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There has been a dramatic rise in the scale and scope of collaborative global health research. A number of structural and scientific factors explain this growth and there has been much discussion of these in the literature. Little, if any, attention has been paid, however, to the factors identified by scientists and other research actors as important to successful research collaboration. This is surprising given that their decisions are likely to play a key role in the sustainability and effectiveness of global health research initiatives. In this paper, we report on qualitative research with leading scientists involved in major international research collaborations about their views on good and bad collaborations and the factors that inform their decision-making about joining and participating actively in research networks. We identify and discuss eight factors that researchers see as essential in judging the merits of active participation in global health research collaborations: opportunities for active involvement in cutting-edge, interesting science; effective leadership; competence of potential partners in and commitment to good scientific practice; capacity building; respect for the needs, interests and agendas of partners; opportunities for discussion and disagreement; trust and confidence; and, justice and fairness in collaboration. Our findings suggest that the sustainability and effectiveness of global health research collaborations has an important ethical or moral dimension for the research actors involved.

Original publication




Journal article


PloS one

Publication Date





The Ethox Centre, Nuffield Department of Population Health, University of Oxford, Old Road Campus, Oxford, United Kingdom.


Humans, Cooperative Behavior, Biomedical Research, International Cooperation, Research Personnel, Capacity Building, Global Health