1. Update on projects addressing SCOR Board priorities
The SCOR Board received an update on UKCDR projects and operations and were presented with the workplan and budget for FY 2021.
SCOR Board members received the Climate Change report produced by UKCDR analysing the UK research funding landscape in the lead up to the COP26 meeting. The report has identified opportunities, gaps and emerging issues for collaborative action, and makes recommendations to inform coherence. The report findings and recommendations are based on a combination of desk-based research, portfolio-level analysis, stakeholder interviews, impact case studies, a survey of 300 research funders, practitioners and users (half of which were based in LMICs); and a workshop based on the early project findings and reflecting on the impact of COVID-19 on the research landscape. UKCDR also delivered a successful webinar (with accompanying booklet), showcasing the examples of the outstanding impacts achieved by UK-funded research in the context of the COP26 priorities.
SCOR board members commended the team on the quality of the report. They were very supportive of the recommendations, noting the excellent choice of case studies which were felt to be forward looking. The Board approved the report in principle, delegating sign off to the Officials. The SCOR Board commented on the importance of capturing lessons learn from COVID-19 to inform how to tackle the climate change crisis. The SCOR agreed to use the report to inform discussion on development of COP26 tracks.
Following UKCDR’s presentation of the MODARI Roadmap report and options at the November 2020 Board meeting, SCOR members committed to implementing key recommendations and providing necessary staff time and resources to support implementation planning. UKCDR are working with SCOR funders (Jan-Mar 21) to translate these high-level proposals into detailed implementation steps and resource assessments for each organisation and will continue to support at the workstream and programme level and through the project steering group. The three workstreams are: Funding calls (to advertise all ODA R&I funding calls on a single site where potential applicants can be signposted and search for relevant opportunities), Awards (all funders collect common information on their ODA funded awards and make this accessible for cross-funder collation ) and Results (all funders collect outputs, outcomes and impact evidence in a way that can be easily analysed internally and shared externally).
SCOR members were very grateful for this work and continue to be very supportive, but some members noted the challenges government departments are facing with the current uncertainty, which will make it challenging for them to meet the commitments.
The COVID-19 Research Project Tracker now contains over 8,000 projects, and there is still significant new funding activity worldwide. The Living Mapping Review (LMR) was updated in December 2020. In tandem with the LMR the team published 3 in-depth analyses (tracker highlights) on Long Covid, secondary health impacts of Covid and research capacity strengthening. The Researcher Coordination platform has been launched during beginning of February.
The SCOR Board agreed that this has been a remarkable achievement and that there is real value in continuing to support this work, and transforming it into a more effective and efficient tool to be deployed for the ongoing but future pandemics. The SCOR Board noted that this project is an early demonstration of what could be achieved with MODARI. The SCOR Board noted the challenges due to the economic uncertainties over ODA R&D budgets in the UK and encouraged UKCDR to consider also seeking international sources of funding.
2. Strategic discussion
SCOR Board members discussed the ODA budget allocations and raised few key topics for discussion: budget reduction from 0.7% to 0.5%, potential reduction to R&D funding, how are different government departments going to implement those reductions, what strategic approaches will be taken to prioritise.
The SCOR members recognised the challenges posed by the economic uncertainties.
The Board suggested:
- SCOR provides factual messaging on the importance and value of R&D (considering opportunity cost)
- More examples of past impact and potential current impact from research, with the focus on evidence and data
- Highlighting areas where departments work well together – and how complementary skills allow greater impact
- Thinking and sharing evidence on value of R&D and a joint narrative on complementarity for the next spending review
3. SCOR Board updates
This was the last meeting chaired by Prof Peter Piot, as he has come to the end of his term. Two other members of the board have come to the end of their terms as well: Prof Andrew Thompson, AHRC/UKRI and Prof Jo Beall, Independent member.
Prof Peter Piot (Chair), Director, LSHTM (Independent); Prof Charlotte Watts, Chief Scientific Adviser, FCDO; Prof Jeremy Farrar, Director, Wellcome Trust; Prof Chris Whitty, Chief Scientific Adviser, DHSC; Prof Melissa Leach, Director, Institute of Development Studies (Independent); Prof Fiona Watt, Executive Chair, MRC (UKRI representative), Harriet Wallace, Director International Science and Innovation, BEIS, Prof Andrew Thompson, Executive Chair, AHRC (UKRI representative); Prof Jo Beall, Director Cultural engagement, British Council, Marie Staunton, CBE, Observer, Marta Tufet, Executive Director, UKCDR; Mimoza Murati, Executive Assistant, UKCDR (Minutes)
Laura Scott, Emma Clegg (all UKCDR)