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Appropriation is the process and the result of an action that leads to the ownership of a research by one or more stakeholders, mainly the researchers themselves.

Categories of appropriation

There can be two different levels or categories:

Appropriation by the researchers

Appropriation of the results

  • feeling it is the researchers' property;
  • inducing their motivation to publish, to ensure valorisation;
  • willingness and action to see the results applied in practice, in policy, in getting patents, etc.
  • also strengthening the researcher’s professional position in his/her institution or country.

Appropriation of the research itself: its conception, formulation, implementation, valorisation, etc.

It quite often happens, when researchers from both the South and the North collaborate in a joint research project, that the colleagues in the South, rightly or wrongly, consider that their counterparts in the North are the real owners (because they got the idea in the first place, or raised the necessary funds, or were their teachers or mentors). A situation of dependency can frequently be observed.

In many places such situation has generated a healthy reaction, by which researchers in the North, the fund providers, the university or research institute deliberately and explicitly require the appropriation by the Southern research group, a dimension to be included in the research plan. The search for autonomy of the southern researchers is then an explicit objective of the project. This is fortunately a general trend nowadays among interuniversity cooperation agencies.

A prerequisite is a clear unambiguous provision at the time of making arrangements between the researcher(s) in the South on the one hand, and other researchers, sponsors or sometimes real or potential users of the results, on the other hand. The specific evaluation guide should therefore consider whether the sharing of responsibilities, of publication, of getting credit, or of obtaining patent rights etc. are met, see the annex ethical conditions. The issue is also linked to that of strengthening research capacity and more generally to the dimension of sustainablility.

The authors of a publication obtain some form of appropriation through the intellectual copyright that is automatically attached to the publication.

Appropriation of the research by other stakeholders

Basically these are the users of such results whether development agencies (governments, NGOs), local communities, educational institutions or programmes, and to some extent the research’s sponsors.

In such cases not only the actual application (which is an aspect of the impact of the research’s results) is one of the criteria for this dimension, but also the actual feeling by the stakeholders that such results are becoming their property, that they feel committed to apply them for the benefit of the people.

The intellectual copyright of the author is not in contradiction with achieving a broad applicability of the results by granting readers the permission to use them and even to further elaborate on them. The most efficient way to realize this is by attaching explicitly an appropriate Creative Commons  licence to the publication. Many Open Access journals do this in a standard way for all their publications.