Programme Director at the Council on Health Research for Development (COHRED) at the School of Applied Human Sciences, Ms Debbie Marais, and her colleague, Ms Jacintha Toohey, have developed a practical guidance booklet on negotiating fair research contracts in collaborative research partnerships. 

The booklet has been designed to offer broad guidance in practical terms of some of the key challenges facing universities and research institutions in research contracting, including intellectual property rights, ownership of data and samples, capacity building and technology transfer, compensation for indirect costs, and the legislative context of research contracts.

It addresses each issue in-depth, provides points to consider when contracting around each issue, highlights key clauses where relevant, and includes references on where to go to find out more.

The idea for the fair research contracting initiative arose in 2006, when the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research in Bangladesh (ICDDRB) brought the issue of contracting practices to the attention of the World Health Organization’s Advisory Committee on Health Research, 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 challenge for us in developing this guidance is that much of the advice and resources available are generated from a high-income country perspective. We were committed to developing guidance that looked at the issues from a low- and middle-income country perspective, and to move away from the idea that fair research partnerships are determined to a large degree by reliance on the goodwill of high income country partners,’ said Marais.

Highlights of the project thus far include the publication in May 2009 of an editorial in the Bulletin of the WHO which raised awareness on the issue while a think tank in 2011 and a workshop in 2012 focused on identifying the key challenges faced in the research contracting process.

‘A key event in the development of the guidance document was the meeting held at the Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Center in October 2012,’ said Marais. ‘It was during this meeting we began to focus on the structure and content of contracting checklists and guidance to support low and middle-income country institutions and governments. The fair research contracting guidance document is the culmination of this work.’

More information on the fair research contracting initiative is available at and the full document at

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