Inquiry and Thought Leadership on Transforming Research Cooperation

Current initiatives

“The Perivoli Charter”

In a joint, 12-month initiative, PARC, in conjunction with the Chief Albert Luthuli Research Chair, University of South Africa (UNISA) and several agencies and research networks, will develop an Africa-centred Charter and framework for action by higher education and policy institutions to advance a transformed mode of global North-Africa research partnership, which overcomes the power imbalances typically inherent in such collaboration. Expanding African decolonial discourses and analyses of the international scientific endeavour have drawn attention to historically rooted inequities in the global research and science ecosystem, which continue to adversely position African constituencies and terms vis-a-vis those in the global North.

Expanding debate and initiatives on equitable global North-South research partnerships are fostering acceptance of the need for greater fairness in the setting of agendas for inquiry, the division of labour within, and the administration of research projects, and in access to resources and rewards – such as academic publications. These advances are helping to shift the ways in which many global North-Africa research collaborations now unfold. 

Going beyond equitable partnership modes, further layers of interrelated power in global North-Africa research partnerships need consideration.  Variously across the sciences and subject areas, such imbalances can include:  

  • A focus on identifying research foci within the frame of the Sustainable Development Goals, precluding inquiry on local, African priorities not captured in this global agenda. 
  • A typically uni-directional development ‘gaze’, which posits the global North as ‘developed’ and Africa as ‘developing’ and forecloses bi-directional investigations of comparable development issues or even a reversed South to North investigation of Northern challenges.   
  • A dominant use of Western epistemologies, theories and concepts to guide the collection and the interpretation of data, with little application of existing African epistemes and perspectives- or explicit new theorizing from the continent. 
  • A privileging of global/Northern- over local audiences in the communication of research and its findings – underpinned by an almost exclusive use of Western languages.  
  • Vast disparities in institutional infrastructures and resources.  
  • A common positioning of global North institutions as senior- and African institutions as junior partners.  

Transforming Africa research and partnership requires concerted efforts by the University of Bristol and other higher education and research institutions to redress the above asymmetries –and to further embed equitable partnership approaches.   

A timetable for our plans on the Charter is as follows, beginning Spring 2022 and running roughly to the end of the year:

  • Web-based exchange on lived experiences and perspectives of African and Africa-based researchers of global North-Africa research relations. This has been pursued under the PARC Conversations call.
  • Africa-only consultations and UoB internal reflection (Apr–June 2022). The former will be hosted by our partners, ARUA, UNISA and, potentially, APHRC among others, and began with a roundtable panel at the African Studies Association of Africa (ASAA) conference. The latter will commence with a Bristol (University and City) focused discussion event scheduled for 25 May.
  • Africa-UK dialogue (one or more forums), which will be hosted jointly by ARUA, UNISA and APHRC (tbc)
  • Synthesis, integration into a framework and validation (Aug – October 2022)
  • Production of web interface (Sep – Oct 2022)
  • Formal launch (details tba)


New standards and models for Africa research collaboration

In conjunction with the Worldwide Universities Network (WUN) Global Africa Group (GAG), PARC is engaging in two-year initiative, involving workshops, discussion forums and desk based research, to develop and pilot new standards, epistemological frameworks and practice models for equitable research collaboration and knowledge production within the WUN between Africa and institutions outside of the continent. A centrepiece of GAG’s work is the development of guiding principles for forging mre equitable and Africa-centred research collaborations within the network. We expect the principles to draw on the conceptual work that will underpin the Charter. Vice versa, we plan to engage the WUN in discussions to inform the development of the Charter and to encourage its eventual adoption.