The Public Library of Science (PLOS) today announced its aim to bring equity to publishing by launching a new policy to improve transparency in the reporting of research that is conducted in other countries or communities. The new policy will help mitigate a practice called “parachute research”, also known as “helicopter” or “neo-colonial science”. Parachute research occurs when researchers travel to under-resourced communities, conduct their research, and leave, often with little understanding or involvement of the communities they studied, and few direct benefits to local participants.
This policy, implemented across all PLOS journals, aims to improve reporting of global research. Authors conducting research of this nature may be asked to complete a questionnaire that outlines ethical, cultural, and scientific considerations specific to inclusivity in global research. The questionnaire also asks authors conducting research without local authors why none have been included on the authorship list. A reminder of the PLOS criteria for authorship is also included, which states that all individuals who meet these criteria should be included in the author byline, rather than in the acknowledgements.
The information collected in the questionnaire will be made available to editors and reviewers during the peer review process to help assess whether the research meets the journal’s standards for the ethics of experimentation and research integrity. The completed questionnaire will also be included as a Supporting Information file with the published paper, improving transparency in global research.
“It’s been inspiring to see the editorial leaders at PLOS, across all the disciplines we cover, get behind this new policy with a desire to ensure that as a scientific community we recognize and value the role of researchers within communities that are the object of study,” said Veronique Kiermer, Chief Scientific Officer, PLOS. “Transparency is a first step towards inclusion.”
PLOS publishes research in over 200 disciplines, and we recognize that expectations for conducting research may vary between fields. As such, at the time of launch, we do not have specific requirements for global research practices, beyond our existing policies. Instead, we’ll work with our community of reviewers and editorial board members to consider questions that arise from the policy on a case-by-case basis. We hope the policy will improve awareness of the concerns related to global research, laying foundations for future development of additional policies in this area.
The policy has been developed in close collaboration with members of the research community across the globe, including researchers from South Africa, New Zealand, the USA, and Kenya. This has included individuals from multiple research areas, including population health, genetics, biological sciences, and paleontology.