Key discussions and outputs from the SCOR Board Meeting in June 2023
I. Introduction and welcome
The Chair opened the meeting, the Board approved the minutes of the Strategy Day and noted the matters arising, including preparations for the spending review (SR), the publication date of UKCDR’s analysis of the REF impact case studies of relevance to international development research, and follow-up with Research England and roadmap of work on equitable partnerships.
The Board noted ongoing discussions ahead of the SR and noted the value of the REF study as an example of impact which Ministers and civil servants would find useful.
2. Executive Director’s report: Climate Change Return on Investment (RoI) and Tracker proof of concept; MODARI; International Research Development Funders Forum (IRDFF)
The Board heard an update, as detailed in the Executive Director’s Report. It discussed the proof-of-concept for climate change research tracker, noting there had been difficulties finding language used consistently across all funders, and the importance of linking up with other initiatives. The Board, noting the inclusion of government and non-governmental funding, discussed approaches to avoid scope creep and overstretch given the breadth of the issue. Members suggested enabling proactive data provision, and noted there were emerging gaps to consider, such as loss and damage and nature. It agreed the proposed focus on keywords would be useful for a proof of concept and welcomed the news that the output was planned to be ready by COP28 (December 2023).
The Board heard an update on Mapping ODA-funded Research and Innovation (MODARI), the REF study, and a paper looking at the return on investment (RoI) in climate change and international development research, noting the respective milestones. Members noted UKCDR’s proposed UNGA Science Summit event on the changing landscape of international development research: they discussed their respective participation in UNGA Science Summit, noting the need for a coherent approach across funders.
The Board welcomed the latest meeting of the International Research Development Funders Forum (IRDFF) and discussed how funders might shape the conversation.
2. Spending review and evidence base to inform our collective voice
The Chair opened the discussion, referring to the September 2021 paper submitted to the Second Permanent Secretary of the Treasury on ‘Key issues for prioritising ODA research expenditure’, and developments since. In contrast to other funders, the UK’s ODA commitments had reduced, however there were opportunities to leverage funding from other sources flowing through UK institutions to achieve best effect and impact.
The Board discussed the framing of the Spending Review (SR) submission, noting that much of the previous paper by UKCDR still held true. The case could be refreshed and strengthened with products published since the last SR, as well as the upcoming White Paper on ODA strategy. Members noted the need for strengthening metrics, MB stated DHSC had commissioned a department economist to pull together numerical information on the RoI of domestic research.
The Board discussed the onboarding of the next HMG Chief Scientific Advisor (Angela McLean) noting that Sir Patrick Vallance left the CSA network in a strong position.
The Board discussed the need for alignment on delivery of the International Development Strategy; there would be a government white paper on this. Members should make the case that good science makes good impact, if done via good partnerships based on mutual learning.
The Board discussed blended funds. For ISPF and the complexities of operationalising them. It was noted that initiatives such as MODARI help make case for the impact of Official Development Assistance research and innovation (ODA R&I). However, there is a need to make the case for R&D component of ODA spend. There was scope for better coordination with other key funders so that efforts are not duplicated in priority countries.
Members noted suggestions around mapping strengths across Whitehall using data, Theory of Change, or lessons learned, and showing a pipeline of work. Members were on the whole agnostic regarding the usefulness of a Theory of Change, but asked Officials to discuss options around RoI and defining impact as new elements of the submission.
The Board welcomed the UKCDR findings from the backwards look at REF data and forward-looking policy-pointers from the ODA report. The Board was asked to consider other elements in the SR submission (e.g. an economist looking at RoI; analysing research for development; consolidated lessons learnt).
The Board considered the question of RoI and varying definitions of impact – not all of them were quantifiable and there was ‘no one size fits all’ approach. It agreed on the importance of strengthening the quantification of impact where possible (financial, but also other data points) given that HMT would focus on this, including the cost/impact of not investing and subsequent exposure HMG would face. The Board also discussed the merits of a cross-HMG theory of change for ODA R&I, asking for further consideration to be given by Officials.
It was agreed that a further fleshing out of an SR submission was needed in the form of a table of contents to understand what information is available and what is missing.
3. UKCDR Operational Update
The Chair and Secretariat updated the Board on the Chair succession process, noting this would take up much of the autumn. The UKRI Senior Appointments team would support, alongside the UKCDR Secretariat.
The Board heard a further update on UKCDR’s operating model.
Marie Staunton CBE (Chair), Chair of the Board, Independent ; Prof. Charlotte Watts, Chief Scientific Adviser, FCDO; Mike Batley, Deputy Director of Research Programmes attending on behalf of Prof. Lucy Chappell, Chief Scientific Advisor DHSC; Susie Kitchens, Deputy Director Global Research and Innovation, DSIT attending on behalf of Adam Jackson, Director International Science and Innovation, DSIT; Frances Wood, International Director, UKRI; Prof. John Iredale, Executive Chair, MRC (UKRI representative); Cheryl Moore, Chief Research Programmes Officer, Wellcome Representative; Prof. Ernest Aryeetey, Secretary General, ARUA, independent member; Prof. Melissa Leach, Director, Institute of Development Studies, Independent member.
- Mavis Owusu-Gyamfi, Executive Vice President, ACET, Independent member.
- Dr Maggy Heintz, Executive Director
- Kevin Broady, Head of Operations
- Adrian Bucher, Senior Data Analyst