National initiatives need to correct injustices related to class, inequality and salaries among scientists (see Nature 537, 466–470; 2016). However, such measures may serve to reinforce the global north–south divide in research if, perhaps inevitably, they are more prevalent in higher-income countries.
The domination of the scientific agenda and literature by northern over southern researchers has serious implications for how science is designed and produced, undermining its salience, credibility and legitimacy — and therefore its influence on policy development and implementation (see D. W. Cash et al. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 100, 8086–8091; 2003).
We suggest that the world's many transboundary issues — such as climate change, poverty, human migration, public health and biodiversity decline — call for a more comprehensive, global approach. This should span the north–south divide by addressing the underlying issues and their consequences (see, for example, M. Blicharska et al. Nature Clim. Change; in the press).