There has been a growing volume of research regarding occupational hazards in developing countries during the past decade. Results of this work are increasingly appearing in established journals and forming part of the international database on the health effects of working conditions. However, despite many similarities to research conducted in economically advanced countries, research performed in developing countries are often quite different in their motivations, methodologies, and outcomes. To investigate these differences, the recent occupational health research experience in Ecuador was examined. Based on 15 reports that could be identified since 1980 as having sufficient information to analyze, the authors identified certain persistent themes: the preponderance of cross-sectional study designs; the limited availability of quantitative exposure measures, and the utilization of nonstandard clinical measures of outcome. Each of these limitations could be related to obvious conditions under which investigators were working, and each underscores the potential value of strategic alliances between local investigators and collaborators from developed countries. The review also documented the high importance in Ecuador to studies of "established" relationships between well-known toxicants and health. While such studies could be viewed as unoriginal or uninteresting by outsiders, they may form the basis of the domestic or regional research agenda, which cannot be overlooked or misunderstood if international collaborations are not to be exploitative.