Sponsors and principal investigators of international collaborations, such as the Centre for HIV/AIDS Vaccine Immunology (CHAVI) and Grand Challenges in Global Health (GCGH) Initiative, typically hail from affluent countries. These parties usually assume the responsibility for drafting and driving data sharing or consortium agreements. Intellectual Property (IP) regulatory and guidance frameworks typically have a European or North American basis. Moreover, there is often no or poor intellectual property expertise available to consortium partners from developing countries. Accordingly, data sharing or consortium agreements drafted by PIs or sponsors from affluent countries are sometimes perceived by consortium partners in developing countries as being biased in favour of the interests of their consortium partners from the developed world. PIs from affluent countries should accordingly ensure that their colleagues from the developing world are prospectively involved in the drafting of consortium or data-sharing agreements. Such an approach could see data access and research output issues explicitly and meaningfully governed. Such an agreement should describe the management of intellectual property rights related to the proposed project, including plans for sharing data, information, and materials resulting from the award. The policy must also clearly govern the timing and means of data release, and any constraints on release. (http://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/PD/pdrfp_attachb.html). We recommend that local communities have a say in the management and sharing of data relating to them.
However, involving developing world collaborators in the drafting of a data sharing agreement will be meaningless if they are unable to access or interpret data. For example, while consortium or data sharing agreements typically specify database access rules (all consortium partners usually have access to a common consortium database) and research output rules (authorship sequence in consortium publications is usually determined by the respective contributions of consortium partners), partners from developing countries often lack the resources to access the pooled data, or the experience and confidence to equally contribute to research output based thereon. This places the better-resourced and experienced collaborators from affluent countries at a distinct advantage in regard to exploiting the common database and authoring publications based thereon. As such, developing world partners are sometimes absent from consortium research outputs or relegated to junior co-authorship status in such works.
In its 2002 statement on human genomic databases the Hugo Ethics Committee declared that there is a scientific responsibility to ensure the professional competence of researchers working with data, as well as the quality and accuracy of the data. (http://www.hugo-international.org/PDFs/Statement%20on%20Human%20Genomic%20Databases%202002.pdf). Based on this guiding principle principal investigators and partners from affluent countries have a moral responsibility to build the capacity of their developing world colleagues to enable them to competently undertake the research in question and to contribute to consortium-wide research outputs. This may necessitate sponsors and/or principal investigators investing in the infrastructure of their developing world colleagues, for example, in compatible computer software and broadband Internet access to enable developing world partners to access consortium databases. Moreover, where needed, collaborators from developed countries should train their developing world partners to ensure they have necessary expertise to exploit the research opportunities in the consortium database.