The legislation and other documents refer to benefit-sharing, but this is not terminology used in scientific research. To enable us to manage this aspect of ABS compliance we need to understand what is meant.
The CBD agreements talk about ‘benefits arising out of the utilization of genetic resources’. The model is that utilizing genetic resources produces either monetary return or some other type of positive outcome, which is then shared between the user and the country where the genetic resources were accessed. An example might be sharing the profits from marketing a new drug isolated from plants. In practice for much of what taxonomists do, benefits are what a country or its people receive in return for permitting access and, sometimes, utilization. For academic research such as taxonomy these are often agreed irrespective of the use to which the specimens are to be put, so are not dependant on utilization, only access. We have become used to sharing these benefits, in that we may return specimens, train people, provide equipment etc as an adjunct to fieldwork – this is benefit-sharing in practice.
The annex to the Nagoya Protocol lists a number of monetary and non-monetary benefits:
1. Monetary benefits may include, but not be limited to:
(a) Access fees/fee per sample collected or otherwise acquired;
(b) Up-front payments;
(c) Milestone payments;
(d) Payment of royalties;
(e) Licence fees in case of commercialization;
(f) Special fees to be paid to trust funds supporting conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity;
(g) Salaries and preferential terms where mutually agreed;
(h) Research funding;
(i) Joint ventures;
(j) Joint ownership of relevant intellectual property rights.
2. Non-monetary benefits may include, but not be limited to:
(a) Sharing of research and development results;
(b) Collaboration, cooperation and contribution in scientific research and development programmes, particularly biotechnological research activities, where possible in the Party providing genetic resources;
(c) Participation in product development;
(d) Collaboration, cooperation and contribution in education and training;
(e) Admittance to ex situ facilities of genetic resources and to databases;
(f) Transfer to the provider of the genetic resources of knowledge and technology under fair and most favourable terms, including on concessional and preferential terms where agreed, in particular, knowledge and technology that make use of genetic resources, including biotechnology, or that are relevant to the conservation and sustainable utilization of biological diversity;
(g) Strengthening capacities for technology transfer;
(h) Institutional capacity-building;
(i) Human and material resources to strengthen the capacities for the administration and enforcement of access regulations;
(j) Training related to genetic resources with the full participation of countries providing genetic resources, and where possible, in such countries;
(k) Access to scientific information relevant to conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity, including biological inventories and taxonomic studies;
(l) Contributions to the local economy;
(m) Research directed towards priority needs, such as health and food security, taking into account domestic uses of genetic resources in the Party providing genetic resources;
(n) Institutional and professional relationships that can arise from an access and benefit-sharing agreement and subsequent collaborative activities;
(o) Food and livelihood security benefits;
(p) Social recognition;
(q) Joint ownership of relevant intellectual property rights.
Benefits may be agreed in several ways:
- Signing the permit, which may require agreement of standard terms and conditions, such as return of specimens;
- Agreeing a Memorandum of Cooperation with a partner institution;
- Informal discussions and correspondence with collaborators.
There are some important dos and don’ts when it comes to agreeing benefits.
- DO be sure that you / the institution can deliver the benefits agreed.
- DO NOT agree to things that cannot be done, or are against the institutions practices and policies.
- DO document what you have agreed. This enables delivery to be managed, allows the inclusion of these benefits in the institution’s reports, and can provide evidence that the institution is a good partner.
- DO make sure that you are aware of all benefits agreed in a larger project. The conditions of an MoU may overlap or even be in conflict with those of a permit. Since all benefits have a cost of delivery this needs to be managed.
- DO make sure that agreements are met once you are back in the institution.