Fair Research Contracting

June 2014: New guidance for Fair Research Contracts Launched

The Council on Health Research for Development with the support of the Africa Health Initiative of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, the Fair Research Contracting Consortium partners and many others , have released a series of technical guidance notes and a booklet providing a series of tips on improving negotiation outcomes. All these tools are aimed at driving fairer outcomes in collaborative research partnerships between higher and lower income countries, and at creating opportunities for research institutions to optimise their research capacity through better contractual arrangements.

The guidance notes highlight the key issues for consideration when entering into formalised research partnerships: intellectual property rights, ownership of data and samples, technology transfer and system optimisation, compensation for indirect costs, and the contracting process.

The booklet is aimed at improving outcomes in negotiations through the provision of tips and strategies for preparing for and conducting the negotiation process.

We constantly strive for improvement, and these guides are just the next step in the Fair Research Contracting Initiative’s work. In the next phase, we will be transforming these generic guides into a web-based decision support system.

We would be pleased to receive your feedback, comments or suggestions for further improvement to these guides, or for the future of this project, to cohred@cohred.org

This work was supported by the African Health Initiative of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.

Doris Duke Charitable Foundation

Guidance for fairer research contracts

Guidance booklet cover Better contract negotiation expertise in LMIC institutions will help improve the distribution of benefits of collaborative research, such as overhead costs, data ownership, institutional capacity in research management, technology transfer, and intellectual property rights. With this in mind, COHRED has developed a guidance booklet aimed at optimising research institution building through better contracts and contracting in research partnerships. The guidance highlights the key issues for consideration when entering into formalised research partnerships, and provides tools and resources for negotiating fairer research contracts. To download this guidance booklet, click here: Fair Research Contracting Guidance Booklet e-version

What is the fair research contracting initiative about?

COHRED’s fair research contracting initiative aims to identify best practices for the research contracting (negotiation) process. that would be useful in the following three scenarios, in situations i) where there is no lawyer, ii) where there may be lay personnel who could be trained, and iii) where there is a lawyer or legal expertise. This initiative seeks to clarify the problems experienced in research relationships between high income and low- and middle-income institutions and, in particular, to focus on those issues that can be effectively addressed by developing and implementing guidance on research contracting in which the rights, responsibilities and requirements of all partners are recognised and addressed in an equitable and transparent manner.

The growing volume of research in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) is welcome, but brings with it a number of new challenges for research institutions and government departments dealing with research in those countries. The necessity for LMIC institutions to have access to the legal resources and capacities to negotiate fair partnerships with their funding partners has become more important than ever. With the often multi-centre and multinational nature of such research, key issues in the allocation of resources, capacity and post-study benefits arise. These include:

        • Distribution of research benefits
        • Ownership of data, samples and publications
        • Sharing of intellectual property rights
        • Capacity building and technology transfer
        • Adequate compensation for indirect costs
        • Conflict resolution
        • Compensation for insufficient national legislation

Benefits of fairer research contracts

All stakeholder groups will benefit from more equitable research contracts.

        • Institutions will share a greater proportion of the benefits that result from their work, enabling them to build a more effective research base;
        • Low- and middle-income institutions have the potential to become the primary recipient in securing research grants. The issue is then how to empower and capacitate them as the main contractor to negotiate fair sub-contracts with their high income partners;
        • Countries will benefit from research that strengthens rather than weakens national systems;
        • Research sponsors will benefit from the stronger research capacity available in countries in which they operate; and
        • Society in general will benefit from more rapid access to new evidence based services and interventions that have the potential to avert morbidity and mortality.

Project achievements: 2006 – 2014

The fair research contracting work began in 2006, when the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh (ICDDR,B) brought the issue of contracting practice to the attention of the WHO’s Advisory Committee on Health Research, by highlighting the difficulties they faced in negotiating ‘equitable’ contracts with research sponsors. COHRED was asked to lead an International Collaboration on Equitable Research Contracts to examine this issue in more detail and plan a collective response. The first phase of this response was finalised in May 2009 with the publication of an editorial in the Bulletin of the WHO raising awareness on the issue. Given that negotiating equitable research partnerships remains a central issue for LMICs, COHRED committed to restarting this project in 2011. A think tank was convened in March 2011 to identify key challenges in the research contracting process. At a fair research contracting workshop held in Cape Town during Forum 2012, the previously identified issues were reviewed and preliminary work was done to begin to identify solutions. In October 2012, COHRED held a meeting on fair research contracting at the Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Center. The Bellagio meeting focused on the structure and content of contracting checklists and negotiation guidance to support LMIC institutions and governments. You can download the report to the meeting by clicking here. In late 2013 COHRED started the next phase of work, converting the guidance booklet into more practical, user friendly tools, and working on developing guidnace which supports the softer skills of negotiation. We were proud to launch this new set of tools in June 2014.

For more information

There are ways through which you can support the work of COHRED within this programme. For more information, click here or contact cohred@cohred.org


This work was supported by the African Health Initiative of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.

The five technical guides, and the negotiation booklet, were the result of a collaborative effort from the Fair Research Contracting Consortium members, a group of people from both low and high income countries and institutions. Member organisations of the consortium are as follows:

Thanks also go to:

Renata Curi of Fiocruz, Pamela Andanda and Cathy Garner who provided advice on the development of the data ownership, intellectual property and technology transfer guidance notes.

Jens Henricher, who provided guidance on the development of the legislative framework guidance note.

Garry Aslanyan, who provided guidance on the development of the indirect costs guidance note