Equitable partnerships

Partnerships are core to Global Health research and the foundation of most research at LSHTM. We are committed to building equitable research partnerships that facilitate understanding, fairness, awareness of each other’s contexts, trust and mutual exchange of expertise and knowledge. 

The development of more equitable partnerships is a priority in both the LSHTM Strategy 2022-2027 and the LSHTM Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Strategy 2021-23. We have created an Equitable Partnerships Workstream to take forward the goals and objectives set out in these strategies and are exploring both how individual members of staff can embed equitable partnership principles and practices in research, and what LSHTM can do as an institution through its policies and procedures.

The Independent Review to address discrimination and advance anti-racism and equality at LSHTM also highlighted the need to consistently apply best practices that promote equity in research.  In response to the review, we are working with international communities to collate and co-produce best practice examples of equitable research partnerships, and to develop associated guidance and training for our staff.

We have adopted the UKCDR definition of equitable partnerships as a guiding principle for this work:

Partnerships in which there is mutual participation, mutual trust and respect, mutual benefit and equal value placed on each partner’s contribution at all stages of the research process.

Equitable Partnerships Workstream

Three activities have been prioritised for development and support in the first phase of the Equitable Partnerships Workstream:

EquiPar Tool to Support Equitable Partnerships for Research Projects

Staff at LSHTM have developed a tool providing practical guidance for establishing and strengthening equitable research partnerships, drawing on a range of external resources and colleagues’ own experiences of research collaboration. The EquiPar Tool has been designed with individual research projects in mind and poses questions for research teams to consider on three key themes: people management and relationships, research activities and outputs, and contracting and resource management.

EquiPar is currently being piloted by selected research projects involving collaboration between LSHTM and partners from low and middle income countries. An evaluation of this pilot, assessing the perceptions and experiences of LSHTM and partner staff in using the tool and identifying options for improvement, is being conducted by a team comprising researchers from LSHTM and some of our long-standing partners. Once the pilot study has been completed, our aim is to produce a revised version of the tool, to adopt this as official LSHTM guidance for researchers, and to develop associated training.

In the meantime, we are encouraging all departments and teams at LSHTM to make use of the tool and to provide feedback on their experience via a virtual suggestion box. We have also made the tool available to a wider external audience via the pilot study website.

Task and Finish Groups to review LSHTM research practices

We recognise that institutional systems and policies can have an important effect on the equity of our partnerships, and are committed to reviewing LSHTM’s policies and procedures from a fairness perspective. Following discussion with the LSHTM community, we have set up two Task and Finish Groups to move this agenda forward, one focussing on good research practice and research ethics, and the other on research grant finance and contracting. The groups comprise volunteers from both our academic and professional support staff and reflect the diversity of our community. The role of the groups is to review relevant School policy and procedures, to benchmark our practices against external guidance, to identify issues/implications for equitable partnerships, and to propose changes which are expected to improve practice.

The good research practice and research ethics group is focussing specifically on the LSHTM Good Research Practice Policy and the LSHTM ethical review process, while the research grant finance and contracting group is focussing primarily on LSHTM’s standard contracting templates, LSHTM policies on payments to collaborators, and capacity strengthening for partners in research management. The two groups will make their initial reports in summer 2023 and their recommendations will be taken forward by the relevant School reporting structures for discussion, approval and action.

Awareness-raising and information-sharing

In addition to the School-level activities supported by the Equitable Partnerships Workstream, many colleagues, groups, projects and departments at LSHTM are engaged in identifying and promoting good practice in equitable partnerships, for example through their own research practice, engaging with research funders, and interacting with wider global health networks which share common concerns. To raise awareness of ongoing activities and facilitate the sharing of information and experiences, we have collated relevant equitable partnerships resources on our intranet, and hold regular open meetings giving colleagues from across the School an opportunity to raise concerns and learn from each other.