Mapping the COVID-19 clinical landscape: How the pandemic has intensified the monitoring of medical research funding
A new online grant finder platform was introduced by Europe PubMed Central (EPMC) to provide a global list of COVID-19 projects. This new tool draws data from the UK Collaborative for Development Research (UKCDR) and Global Research Collaboration For Infectious Disease Preparedness (GloPID-R) COVID-19 Research Project Tracker, the most extensive open international dataset of pandemic-related research projects.
MRC Director of Strategic Assessment and Influence, Dr. Ian Viney MBE, stresses how research project monitoring has intensified and become more systemic in the pandemic to help reflect the rapid speed of scientific innovation and clinical research.
The launch of a new way to search for research projects may not be big news in a world dominated by coronavirus stories. Nevertheless, funding agencies have often tried to concentrate scarce resources on the most urgent issues, address critical gaps in information and prevent duplication of effort.
We need tools such as EPMC in a funding environment of hundreds of organizations; an accessible science database that gathers research awards and publications from reputable sources around the world, accessed by more than 12 million users and increasingly drawn on by other publicly available and proprietary platforms used to further evaluate research funding.
It takes time to assemble research portfolios, with results usually running a year or more behind awards[i]. Although UKRI is setting a great example in making its research portfolio publicly available via the UKRI Gateway to Research, this tool is only updated monthly and many other funders do not have portfolios in a machine-readable format.
As the pandemic began, however, it became clear that governments around the world should step up efforts to support COVID-19 research and innovation to promote therapies, prevention measures, and consider the social and economic impacts.
We learned nothing about the virus at the time, about its propagation, diagnosis and pathology. In short, it was expected that the pandemic research environment would change rapidly, and several new awards were made quickly, with early awards based on producing results within six to twelve months.
With funding agencies working non-stop to help pandemic-related research, a global analysis of funding was anticipated to become important. The UKCDR and GloPID-R’s COVID-19 Research Project Tracker took the lead early in March 2020, categorizing all projects usefully against the WHO roadmap for COVID-19 study.
The MRC has ensured that information of UKRI initiatives are sent to this dataset as soon as possible, and has written to hundreds of funding agencies around the world to promote similar participation. We have suggested that this dataset be connected to the latest COVID-specific grant finder and are thankful to the EPMC team based at the European Bioinformatics Institute for developing this resource and UKCDR and GloPID-R colleagues for help with their dataset.
This project brings a frequently updated COVID-relevant job funding database to a global audience. The UKCDR and GloPID-R dataset now has information of more than 1800 initiatives, raising more than $700 million from 25 + funding agencies, and is rising.
While we knew nothing about COVID-19 in March, it is now becoming increasingly important for funders to reflect on the gaps and opportunities in this busy research environment. Tracking the work underway globally will allow resources to be deployed to the best effect and we now have the tools in place to keep us updated.
Over more than 15 years the MRC has led the UK Health Research Review study series, with the new report gathering data from 146 UK funding organisations spending almost £ 4 billion on research in 2018. But the report was released in January 2020 and took a year to complete.
Mapping the COVID-19 clinical landscape: How the pandemic has intensified the monitoring of medical research funding.