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RSS Conference: Hearing from our Session Leads – Dr Conor Snowden

The 2023 Research Support Services (RSS) Conference took place on 31 October with great success.

Attended by nearly 300 colleagues and offering over 25 sessions, the 2023 RSS Conference provided a space for research support colleagues from across the university to come together to learn, share, network and develop our community.

ERO colleagues delivered and contributed to many sessions throughout the day, who continue to go the extra mile to better our services and understanding.

In this blog, we hear from Dr. Conor Snowden, Strategic Research Executive within ERO, who shares his experience as a session lead and delves into the content of his session titled ‘Equitable Partnerships: The New Normal in International Collaborations’.


Academics from The University of Edinburgh have carried out research with international partners and in other countries since the University was founded. These collaborations foster a global exchange of knowledge and expertise. However, the historical dynamics of such collaborations have often been marked by imbalances, especially when researchers from high-income countries (HICs) engage with counterparts from low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). In recent years, there has been a growing recognition of the importance of equitable partnerships in research, with a focus on levelling the playing field and fostering mutual benefit. This shift is not only ethically sound but also crucial to produce robust, applicable research that can address the unique challenges faced by diverse populations across the globe. The University of Edinburgh has a large research portfolio of these successful partnerships, but we can always improve how we do research. As Strategic Research Executive in Edinburgh Research Office my session at the RSS conference, and my ongoing work, is to facilitate these equitable partnerships and share best practice and training resources with colleagues. I was delighted that I had a full room of research support staff who are eager to learn and committed to helping academics deliver this.

Understanding Equitable Partnerships

Equitable partnerships in research involve a commitment to shared decision-making, resource distribution, and recognition of the expertise each partner brings to the table. It goes beyond a transactional relationship, emphasizing collaboration and co-creation of knowledge. In the context of LMICs, where resources may be limited, equitable partnerships become even more critical to ensure that research benefits are distributed fairly.

Balancing Resources and Expertise

One of the key challenges in global research collaborations is the potential for a power imbalance due to disparate resources. Equitable partnerships strive to address this by acknowledging and respecting the expertise present in LMICs. Researchers from HICs can bring not only financial resources but also technical know-how. Simultaneously, LMIC researchers also bring invaluable contextual insights, cultural understanding, and community engagement skills. Striking a balance ensures that the research is culturally sensitive, relevant, and applicable to the specific needs of the population.

Building Research Capacity

A critical aspect of equitable partnerships is the commitment to building research capacity in LMICs. This involves not only conducting research but also training local researchers, providing access to resources, and facilitating skill development. By investing in the capacity of local institutions, long-term sustainability is promoted, allowing LMIC researchers to take ownership of their research agenda. This approach not only benefits the specific research project but also contributes to strengthening the overall scientific landscape in the partner country.

Ethical Considerations and Responsible Conduct

Equitable partnerships necessitate a commitment to ethical conduct, respecting the principles of justice, respect, and “do no harm”. It involves navigating issues such as informed consent, data ownership, and intellectual property in a way that is fair and culturally sensitive. Transparent communication and adherence to ethical guidelines are paramount to building trust and ensuring the integrity of the research process.


The importance of equitable partnerships in research with partners in LMICs cannot be overstated. It is a key factor in UK Government research in development policy, emphasizing mutual respect, shared decision-making, and the pursuit of shared goals. As the academic community continues to evolve, embracing and promoting equitable partnerships should be a gold standard of our commitment to responsible and impactful research.

It was great to share this at the RSS conference which is a supportive peer network of research management staff and a great way to reach out to engaged staff.



If you would like to know more about the 2023 Research Support Services Conference, please visit the conference site for further information and resources:



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