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Collaboration in East Africa

This project takes an ethnographic approach to practice and ethics of collaboration in transnational medical research in East Africa.

African man reading a book.

Illustration from the book "Global Health Research in an Unequal world".

Project summary

This anthropological project will ethnographically study the work of Scientific collaboration around East Africa's two leading research universities, Nairobi and Makerere. International collaboration is essential for progress in global health research, and especially for the development of innovative and effective drugs, interventions and vaccines, as well as for the sustainable implementations of research findings under diverse epidemiological and health systems conditions. Such collaboration operates across stark differences in medical, technical, educational, and socio-economic conditions, which in themselves are often key to the health problems global health research is about. Hence, collaboration is at times challenging work,which in addition to scientists, involves local technicians, laboratories and health providers, research participants and their communities, local Publics and media, and ethicists, policy makers and funders.

The proposed study will use ethnographic methods, including long-term presence in research sites, observation and conversations, interviews discussions, case studies and surveys, to examine motivations, experiences and perceptions of different stakeholders, the challenges they face, their divergent interests and alliances, and their strategies to create and sustain various models of collaborative research. This research is timely in view of recent debates about global health North/South collaboration among scientists, ethicists and funders, and social scientists; and it responds to calls for more empirically grounded social research on the ethical and practical challenges of global health science. Such research will enhance the understanding of international collaborative research work, facilitate more open debate about challenges and solutions, including scientists and  other stakeholders in the conversation, and thus further better, more equitable collaborative health research to take on mounting global health Challenges.


To study the practice of transnational medical research Collaboration around two East African universities, examining stakeholders' motivations, experiences, practices and strategies, in order to ground ethical deliberations and contribute to innovative, sustainable and effective global health Research partnerships.


1. To explore motivations, perceptions and experiences of scientific workers, and others involved in collaborative research.

2. To explore practical, scientific and ethical implications of different models of collaborative partnerships.

3. To examine strategies of local and international scientists in negotiating and sustaining collaboration.

4. To assess community perceptions of collaboration, in relation to their motivation to take part in research.

5. To contribute to and expand global bioethics discussions about transnational scientific collaboration.

6. To recommend steps towards more equitable, innovative and effective medical research collaboration.




Published Jan. 9, 2017 11:13 AM - Last modified Aug. 8, 2019 2:14 PM


Project leader:

Ferdinand Moyi Okwaro


Wenzel Geissler