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The foreign gaze: authorship in academic global health
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  • Published on:
    Unpacking the imbalances in authorship in global health.
    • Hani Kim, Program Officer/Researcher Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
    • Other Contributors:
      • Uros Novakovic, Architect
      • Carles Muntaner, Professor

    DISCLAIMER: Views expressed in this letter are those of the authors only, and do not represent the views or interests of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

    We enthusiastically agree with the Editor's observation that what underlies the growing concerns about imbalances in authorship are the questions of power asymmetries in the production and benefits of knowledge in global health.

    Critical and open self-reflections and reflexivity on "gaze" (who we write for) and "pose" (position from which we write) are much needed steps towards moving beyond representation on the list of authors.

    However, if what underlies the imbalances in authorship is in fact power asymmetries, solving the problem of imbalances in authors requires directly interrogating the relations of power. Indeed, in our recent article, we identified marginalization the scholarship that interrogates the relations of power represents one of the persistent manifestations of the dominant norms of global health along with democratic deficit and depoliticization of the discourse (Kim et al. 2019). These manifestations may overlap or confound the relation between country/community of origin. We further argue that these manifestations are ideological in character in that they are not merely tendencies but functional in naturalizing and universalizing the implicit assumptions and norms of the dominant narrative.

    The editorial raises an extremely important poin...

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    Conflict of Interest:
    None declared.
  • Published on:
    Should a paper published by a 'local' researcher about a local country be more valuable?

    Thank you for this extraordinary piece! It provides a more nuanced picture of the concern regarding unequal authorship in global health publishing. In the spirit of your argument, I would like to share my experience and thoughts on this with an example. I have recently received a reviewers comments on an article I submitted for publication that stated that the author is encouraged to review the article, especially if Cameroonian because more research on the topic from Cameroonians is necessary. The article needed more work, I am new to publishing and I am not arguing with that. However, I felt a lot of frustration with the comment about the piece being worth more if written by a Cameroonian as opposed to me a ‘foreigner’/’northerner’. To add to your wonderful piece, I have two reflections on my example: First, I echo your argument that sometimes ‘foreign’ researchers are better placed to conduct ‘local’ research. I conducted research on a very controversial global health project whereby millions of dollars disappeared. If a Cameroonian would ask the questions I asked, they would risk their life. My research took place in an authoritarian state, Cameroonian researchers select very carefully what they say and what they can’t say because of a simple well-founded fear of persecution. They also worry about how critiquing a health programme could affect their future job opportunities with these actors. Second, some Cameroonians don’t want to do the write up because they have sev...

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    Conflict of Interest:
    None declared.