Key discussions and outputs from the SCOR Board Meeting in November 2021
1. Updates on projects addressing SCOR Board priorities
The SCOR Board received an update on UKCDR projects of strategic priority to its members.
a) Mapping ODA research and innovation (MODARI)
UKCDR reported that the MODARI project had improved the availability and consistency of data on ODA funded research & innovation (R&I), building on a wide range of stakeholder needs identified last year. Outputs so far include a public interactive map and semi-automated country project lists, which are receiving positive feedback from Heads of Mission and country-based development staff.
UKCDR are now encouraging discussion on the strategic use of the data in planning/policy.
SCOR members would like to see this work continue, however, this will require further discussion on staff resourcing. It was noted that benefits could only be realised if the data collection process was embedded within departments and that FCDO, BEIS, UKRI and DHSC had implementation plans in place. It was felt that data collection functions might be better achieved if the project were seen to have a home within UKCDR.
b) COVID CIRCLE (COVID-19 Research Coordination and Learning) project
The board heard an update from the GloPID-R Researcher & Head of COVID CIRCLE, who reported that Phase 1 of COVID CIRCLE has now been completed, with the final deliverable as the COVID CIRCLE Learning report: ‘Funding and undertaking research during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic: COVID CIRCLE lessons for funders’. Additional funding had been received from Wellcome, DHSC and UKRI to undertake the second phase of the work, for one year until late 2022.
Looking to the future, UKCDR is collaborating with GloPID-R to seek funds to develop a funding tracking tool for epidemic and pandemic preparedness. Significant interest had been expressed from funders, and it was expected that a formal proposal would be submitted to COVID CIRCLE’s funders by Spring 2022. This would include continuing support of the COVID CIRCLE work (for example, tracking publications and impact) and ongoing use of UKCDR expertise.
c) UKCDR Communications Strategy
UKCDR’s communication manager reported that work was conducted with an external consultant to review and update the communications strategy. This followed the request from the SCOR board at the July 2021 meeting.
Specific priorities included more regular review and prioritisation of stakeholder relationships; more proactive horizon scanning; greater diversity of outputs to recognise key audience needs; working in partnerships with stakeholders who can amplify our message; and stronger follow through to identify and measure impact.
It was noted that expansion may have staffing implications. In the medium term, funding has been secured to support a communication assistant for the coming year. Members requested, and had suggestions for greater reach to academic, LMIC and NGO audiences.
2. UKCDR governance and funding
UKCDR reported that the final report of the independent review of UKCDR activities (2018-2021), being conducted by the team at Leeds Beckett University, had yet to be published. From information provided by the consultants, the text was likely to conclude that:
- A great deal was achieved within (limited) resources, despite delivery constraints (absence of face-to-face convening during the pandemic, remote working, data access, etc)
- Activities were seen as of strategic value and valued by those engaged
- Particular strengths included cross-cutting data gathering, critical review and synthesis
- UKCDR convening structures and actions were widely valued.
Concerns were likely to be focused on three areas:
- Visibility and external relationships
- Defining and delivering impact
- Branding and identify of UKCDR and SCOR to maximise SCOR’s potential as a distinct entity.
UKCDR were progressing the renewal of the core funding agreement, which currently expired in March. A new three-year agreement had by agreed upon by member departments in principle. The new agreement is expected to be formally signed early in the new year.
The Chair updated the Board on the appointment of the Executive Director. The preferred candidate, Dr Maggy Heintz, has now formally accepted the offer and is expected to join UKCDR in mid-January.
3. Future strategic priorities for SCOR and UKCDR
SCOR board members discussed the impact of the ODA settlement on SCOR and UKCDR’s future priorities. Members such as UKRI/BEIS would need to prioritise meeting existing commitments, and being aware of the damage done through sudden reductions last year. The impact of the spending review had not yet been translated down to individual budgets in some cases.
Several departments confirmed commitments in the areas of global health and climate change and the relationship between the two. As well as FCDO highlighting additional priorities in energy, agriculture, COVID and pandemic preparedness, and research on violence against women and girls. Furthermore, Wellcome highlighted its new strategy focused on climate and health, infectious diseases and mental health.
The meeting confirmed a particular desire to look at the impact of members research and how this could be better demonstrated. Members also suggested areas that would be useful to explore in the future:
- Mapping UK priorities against those of international funders
- Economic development
- Capacity building
It was agreed these themes will be reflected in the agenda for the Strategy day, in March 2022. Meanwhile, UKCDR will explore the idea of a mapping exercise to identify how UK priorities fit with those of international donors.
|Attendees||Marie Staunton (Chair), Independent; Prof. Lucy Chappell, Chief Scientific Adviser, DHSC; Dr Val Snewin, Head of Global Health Research Partnerships, (DHSC Alternate); Dr Julia Kemp, Deputy Director, Research and Evidence Division, (FCDO alternate); Prof. Jeremy Farrar, Director, Wellcome Trust; Prof. Melissa Leach, Director, Institute of Development Studies (Independent Member); Prof. Fiona Watt; Chief Executive, Executive Chair, MRC (UKRI representative); Harriet Wallace, Director, International Science and Innovation, BEIS; Peter Cozens, Head of Policy and Governance (BEIS alternate); Prof. Ernest Aryeetey, Secretary General, African Research Universities Alliance (Independent member); Mavis Owusu-Gyamfi, Executive Vice President, ACET (Independent member)|
Dr John Kirkland, Interim Executive Director (UKCDR); Henrike Grund, Head of Operations (UKCDR); Mimoza Murati, Executive Assistant (Minutes) (UKCDR)
|Observers||Prof. Gideon Henderson, Chief Scientific Adviser, DEFRA; Dr Maggy Heintz (Incoming UKCDR Executive Director)|
|Presentations||Emma Clegg, Senior M.I. Data Analyst (UKCDR); Dr Alice Norton, GloPID-R Researcher & Head of COVID CIRCLE; Nicole Huxley, Communications Manager (UKCDR)|
|Apologies||Prof. Charlotte Watts, Chief Scientific Adviser, FCDO; Prof. Christopher Smith, Executive Chair, AHRC (UKRI representative); Prof. Chris Whitty, Chief Medical Officer, DHSC|