Advancing biodiversity research in developing countries: the need for changing paradigms
The world is in the midst of a biodiversity crisis, threatening essential goods and services on which humanity depends. While there is an urgent need globally for biodiversity research, growing obstacles are severely limiting biodiversity research throughout the developing world, particularly in Southeast Asia. Facilities, funding, and expertise are often limited throughout this region, reducing the capacity for local biodiversity research. Although western scientists generally have more expertise and capacity, international research has sometimes been exploitative “parachute science,” creating a culture of suspicion and mistrust. These issues, combined with misplaced fears of biopiracy, have resulted in severe roadblocks to biodiversity research in the very countries that need it the most. Here, we present an overview of challenges to biodiversity research and case studies that provide productive models for advancing biodiversity research in developing countries. Key to success is integration of research and education, a model that fosters sustained collaboration by focusing on the process of conducting biodiversity research as well as research results. This model simultaneously expands biodiversity research capacity while building trust across national borders. It is critical that developing countries enact policies that protect their biodiversity capital without shutting down international and local biodiversity research that is essential to achieve the long-term sustainability of biodiversity, promoting food security and economic development.