Navigating research challenges through collaboration and Equity

Trends point to growing interest by major funding organizations in international collaborative research. Understanding the funding landscape can make bid success more likely.  

Scientific research is increasingly collaborative. The once siloed approach to research activity has given way to a more interconnected global model, which has enabled a global research network to evolve. For many research economies and groups, international collaboration now accounts for  more academic publications, than purely domestic output. Institutions that do not form international collaborations risk disenfranchisement.

Deciphering the trends in research funding

Staying up to date is made easier by following reports and events that examine the ebb and flow of research funding and provide insights into the priorities and strategies of major funding organizations. An example is the Funding Trends Report published annually by Research Professional News. This year the report was matched with a virtual panel discussion that explored the nuances of working with organizations such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the U.S. National Science Foundation, and the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council, some of the world’s largest research funding agencies. During the panel discussion, guest speakers Adam Golberg, research development manager at the University of Nottingham, and Lorna Wilson, director of research development and operations at Durham University provided broader tips for international research collaboration. (see box)

A key take-away: the massive budgets of these funders belie a challenging reality. Despite a steady increase in overall funding budgets, the actual size of individual grants and success rates have remained relatively stagnant, indicating a complex and fiercely competitive funding landscape.

Mastering the art of securing funding

Securing research funding from major organizations requires a deep understanding of the unique goals and requirements of each one. The Gates Foundation, for instance, is known for its directive funding approach. Researchers accustomed to a high degree of autonomy may find themselves receiving more specific guidance regarding the direction of their projects, according to the discussion in the event. This hands-on approach may determine whether the Gates Foundation is the right fit for a particular project.

Conversely, the Wellcome Trust is currently working toward diversifying its recipients. Researchers with ideas centered around health and wellbeing may find the Wellcome Trust an attractive option. The organization’s recent outreach efforts across the U.K. and its webinars aimed at researchers and institutions in Latin America, Africa and Asia signal a clear intent to broaden their funding recipients.

Facing the challenges in securing funding

Rising competition and the need for a robust delivery plan pose significant hurdles for researchers. Partnerships assembled hastily often falter when it comes to securing large grants, particularly in the face of competition from teams with a long-term history of collaboration. Funders and assessors are increasingly interested in the track record of a team and its ability to deliver the project, further raising the bar for successful bids.

Pursuing equitable partnerships

In the context of research partnerships between the Global North and Global South, the quest for equity is a pressing concern. Power imbalances, resource hoarding and a lack of inclusivity in research are detrimental traits that often hinder the success of international partnerships.

Attendees at the event learned that to foster more equitable collaborations, it’s crucial to hold discussions with partners early and to maintain a focus on the research itself rather than the allure of funding. Ensuring fair recognition of contributions and providing opportunities for leadership roles can go a long way in establishing authentic relationships and promoting inclusivity.

Charting the course for future scientific endeavors

The challenges for scientific research endeavor in the 21st century are significant, from the fierce competition for funding to the need for robust delivery plans and long-standing collaborations. Yet, these challenges are not insurmountable. With strategic acumen, a deep understanding of funding organizations and a commitment to fostering equitable partnerships, researchers can unlock new avenues for funding and collaboration.

Moreover, the pursuit of equity in research partnerships, particularly between the Global North and Global South, is not just a moral imperative but a strategic one. Equitable partnerships can lead to more innovative and impactful research, benefiting not just the partners involved but the global scientific community.

As we grapple with the complex challenges facing humanity, from climate change to global health crises, the role of international research collaborations will be pivotal. These collaborations will drive the scientific advancements needed to confront these challenges and propel societal development.

The journey through the global research funding landscape may be complex, but the potential rewards – groundbreaking discoveries, scientific growth and societal progress – are immense and worthy of our collective effort.

Clarivate can help you implement confident, evidence-informed strategies to drive research excellence. Get in touch  with our experts to learn more.