The RFI framework for better research and science collaborations and capacity in the Arab World

26 November, 2019

Dear researchers and scientists

I hope this email finds you well,

On behalf of COHRED-RFI team, I am contacting you with the purpose of informing you about the Research Fairness Initiative (RFI) developed by the Council on Health Research for Development (COHRED) as a major contribution to improve the quality and equality of research collaborations across the globe. The ultimate aim of the RFI is to ensure that all countries and their institutions have a fair chance of growing their own research and innovation potential to be able to address local needs and become globally competitive. COHRED is an international non-profit organization based in Geneva, Switzerland. It has status as ‘International Non-Governmental Organization in official relations with the World Health Organization (WHO)’ and holds observer status with the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). More details can be found on our website: www.cohred.org.

As you all belong to the scientific community committed to serving the education and research fields innovatively, we are convinced that the RFI will provide a substantive tool to support strengthening your institutions' capacity and partnerships in research and science across the regions and achieving the institutions' vision and aim. Research collaborations and partnerships - national, international, between sectors and fieldss of science and development - are essential for solving many of thee challenges which face populations around the globe today. Research partnerships, networks and ‘collaboratives’ are increasingly the norm, as they provide access to funds, expertise, equipment, populations, and means to achieve distribution and scale. At the same time, research partnerships will not necessarily result in an equitable distribution of benefits - particularly not in terms of building the capacity of partner iinstitutions - unless these partnerships are fair from the start. Maany global partnerships may result in skewed benefits towards the partners that are more scientifically or economically powerful - issues that continue to be highlighted in the scientific literature.

The Research Fairness Initiative (RFI) was designed to address this specific problem. When applied properly, it supports institutions like AHSF and its partners to gradually and continuously improve the fairness and equitability of collaborations. The RFI provides a clear framework for achieving this, which was established through 3 years of wide consultation with all major actors in research and science - in any field. The RFI is simple in principple: in preparing their own institutional RFI Report, the RFI encourages all research stakeholders, including regulators, businesses, funders, academic and research institutions and national research agencies, to describe their current practices and policies in the 15 key topics that can impact on the quality of research collaborations. Subsequently, institutions are asked to reflect on how each of these can be improved over the next 2 years. This turns the RFI into a simple, effective and strategic tool to improve the ability to negotiate and construct partnerships that serves your institution better.

Recently, the Global Sustainable Development Goals report 2019 was mentioned RFI in its content as follows "Fair scientific partnerships are essential for development. A recent initiative launched in sub-Saharan Africa, the Research Fairness Initiative, encourages governments, national research and innovation agencies, academic and research institutions, business and funders to report how they take measures to create fair partnerships in research and innovation for health that are trusting, lasting, transparent and more effective, and how they will plan towards improvement in key areas of the field". Additional evidence proves that our initiative, RFI, is remarkably spreading. we are pleased to also share with you a commentary, just published in The Lancet by a group of international experts, which clearly affirms that the RFI is growing and it considers the RFI as a stimulating initiative to strengthen the global and regional research partnerships, especially in conflict settings in the Middle East region. I cite below the statement related to the RFI from this publication:

"Growing awareness of inequities in global health research has stimulated important initiatives to ensure more equitable research collaborations. These include, among others, the COHRED Research Fairness Initiative, Responsible conduct in the Global Research Enterprise, and the TRUST initiative. Yet on-the-ground implementation of these principles is often nominal and few research funders scrutinize metrics on equitable partnerships. Scant attention has been paid to the specificities of humanitarian health research". Access to the publication: https://www.thelancet.com/action/showPdf?pii=S0140-6736%2819%2932482-1

Dear colleagues, as you know, in the Arab region, it has been shown that Arab inter-regional research and science cooperation, collaborations, and partnerships are limited (Rigas Arvanitis and Sari Hanafi 2016). Despite the scarcity of research resources and infrastructure, lack of supportive research environment and weak research governance, as AlKhaldi et. al concluded to in his dissertation and series of articles (AlKhaldi 2018; AlKhaldi, Abed, et al. 2018b; AlKhaldi, Alkaiyat, et al. 2018; AlKhaldi, Abed, et al. 2018a), recently there has been a rise in academic publications authored or co-authored by Arab researchers in Institutions of Higher Education in the Middle East countries and those of the European Union, USA, Canada, Australia, and Asian institutions. This rise has been largely attributed to the surge in cooperation between institutions across the regions by implementing technical and capacity programs and providing research funding schemes to the Arab region.

To strengthen this upswing in research and science collaborations and boost institutional research capacities and potential, the adoption of the RFI could be a key strategic measure that Arab research institutions can take.

We would be delighted to have an opportunity to introduce the RFI to you and your institution noting that, as a scientist who worked in such relevant theme in the doctorate studies and familiar with the context of region, this enables us to work more directly with institutions in the Arab world and make the RFI even more relevant.

I look forward to hearing from you, please let us know if further discussion is required.

We are pleased to share additional resources on the RFI for better understanding

Best wishes,

Sincerely

Dr. Mohammed AlKhaldi

On behalf of COHRED-RFI team

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Mohammed AlKhaldi, MPH, PhD

Scientific Collaborator & Postdoc. Fellow

McGill University, Faculty of Medicine, Canada

Council on Health Research for Development, COHRED, Geneve

Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute, Switzerland

Department of Public Health, unit of Health Systems and Policies

An-Najah National University, Palestine

Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences

Mobile (Pal) +972 599 330 927, (Swiss) +41 762 885 744

Tel: +41 612 848 931

moh.alkhaldi@unibas.ch , moh.khaldi83@gmail.com

Eulerstrasse 83, 4051 Basel,

www.swisstph.ch

HIFA profile: Mohammed AlKhaldi trained in Public Health Policy. Over the last 13 years, he engaged in three different sectors, serving at the government as a health policy researcher, performing teaching activities and conducting research, and leading NGO health projects and programs. In 2018, he obtained a Ph.D. from the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute (Swiss TPH) in Switzerland where he succeeded to pursue a critical system analysis of the Palestinian national Health Research System. He worked with many international institutions, such as the World Health Organization (WHO), Council on Health Research for Development (COHRED), Health Systems Global (HSG), McGill University, and Swiss TPH, as a health consultant and scientific collaborator. His areas of interest are health systems, health policy and systems research, evidence-informed policymaking, health research systems, knowledge transfer and translation, and health and development programs management. He has tremendous participation at eminent congresses and various publications published at prestigious journals in different public health fields. Shortly, he will join the McGill University team to lead a two-year research project in Health Technology Assessment (HTA) in five settings, Canada, Switzerland, Lebanon, Palestine, and Tanzania. Currently, he is a member of the Research Fairness Initiative (RFI)-COHRED team who leads activities of instructing, dissemination, and implementation of the RFI in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. moh.khaldi83 AT gmail.com