really support Lyn’s recommendation to put aside funding to allow this to happen,” said Michelle Brear, a public health researcher based at the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa.

“Without this sort of money, it’s really difficult to have proper engagements,” she said.

Equity toolkit

Brear told the conference she had developed an equity toolkit for the Association of Commonwealth Universities.

The toolkit targets the conception stage of a project as a “crucial” stage for promoting equity, she said, adding that there are still significant gaps in our knowledge of what an equitable partnership looks like.

“We still need to work together to know what equity is,” she said.