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  • Guidelines updated on research partnerships

More than ten years after the first edition was published, a revised version of influential guidelines for encouraging greater effectiveness in international research partnerships was released last week (23 May).

'A Guide for Transboundary Research Partnerships' — published by the Swiss Commission for Research Partnerships with Developing Countries (KFPE) — highlights eleven principles that make partnerships between developed and developing nations more productive and equitable.

Capacity building and the integration of partners' activities remained at the core of the guide. It suggests that cohesion and productivity can be increased by setting the research agenda together, clarifying responsibilities, promoting mutual learning, enhancing capacities, sharing data and research networks, and pooling profits on each side.

The guide was developed through an extensive consultation process, which included workshops with partners from the developing world.

Newly introduced themes are accountability and engaging stakeholders with the partnership process. The five remaining principles are: interacting with stakeholders; accounting to all beneficiaries rather than just funders; disseminating and applying results; and securing long-term outcomes of research. Each principle identifies the main challenges facing its implementation, and potential solutions to overcome them.

Unlike its predecessor, the guide also includes seven questions designed to identify potential stumbling blocks, and to help partners evaluate which principles are relevant to a specific project.

A web platform planned for early 2013 will act as a document library, providing information to support each principle, as well as forum for debate about how they are applied.

These innovations have "added depth to the application process", and responded to a need to make the guidelines more usable, Jon-Andri Lys, Executive Secretary of KFPE and an author of the guide told SciDev.Net.

The original guide has been used by a wide range of research organisations such as the Wellcome Trust and European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership (EDCTP), but its impact had been reduced by a lack of clear steps for implementing the principles, he added.

Although it had "underpinned how people had thought about research partnerships for the last ten years," the guide did have its problems, agreed John Young, head of Research and Policy in Development (RAPID) at the Overseas Development Institute (ODI).

Applying the principles in countries that lacked significant core research funding was difficult, he said.

Lys acknowledged that all the principles could not be universally applied to every partnership.

But he hoped the new format would allow individual partnerships to make better informed decisions about which elements were relevant.

Link to full guide [641kB]