“Author parasitism” informed by neo-colonial science?
To end “author free-riding,” which is the exclusion of local authors from studies in Africa, researchers and institutions in high-income countries, as well as funding agencies and journals, should promote research. in sub-Saharan Africa, including its publication, in a collaborative and equitable manner, according to a new study.
The study “Where there is no local author: a bibliometric network analysis of paternity parasitism among research conducted in sub-Saharan Africa”, published in BMJ Global Health, on October 27, 2021, found that “paternity parasitism in studies in sub-Saharan Africa occurred in about one in seven articles,” adding that “several high-income countries were most involved in such work in sub-Saharan Africa. Sub-Saharan Africa. ”.
Many articles included only a moderate proportion of authors from the study country, the authors said.
The authors said that, given the recent and growing recognition of the dangers of imbalanced research collaborations, future studies are warranted to assess changes in the prevalence, location, and factors associated with paternity parasitism.
A bibliometric review of articles from January 2014 to December 2018 reporting research conducted in sub-Saharan Africa and indexed in PubMed, was used by researchers to study how author affiliations were assigned to countries based on expression algorithms. regular.
Choropleth maps and network diagrams – which use color or patterned displays to present statistical data across geographic areas – were created to determine where paternity parasitism has occurred, and multivariate logistic regression has been created. was used to determine the associated factors.
The researchers found that “of 32,061 articles, 14.8% (n = 4,754) demonstrated paternity parasitism, which was most common among studies conducted in Somalia (n = 175/233, 75.1 %) and São Tomé and Príncipe (n = 20/28, 71.4%.
“Authors affiliated with institutions in the United States and the United Kingdom were the most involved in articles presenting paternity parasitism.
Authors’ parasitism was more common in articles: published in North American journals than in sub-Saharan African journals, reporting work from several sub-Saharan African countries versus work from sub-Saharan African income countries upper intermediate, with fewer than five authors than those with more than 10 authors, and was less common in articles published in French than in English, the authors said.
The researchers found that “a significant proportion of articles also had few authors affiliated with the country of the study, regardless of the number of authors. Out of 16,187 articles with 5 to 10 authors, local authors represented less than 25% of the authors in 4,999 articles (30.9%).
Of 3,901 articles with 11 to 15 authors, local authors represented less than 25% of the authors in 1,115 (28.6%) articles.
In 940 articles with 16-20 authors, local authors represented less than 25% of the authors in 349 (37.1%) articles.
And in 560 articles with more than 20 authors, local authors represented less than 25% of authors in 231 (41.2%) articles.
Inequality despite calls for decolonization
They said their findings and others “suggest that such paternity inequalities may be more pronounced in sub-Saharan Africa and despite multiple calls to” decolonize global health, “to build research capacity in low-income countries. and intermediate (PRFI) and to avoid exploitative research practices in low- and middle-income countries, previous studies indicate that paternity parasitism, defined as articles without “any authors listed from LMIC in which a study is conducted “occurs in up to 4% to 13% of articles reporting research conducted on the African continent”.
Further, they said, “paternity parasitism can undermine partnerships between investigators in low, middle and high income countries while perpetuating power and influence gaps,” adding that “the publication of articles without full representation of staff meeting the authorship criteria is contrary to the recommendation of the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors ”.
The authors said that previous studies suggest that “paternity parasitism is common when investigators from the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada are involved, and that” neo-colonial science “may be to blame for it. these unfair practices ”.
They said, however, that “these studies did not elucidate whether other factors, such as journal region, article language, funding source and number of authors, are associated with parasitism. paternity, “stressing that” an understanding of these factors is necessary to identify, and thereby eliminate, this extractive practice.
“Our goal was to determine the prevalence, location, contributing investigators and factors associated with paternity parasitism among articles reporting research from sub-Saharan Africa.”
Paternity parasitism has occurred more frequently in studies in several countries in sub-Saharan Africa and in low-income countries than in upper-middle-income countries in sub-Saharan Africa.
“While the imbalance in authorship of research in sub-Saharan Africa is only the ‘tip of the iceberg’ of inequalities in global academic health, it is certainly a manifestation.
“Understanding the countries, countries of the contributing investigators and associated factors can help inform policies and interventions aimed at reducing fatherhood free-riding in the future,” the authors added.