Anthropology’s Laurie Godfrey Co-edits All-Indigenous Researcher Edition of ‘Malagasy Nature’

Laurie Godfrey, professor emerita of anthropology, has co-edited an all-Indigenous researcher edition of “Malagasy Nature,” the first time the Madagascar-based journal has focused solely on work led by indigenous researchers.

Cover of the issue of Malagasy Nature co-edited by Laurie Godfrey

“Malagasy Nature” is a journal published by the Association Vahatra concerning aspects of the natural history of Madagascar and the neighboring islands of Comores, Mascarenes and Seychelles. The journal publishes original scientific contributions in English and French concerning animals, plants, ecology, conservation, biogeography, systematics and paleontology. Joining Godfrey as co-editors of the special issue, “The way of the future: New paleosciences research led by Malagasy scientists,” were Kristina Douglass, assistant professor of anthropology and African studies at Penn State, and David Burney, of the National Tropical Botanical Garden in Kalaheo, Hawai’i.

“This special issue of ‘Malagasy Nature’ intentionally and exclusively features work led by Malagasy scientists and especially by Malagasy Early Career Researchers (ECRs) in the paleosciences,” Godfrey and her co-editors write in the issue’s introduction. “What began as an effort to offer mentorship to Malagasy ECRs through the publication of this special issue, quickly turned into an exercise in critical reflection on the persisting inequities in scientific training, resources, and publication in the field of Malagasy paleosciences. The choice of publishing this collection in ‘Malagasy Nature,’ an international scientific journal published in Madagascar, follows one of the mandates of the journal to advance science on Madagascar for national researchers. For some contributors, this special issue represents a first opportunity to author or lead a peer reviewed scientific paper. For many, existing barriers to accessing research funding, laboratories, and other support were exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Increasing diversity and representation in science, technology, engineering and mathematics is a moral imperative, and the contributions to this special issue all highlight the tremendous gains the entire scientific community benefits from when diverse questions, theories, methods and interpretations are generated. To our knowledge this special issue is unique in its centering of Malagasy ECRs as lead or sole authors in paleosciences research.”

laurie godfrey
Laurie Godfrey

“Young scholars in a country like Madagascar face challenges that young scholars in wealthy countries do not,” Godfrey says. “The first and most important challenge is a colonial bias that tends to dismiss the importance of research done by indigenous scholars and the knowledge of local people unaffiliated with universities. This in turn affects the way articles and grant proposals are reviewed by scientific peers. The second challenge they face is the uneven distribution of wealth in science, so that scholars in places like Madagascar cannot get access to funds or resources like library books and laboratory equipment that would empower them to organize their own research. They may learn the tools and norms of science primarily at foreign institutions – if they can get there.”

“In a historic sense, but unfortunately this continues today, the participation of Malagasy researchers in scientific research and associated publications has been limited or under the shadows of foreign collaborators,” says Steve Goodman, editor-in-chief of “Malagasy Nature.” “By showcasing work under the direction of Malagasy students and scientists, as in the special issue or in general in the different volumes of ‘Malagasy Nature,’ national researchers are able to take their rightful places in the national and international scientific communities.”

“Full acknowledgement of the contributions Malagasy communities and scientists have made to our knowledge of the island’s past is long overdue,” Godfrey and her co-editors write in their introduction. “European and North American scholars have been credited—via their publications—with the bulk of the scientific knowledge production about Madagascar’s past environments, despite the essential work of Malagasy researchers in planning and carrying out fieldwork, engaging place-based intergenerational ecological knowledge, curating specimen collections, analyzing samples, interpreting and disseminating results, and more. The under-appreciation of Malagasy contributions to science and amplification of the contributions of European and North American researchers has ultimately narrowed research agendas toward questions and concerns that do not capture the diversity of thought about Madagascar’s past and perpetuate colonial legacies in science.”

The complete 15th volume of “Malagasy Nature” co-edited by Godfrey is available to read for free online at