By: Hugo Ferpozzi of CONICET/Fundación Azara
What happens when international research consortia undertake scientific problems connected to social issues in Latin America? What are the actual impacts of global open science collaborations and who benefits from them?
We have taken on these two broad questions aiming to assess the potential risks and benefits of open collaborative science across neglected tropical disease research and territorial governance in Latin America.
Our objective required us to address two guiding concerns in regards to open international science collaborations and their ability to effectively address local needs. We believe that these concerns might be worth reflecting on beyond our particular case studies:
How do science and social issues engage in dynamics of mutual shaping?
As social issues become objects of international scientific interest, does the participation of non-hegemonic research groups in global open and collaborative networks change the way issues are defined? If so, are these new engagements capable of effectively attending to social issues in peripheral societies?
In this sense, one of our main preoccupations in regards to these asymmetrical structures of open science collaboration between central and non-hegemonic countries resides in a series of processes that we defined as cognitive exploitation: that is,
a set of relationships by which certain knowledge outputs, originally generated from non-profit objectives, become ultimately appropriated and turned into a source of profits or benefits by a different set of stakeholders.
Two crucial points, we argue, need to be taken into consideration in order to understand the intricacies of exploitation processes within open science collaborations between the global South and hegemonic research centres (and particularly, in the context of OCSDNet-related problems): namely, (a) the specific material and social ordering of knowledge work, information technologies, and open digital media , , , and (b) the structures of international scientific collaborations that allow private parties and research centres in hegemonic regions to benefit from investigations conducted in the global South.
Identifying ongoing processes of cognitive exploitation is anything but a simple task, especially in a context where the formal collaboration networks are known to differ significantly from the actual networks that link researchers, resources, and institutions. We have therefore chosen an integrated approach to collect data considering a wide range of sites and engaging different sets of stakeholders. This should allow the tracking of actual networks and flows of knowledge, and to eventually probe the gaps between the intended aims of collaboration outputs, their effective uses, and their long-term impacts. The sites of data collection, on one hand, encompass official policy (i.e, Argentinian and Brazilian Ministries of Public Health and S&T councils), sites of knowledge production (biology labs and universities), and collaboration spaces (for instance, tropical diseases open genomic databases). Stakeholders, on the other hand, include policymakers, researchers, and funding bodies, as well as representatives from global initiatives interested in taking on social issues in Latin America via open science collaborations.
Such an approach, we believe, is a necessary step before identifying and engaging target groups (the affected populations) during the next stage of our project. With this aim in view, we have organized workshop sessions in Buenos Aires (June 2015) where international field experts have been invited to assess the potential applications (and implications!) of the proposed framework and methods in the light of our preliminary findings.
Our intended working themes:
- An approach to open science: theoretical, methodological, and practical implications.
- New internationalization patterns in scientific networks? Dynamics of international collaboration and research agendas.
- Knowledge production under open and collaborative science: local uses and risks of cognitive exploitation. Stakeholders and target groups.
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