At eLife, we believe that research should be conducted with respect for all individuals involved, regardless of their location or background. As part of our commitment to helping make the life sciences and medicine more equitable, diverse and inclusive, we are proud today to announce a new policy for eLife focused on inclusion in global research, built upon a policy developed by the PLOS journals.
Global research collaborations are essential for advancing scientific knowledge and finding solutions to global challenges. However, the current research ecosystem often perpetuates systemic imbalances that lead to the exploitation, whether intended or otherwise, of certain communities and their resources. This is particularly evident in the Global South, where researchers face additional challenges in accessing funding, resources, and recognition for their contributions compared to their counterparts elsewhere in the world.
At eLife, we're committed to doing our part in combatting systemic inequities and promoting fairness and inclusion throughout research and publishing. The new eLife policy aims to tackle the problem of "parachute science" or "helicopter research". This describes the unethical practice whereby researchers from one country or community, often in the Global North, conduct research in another country or community, commonly in the Global South, without meaningful engagement or mutually beneficial outcomes.
The policy aims to raise awareness of good practices and support reviewers and readers in identifying how a particular piece of international research was conducted by requiring more transparent reporting from authors who perform research outside of their own countries or communities.
Authors of relevant preprints reviewed by eLife will specifically be asked to complete an “Inclusion in Global Research” form, which outlines ethical, cultural, and scientific considerations specific to equitable practices and inclusion in global research. The completion of the form may be requested when:
- researchers have travelled to a different country to conduct research,
- research uses samples collected in another country,
- research involves Indigenous populations or their lands,
- research is on cultural artefacts.
The form can also be requested at the journal’s discretion for any other submission that eLife editors have invited for peer review. Researchers travelling to another country solely to use laboratory equipment, however, will not normally be required to complete the form.
If after peer review the authors choose to have their Reviewed Preprint published as a ‘Version of Record’, then the Inclusion in Global Research form will be published alongside that article.
The full policy and form can be found here in eLife’s Author Guide.
The work we're doing to promote more equitable collaborations and fair recognition of contributions to research is built on the foundation laid by many before us and we are grateful to those who have pioneered this work before us. We are especially thankful to the PLOS journals and the international group (including researchers from South Africa, New Zealand, the United States and Kenya) who collaborated closely with them on the development of the original policy. We also value the input from the members of eLife’s Ethics Committee and our Early-Career Advisory Group who reviewed our own implementation of the policy too.
We see this new policy as a crucial step towards creating a more just and equitable system of global research. We're proud to be taking this step, but we know that more work is needed. Our hope is that by implementing this policy, we can play our part in helping to raise awareness of the concerns related to global research, and lay the groundwork for other policies and initiatives to help advance us towards a more just and equitable future.
We welcome comments or questions from researchers as well as other publishers. Please contact Stuart King, Research Culture Manager, at s.king [at] elifesciences [dot] org. Comments can also be added publicly to this article, while anonymous feedback may be shared via this form.