Over at Africa is a Country, researchers from European and Congolese universities are writing about how they study violence in eastern DRC, in what they’re calling the Bukavu Series. The first post, by Godefroid Muzalia, Koen Vlassenroot, Aymar Nyenyezi, An Ansoms, and Emery Mudinga, introduces a critical point: why aren’t Congolese research assistants properly credited in the studies they help to run?
As they write:
There seems to be an overall consensus to critically consider how to fully integrate research collaborators and assistants based in the areas of research into processes of knowledge production. Yet, this can only be done when the collaborators themselves are directly included in the debate. They not only “help” to gain access to the field and collect data, but also co-define the field. They read and interpret it and are involved in a constant process of co-production. Most scholars would not have made it through their PhD research without their collaborators’ contributions and guidance. Many research projects would have failed to come up with tangible results without the direct involvement and engagement of research collaborators and assistants. So not only should their roles be recognized in the final outputs of research; they should also be allowed to take up equal responsibility for these outputs, equal participation in the design of project cycles and equal ownership of the research data.
I’d add that we also need to address how Northern scholars face career incentives that aren’t well aligned with the need to better recognize the work of Southern research assistants. For example, naming RAs as co-authors of papers would be a powerful statement about their contributions — but some disciplines value co-authored papers as only a fraction of a single-authored paper when it comes to making hiring and tenure decisions.