As researchers on the Brazilian Microbiome Project, we contend that creating a robust International Microbiome Initiative (IMI) needs local leadership rather than top-down scientific unification (see N. Dubilier et al. Nature 526, 631–634; 2015).

Microbial diversity and function are tied to geographically relevant features, so local investigation of these peculiarities is needed to underpin national biodiversity-protection measures. Researchers attached to such projects can boost their country's reputation in science and technology. If the IMI succumbs to pressure to avoid local research consortia, it could bias scientific priorities and project management towards the interests of a few, and compromise the independent verifiability of the science.

Resources expended on global collaborations without a clear description of aims could also result in an endless development of standards and protocols (see Nature; 2015). In our view, it is important to unite researchers locally to discuss such issues before imposing a pre-established model.