Collaborations between researchers, institutions, and industries are frequently highlighted to emphasize the power of collective efforts in addressing complex global challenges for a better and more sustainable future (Valtioneuvosto 2020).
For a researcher or research management and administration (RMA) professional from Finland, collaborative projects might seem as business-as-usual, including considerations on ethics, equality, and inclusion based on our Western standards (e.g., The Finnish Code of Conduct for Research Integrity 2023; The European Code of Conduct for Research Integrity 2023). However, the world might look very different from other perspectives, outside our own view of the Western world.
Challenges and struggles performing RDI projects in the African setting shed a different light on the debate. Societal inequalities, security issues, corruption, and lack of or very little public funding for RDI give RMA collaboration a totally new dimension. This is something that we do not necessarily often consider when planning and initiating collaborations in less-developed contexts.
Debate on values and inequalities in partnerships
International collaboration can be very attractive in terms of availability of RDI funding to both the Western partners as well as partners in the developing countries (Horn et al 2023). However, some partnerships may be perceived as unequal on various levels. The partnerships may lack trust and sensibility internally, leading to projects failing.
As an example of inequalities, a daily rate for a researcher or RMA professional in Finland can be equal to a monthly salary for a professional on the African continent. Moreover, the notion of transferring, for example, Westerns practices, approaches, and solutions to the African context are in many ways considered undermining and inappropriate – by the local experts this is cited as depletion of dignity and dehumanization (e.g., Kyobutungi 2023).
Rather, the call for collaboration is a call for equitable collaborative partnerships. This means developing knowledge, practices and solutions truly together in the specific context.
Globalization: connecting for synergy
Globalization and global collaboration may seem like buzz words from the past and a norm in our daily RDI-related work for a few decades already. However, it may be sensible and a good time to stop and take the opportunity to focus on learning about RDI management from a truly global perspective, for example, well anchored in and represented by the African context.
Emerging trends in RDI management may be global but have many local and cultural differences that are important to recognize, acknowledge and especially appreciate. From our understanding, stimulating a more connected community, where research managers across the globe could share and connect on a level that inspired to greater synergy and equipped the delegates to better collaboration for the future.
As RMAs from northern Europe, it is fascinating to engage with professionals from all continents and to share experiences of challenges and opportunities in RDI management and collaboration in the global context. And last, but not least, to discover all these insights and expand the own network in the unique atmosphere in South Africa is something special and supports us in facilitating more valuable collaborations for Haaga-Helia and haagahelians in the future.
Horn, L., Alba, S., Gopalakrishna, G., Kleinert, S., Kombe, F., Lavery, J.V. & Visagie, R.G. 2023. The Cape Town Statement on Fairness, Equity and Diversity in Research. Nature (London), vol. 615, no. 7954, pp. 790-793.
Kyobutungi, C. 2023. Equitable partnerships in research and innovation for sustainable global development. Keynote presentation at INORMS congress, 31.5.2023.
Valtioneuvosto. 2020. National Roadmap for Research, Development, and Innovation – Solutions for a sustainable and developing society. Valtioneuvosto.
Editing: Marianne Wegmüller