Key discussions and outputs from the SCOR Board Meeting in March 2023
1. Update on Machinery of Government changes: creation of the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology
The Board heard an update on Machinery of Government changes: the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) had been split across three departments: Department for Energy Security and Net Zero; Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT), Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.
The Board heard an update on ODA funding, noting ODA R&D had done relatively well given budgetary pressures as Ministers recognised its importance. It was agreed that SCOR had an important role to play to demonstrate how funding was used, achieved impact, and supported equitable partnerships. There was consensus that development and spending ODA were not the same. Impact was achieved through partnerships, use of evidence, the development of global public goods, and sound political decision making. The global landscape was becoming more complex. There were opportunities for development research within the non-ODA science budget and a need to consider how ODA and non-ODA would work together.
The Board noted there had been discussions about combining ODA and non-ODA spend, including the announcement of International Science Partnerships Fund (ISPF), but it was important to consider other mechanisms ahead of the next Spending Review (SR). The opportunity was biggest when thinking about global issues e.g., clean energy, health security. Members noted the opportunities of blended funds, and potential for civil society organisations to play a bigger role in analysing and demonstrating UK R&D investment and development outcomes. This was particularly important given CSA concerns following the reduction in UK ODA budgets and the perceived prioritisation of global public goods. The Board could shape an agenda that identified development challenges as global, that all countries including the UK could benefit from addressing.
The Board was asked to consider what type of submission would be needed in advance of the next SR and requested the UKCDR Secretariat take forward discussions with Officials.
Impact – Evidence of research impact and value for money
The Board heard an update on UKCDR’s analysis of the impact of development research through the REF2021 impact case studies and discussed the examples presented. It welcomed the findings and discussed working with Research England to build in findings of the UKCDR analysis in the next Research Excellence Framework (REF2028).
The Board discussed the decision-making process for ODA/non-ODA funding, and noted the importance of national level expertise in taking forward mixed funding. UKCDR was asked to consider issues such as whether the research was designed to be comparative, the sequence of funding, and who was leading impact.
The Board discussed the importance of considering the role for funders in driving what is funded; the types of funds that support different types of impact; caveats around the role of the REF data; how secondary benefit analysis could be used for advocacy; and the need for concrete metrics.
2. Equitable partnerships – Mechanisms for implementation
The Board noted that traditionally global funders had considered themselves the source of solutions to problems, rather than focusing on capacity building. Members discussed that big foundations’ approach to science in the Global South was often ‘parachute science’. Instead, funders needed to build capacity in the Global South – favouring a hybrid model where global funders address pressing questions and build capacity.
The Board discussed examples of equitable partnerships in their work, including requirements for LMIC involvement and baselining co-creation; strengthening research expertise and knowledge exchange between UK and LMICs; directing funding to LMICs without UK partners, and pre-bidding awards to strengthen capacity as well as coaching on bidding (proposal writing, research management, ethics).
UKCDR introduced its work on funder-level equity and proposed a closed-door funder meeting to develop a Theory of Change to embed equitable partnerships with a visual output as strategy tool. The Board discussed and endorsed the proposal of a meeting, noting it would provide a benchmark for funders, and be a useful conversation about how to bring an equitable partnerships lens to big, multi-country programmes. Members noted that not all funders would be able to formally endorse outcomes of such an activity.
3. Large funds – how to effectively design large funds to ensure value for money and transparency
UKCDR introduced its lessons learned analysis on large funds, noting that the analysis synthesised insights from publicly available evaluations to ensure knowledge was retained and to guide discussions on the design of future large funds. A closed-door meeting to discuss the findings was proposed.
The Board welcomed the findings and acknowledged that the sector lacked trust in funders due to ODA cuts. Trust needed to be rebuilt, including through engagement and transparent communication that work such as this was being taken forward by funders.
The Board agreed implementation of recommendations should be aligned with the International Development Strategy. There could also be more focus on co-creation. The Board endorsed the proposal of a workshop but stated this be light-touch and provide an opportunity to understand what could practically be taken forward given broader ODA funding constraints.
4. Climate change – progress on UKCDR’s work
The Board heard an update on UKCDR’s work on climate change, noting a paper on RoI on climate research in low-resource settings would be published in early summer. Officials agreed on the development of a climate change research tracker proof-of-concept discussed at the November 2022 SCOR Board.
The Board discussed the climate tracker, noting that this was based on the concept of the COVID CIRCLE tracker. The ambition was to develop proof-of-concept by COP28 and build a coalition to take forward work. The Board welcomed the work, suggesting that to begin with a more focused proof-of-concept may prove useful (e.g. two low-resource settings) and asking that coherence was ensured with Wellcome’s work in this area and that climate and health could be an initial focus.
Marie Staunton CBE (Chair), Chair of the Board, Independent ; Prof. Charlotte Watts, Chief Scientific Adviser, FCDO; Prof. Lucy Chappell, Chief Scientific Adviser, DHSC; Dr Gail Marzetti, Director of Science, Research and Evidence, NIHR; Adam Jackson, Director International Science and Innovation, DSIT; Frances Wood, International Director, UKRI; 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.
- Prof. John Iredale, Interim Executive Chair, MRC
- Vacant, Wellcome Trust
- Dr Maggy Heintz, Executive Director
- Kevin Broady, Head of Operations
- Dr Alice Chadwick-El-Ali, Senior Research and Policy Officer