Increase support for scientific research, capacities and infrastructure in the Global South
European nations are currently the major producers of research focused on the SDGs, with North America, Asia and the Pacific contributing less; while Africa, Latin America and the Arab States are smaller participants, even though the SDGs are key concerns in these regions (Institute for Scientific Information, 2019). The highly uneven global distribution of scientific capacity and knowledge production and access threatens to derail the 2030 Agenda. There is need for a major coordinated effort to make all relevant scientific knowledge accessible, especially to low- and middle-income countries, and to build knowledge societies in the longer term. The least developed countries urgently need context-specific knowledge on the SDGs. In this context, long-term sources of funding should be secured for higher education and research institutions to build local research capacities. Research and training should be particularly strengthened in relation to issues focused on sustainability. It is important to ensure that funding support for research institutions also entails their capacity to offer science advice to government, in which they are able to take account of the local context.
Enhancing digital infrastructure and improving digital connectivity access and costs in the South should be a key focus. Support for research, researchers and institutions should include lowering the costs of publishing and data deposition and access.
Increase support for international collaboration led by partners located in the South
International research collaborations are critical for countries in the South that have limited local capacities. However, many external research collaborations are inequitable, driven by external partners with their interests and perspectives. Furthermore, despite the growing interest in international research collaboration, few international research funding schemes provide opportunities for all countries to participate. Most funding flows between institutions in different high-income countries, with some directed for cooperation with African partners. Most national research funders support primarily scientists from their countries. Funding calls are often poorly publicized in the South, and rarely allow researchers from low- and middle-income countries to act as primary researchers. These researchers have little time or funding to strategically choose partners or collaborate with them. Institutions in the Global South are funded predominantly for data collection rather than research project development and implementation. The majority of funding for international collaboration is awarded in contexts which reinforce the existing bias in research systems and which do not lead to the desired long-term capacity development. There is a clear need to create mechanisms ensuring more global cooperation through equitable partnerships that enable Southern researchers to participate on a more equal basis. Researchers in the South should have a leading role in defining the research agenda. Their interests and perspectives should be fully reflected, including in how funding is distributed and how academic rewards are structured. Such collaborations should also contribute positively to enhancing local research capacities.