SCOR Board Meeting Discussion Highlights: March 2022

Meeting Minutes

SCOR Board Meeting Discussion Highlights: March 2022

Key discussions and outputs from the SCOR Board Strategy Meeting in March 2022

The SCOR Board met for a one-day strategy meeting with senior representatives of other HMG departments and invited guests. In this meeting the Board , reflected on the role, value and strategy of the SCOR Board itself, identified lessons learned from complex interdisciplinary challenges affecting low- and middle-income countries, such as climate change and COVID-19, and , and approved a new three-year strategy for UKCDR. This was Prof. Chris Whitty’s last SCOR Board meeting.

1. A strong collective voice for development research

The Board reflected on its own role and value in light of the substantial reduction in ODA spending since Spring 2021. Members discussed the increasing financial pressures on development research, and the disproportionate impact of spending cuts on areas that require long-term investments such as research capacity strengthening.

The Board discussed how it can make the best use of its collective voice over the coming 18 months to strengthen the case for investment in development research. The Board intends to engage in communications into government, highlighting the impact scientific research has had on development over the last decade and making the case for international development research to Parliament and All-Party Parliamentary Groups. It will also engage in reaching out to the scientific community to advocate a coordinated approach to research.

Key messages will include:

  • The role of good research as the most powerful way of maintaining long term development and the UK’s important role in international development agencies and organisations
  • The importance of ensuring UK-funded development research will be able to respond quickly to a changing funding landscape
  • The value of a coordinated approach across and outside of HMG to avoid a return to siloes
  • The need for a stronger connection between science and policy
  • The case for investing in developing research infrastructure and capacity across Asia and Africa, through partnerships, while retaining excellent scientists within these regions
  • The importance of highlighting the considerable impact of development activities and the potential of science while being respectful of decolonisation and shifting power dynamics

2. The future of international development research in the UK

FCDO provided an overview of the evolving UK funding landscape over the current three-year spending review period and the new International Development Strategy. HMG priorities are to be more strategic with its investments and to build new partnerships with a significant role for science and technology. The International Development Strategy will also highlight the role of scientific evidence and expertise.

Thematic priorities will be:

  • climate change, adaptation and resilience and clean growth
  • global health security, health systems, and Anti-microbial Resistance (AMR)
  • gender empowerment (economic, social, and political), girl’s education, tackling violence against women
  • research and evidence
  • use of technology, accelerating inclusive digital transitions
  • supporting sustainable economic development, markets and trade, clean growth
  • recognition of evidence gaps in humanitarian response and conflict

FCDO, BEIS and DHSC will remain the main recipients of ODA funding. DEFRA will receive a smaller amount but will have an important role for research on biodiversity and climate. Transformation of food systems, adaptation to the impacts of climate change and health remain key priorities for cross-departmental working.

The Integrated Review provides a commitment to growing partnerships in the Indo-Pacific alongside a long-term focus on Africa.

The SCOR Board will be the main forum for cross-HMG conversations about ODA funded R&D but the Board will work closely with other government structures including the Office for Science and Technology Strategy and cabinet committees. It will highlight synergies between ODA and non-ODA research and development.

The Board heard that the situation in Ukraine is expected to take up capacity within FCDO and other departments for some time. The Board emphasised the need to make the broader political case not just for international development research, but international development in light of these domestic pressures.

UKCDR presented a mapping of 13 international funders’ development research priorities against the thematic areas of HMG’s Integrated Review, providing additional context for UK funded development research.

The Board also heard updates on Wellcome’s new strategy which will focus on making a significant impact in three key areas (climate and health, infectious diseases and mental health, especially in young people) and involve a move away from short-term grant funding. Wellcome will also address cross-cutting issues across these topics.

In a subsequent discussion, the Board identified several important areas to be addressed by funders individually and collectively in the context of the International Development Strategy: The impact of short funding cycles, the importance of maintaining a diverse funding landscape, and the important role of calculated risk-taking in science funding. Funders also will work collaboratively with Wellcome when strategic opportunities arise.

3. Views from Africa and India

NRF South Africa presented to the Board on the strategic focus of development funding and the continuum between development, science and research. NRF South Africa reinforced the need for alignment of funders, increasing focus on the socio-economic impact of research for LMICs, a common understanding of safeguarding and open science and data access. In a subsequent discussion, Board members explored developments in the current African funding landscape and how UK funders may intersect with existing and emerging bodies.

The Board also heard a presentation from the India Alliance, which focuses on fellowships and discovery research across research careers. Its future funding is looking at new partnerships and programmes, next stage digital health platforms and analytics in rural and urban areas.

4. Defining SCOR Board thematic priorities and achieving coherence

Based on discussions during the strategy day the SCOR Board agreed on key strategic areas which it aims to have an impact over the coming three years:

  • Climate: BEIS presented on HMG’s climate change policy priorities to feed into the SCOR Board’s strategy. The climate change agenda is owned by BEIS but the priorities apply across HMG. The following research priorities have emerged: Adaptation, clean transport, energy transition and nature. The Board emphasised the importance of working collaboratively to identify synergies between their departments’ policy areas.

  • Health: DHSC presented on health priorities. Three key issues were highlighted including a need to move away from project funding to infrastructure capacity and capability investments to keep systems ready for future pandemics. Secondly, coordination between funders on topics (breadth v depth). Thirdly, working in underserved regions with the most health needs.

  • Economic Development: One of the SCOR Board’s independent members presented on economic development in Africa, highlighting the importance of considering the economic dimension of development research. The Board agreed on the need to explore what impact UK investments into research relating to economic development are having on economies and institutions, and how much of this research is informing policy. The Board will commission a background paper on UK investment in economic development research, to help define the potential role of UKCDR and SCOR in this area, prepare for a potential future increase in ODA funding and explore the economic side of existing areas of focus in climate and health.

  • Funding and managing effective development research: The SCOR Board heard a presentation on several enablers of effective development research: Impact evaluation, transparent funding data and investment in capacity strengthening and equitable partnerships practices. The Board was committed to considering these enablers as part of their activities over the coming three years. The Board also supported the continuing investment in more transparent data mapping and analysis capabilities through the MODARI database.

5. A new three-year strategy for UKCDR

The Board heard from the newly appointed UKCDR Executive Director who presented a draft of UKCDR’s new three-year strategy. Over the coming three years UKCDR will continue to use mapping, convening and information sharing activities to execute on the SCOR Board’s key priorities and those activities will support and feed into the development of a strong collective voice for UK funded international development research. UKCDR will also strengthen its activities in relation to the ‘enablers’ of effective research over the coming three years.

AttendedMarie Staunton (Chair); Jeremey Farrar, Director, Wellcome Trust; Prof Charlotte Watts, Chief Scientific Advisor, FCDO; Prof Lucy Chappell, Chief Scientific Adviser, DHSC; Harriet Wallace, Director International Science and Innovation, BEIS; Prof Christopher Smith, Executive Chair, AHRC (UKRI representative); Prof Melissa Leach, Director, Institute of Development Studies (Independent member); Prof Ernest Aryeetey, Secretary General, African Research Universities Alliance (Independent member); Mavis Owusu-Gyamfi, Executive Vice President, ACET, (Independent member).
Invited SpeakersProf Chris Whitty, Chief Medical Officer, DHSC; Marina Skrinar, Director for Climate and Energy Trade and Europe, BEIS; Dr Aldo Stroebel, Executive Director of Strategy Planning and Partnerships, National Research Foundation (NRF), South Africa;  Dr Jyotsna Dhawan, CEO, DBT/Wellcome Trust India Alliance
Officials (Attending Session 1 – 4)Andrew Shaw, Evaluation Adviser, Research & Evidence Directorate, FCDO; Tristan Eagling, Science, Technology & Innovation advisor, FCDO; Benjamin Sharman, Head of International Strategy and Policy, UKRI; Martin Smith, Head of Policy Lab, Wellcome; Nick Green, Head of Research and Innovation ODA Funds, BEIS; Peter Cozens, Head of Policy and Governance, Research and Innovation for Development, BEIS; Val Snewin, Head of Global Health Research Partnerships, DHSC
UKCDRDr Maggy Heintz, Executive Director; Dr Alice Chadwick El-Ali, Senior Research & Policy Officer (Minutes); Mimoza Murati, Executive Assistant (Technical Support)

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