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Corespondenţă în Science despre studiul despre orfanii din Bucureşti care nu are niciun autor din România

http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/319/5868/1336a

Mulţumiri lui Lucian Drăguţ pentru ştire.

Science 7 March 2008:
Vol. 319. no. 5868, pp. 1336 – 1337
DOI: 10.1126/science.319.5868.1336a

Letters
Preventing Inequity in International Research
Being originally from an Eastern European country, I’ve noticed two possible practices in establishing international research collaboration between richer and poorer countries. In the more desirable scenario, investigators from wealthy countries spend time living in poorer countries, where they patiently gain trust of local people and build capacity in local research infrastructure. In the other scenario, investigators use local researchers to perform the difficult, risky, and demanding part of the work, after which they collect the raw data and begin to publish papers. In my international health work in Africa, I learned of the extremes of both approaches. The latter breed of scientists was nicknamed the „vampires” by the local community, as they were only seen when flying in to collect blood samples. It was difficult to avoid associations to the „vampires” when reading the Report „Cognitive recovery in socially deprived young children: The Bucharest Early Intervention Project,” by C.A. Nelson III et al. (21 December 2007, p. 1937).
Reading this Report raised a number of questions. How was it possible to publish this study without any coauthors based at Romanian institutions? If this study is not cause for major ethical concerns, as a related Policy Forum (1) suggested, why was it not initially conducted in deprived areas of the western country? Would Science publish exactly the same paper on 187 Romanian children if all six coauthors were Romanian scientists?
I am absolutely sure that the authors of the study and the Science editors could easily provide perfectly reasonable answers to all three of my intuitive questions. However, I don’t think that is really the point. The point is that when international research collaborations between the scientists from the wealthier and the poorer countries are based on good principles of equity and mutual respect, questions like these should never even come to mind.
Igor Rudan
Croatian Centre for Global Health
University of Split Medical School
Split, Croatia
Reference

1. J. Millum, E. J. Emanuel, Science 318, 1874 (2007).

Response
We agree wholeheartedly with Rudan that U.S.-based investigators should invest themselves in the local community. As noted in the Supporting Online Material, we have established an Institute of Child Development in Bucharest. The Institute is designed to work collaboratively with governmental and nongovernmental agencies to improve the lives of Romanian children and train the next generation of Romanian psychological and biomedical researchers. Similarly, the three main investigators of this project (C.H.Z., N.A.F., and C.A.N.) have appointments on the faculty of the Department of Psychology at the University of Bucharest, where they lecture several times a year and supervise masters and doctoral students. Additionally, we raised the funds to support two large national conferences, each of which brought more than 300 professionals from all over Romania together to learn from international experts about child development, neuroscience, and child protection. Finally, we have invested in the continuing education of our staff and colleagues in Romania by financially supporting their travel inside and outside of Romania to attend conferences and workshops.

Rudan asks why this work was not done in the United States or a similar „western” country. We address this in some detail in our Supporting Online Material. Briefly, there are very few nonhandicapped institutionalized children in such countries, whereas in Romania, there were tens of thousands of children being raised in institutions. In addition, we conducted the study in Romania because the Secretary of State for Child Protection originally invited us to conduct the study.

Rudan asks why none of our Romanian colleagues were authors of this paper. As we note in reference 32, we are indebted to many individuals in Romania who facilitated our research. We began the study with collaborators who were primarily involved in child protection or clinical work–not child development research. These colleagues did not make the requisite substantial scholarly contributions to this paper required by scientific organizations (such as the American Psychological Association) for authorship. That is, none contributed to the experimental design, statistical analysis, data interpretation, or manuscript preparation that one typically associates with journal authorship. This does not diminish their contributions to the study in any way, and indeed, three of our most important colleagues are authors on another paper from the study (1).

Rudan advocates that the investigators spend a substantial amount of time in poorer countries before conducting research. He contrasts this with exploitation of local investigators by outsiders. We submit that there may be other alternatives. As desirable as Rudan’s first approach may be, our resources did not permit us to adopt it. Instead, we hired an all-Romanian staff, invested in their training, and had a fulltime Romanian-American project manager who lived in Bucharest for the project’s first 4 years. In the past 7 years, we have continued to seek and nurture collaborations with academics and child protection professionals, and we hope that those will continue to grow over time. In addition to the Institute, the legacy of BEIP includes creation of the largest foster care network in Romania at the time, supported fully by project funds at the outset, but later transferred to the government. These foster homes continue to provide care to abandoned children. Thankfully, they have now been joined by hundreds of new foster homes throughout Bucharest and beyond.

Charles A. Nelson III*
DMC Lab of Cognitive Neuroscience
Harvard Medical School and Children’s Hospital
Boston, MA 02215, USA

*To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: charles.nelson@childrens.harvard.edu

Charles H. Zeanah
Tulane University Health Sciences Center
New Orleans, LA 70112, USA

Nathan A. Fox
Department of Human Development
University of Maryland
College Park, MD 20742, USA

Peter J. Marshall
Department of Psychology
Temple University
Philadelphia, PA 19122, USA

Anna T. Smyke
Tulane University Health Sciences Center
New Orleans, LA 70112, USA

Donald Guthrie
University of California
Los Angeles, CA 90095, USA

Reference

1. C. H. Zeanah et al., Infant Mental Health J. 27, 559 (2006).