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LIDC and QMUL GCRF Seminar: A Round Up

February 19, 2019

On 30th January, LIDC and our associate member institution, Queen Mary University of London (QMUL), welcomed over 50 attendees to our GCRF Seminar, which took place in the Robin Brooke Centre at QMUL. The Seminar brought together academic researchers, professional services staff from our member institutions for an afternoon of presentations and a panel discussion relating to the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF). The event shed light on the GCRF’s opportunities for researchers and allowed attendees to network in a relaxed setting. 

LIDC Centre Director, Professor Claire Heffernan, opened the day with a warm welcome to our guests. She then introduced our high-level panel, which explored a range of topics related to securing GCRF funding including:

  • Pathways to impact
  • Creating and sustaining a research network
  • Interdisciplinarity

Pathways to impact

Professor Colin Grant, Vice Principal – International at QMUL, opened the panel discussion. He gave an overview of QMUL’s global engagement, which includes over 150 international partnerships with HEIs, governments, and industry overseas. Furthermore, he noted that the university is in the process of establishing the Queen Mary Global Policy Institute, which will address pressing policy concerns overseas. Through world-class research and education, the Institute will create solutions to policy challenges.

UKRI GCRF Funding Opportunities

Following this, Professor Helen Fletcher, Professor of Immunology at LSHTM and Director of International Development, UKRI & Challenge Leader in Global Health, GCRF, shed light on how to secure GCRF funding opportunities. Her presentation stressed that the best proposals were ‘challenge-led’, and took account of the local context and environment where they were addressing a particular problem. For example, successful applications displayed a detailed understanding of their chosen problem’s social, cultural, historical, biological, ecological and environmental factors.

Professor Fletcher also explained how UK based researchers could create equitable partnerships with collaborators overseas. For example, she noted that collaborators should set a joint agenda, which clearly sets out mutual roles and responsibilities. In this, there must be fair recognition of interests and incentives, mutual trust and transparency, regular communication and investment of time in the partnership.

QMUL School of Medicine and Dentistry and the GCRF

Professor Mauro Perretti, Dean for Research and Research Impact at the School of Medicine and Dentistry, QMUL, then gave an informative presentation. He highlighted the School’s success in securing £8million in GCRF funding between 2018-2019. Professor Perretti noted that eight projects had been funded, which aimed to support researchers in developing collaborations. Researchers will work across countries including Argentina, Brazil, China, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Kenya, and Lebanon. In addition, he highlighted the support available for researchers at QMUL, which included email marketing on open/future GCRF calls, as well as support for costings and post-award finance.

Migration decision and policy making in Afghanistan – A case study

From there, Dr. Liza Schuster, Reader, Sociology, at our associate member institution, City, University of London, and GCRF Grant Holder, presented a case study on her GCRF awarded project, ‘Stopping it at source: Migration decision- and policy-making in Afghanistan’, which aimed to examine the impact of EU strategies to discourage migration and return rejected asylum seekers back to Afghanistan. Dr. Schuster also called on researchers to ‘decolonise their research’. She stressed the imperative of including partners at all stages of the project– from design to publishing/dissemination.

Child Undernutrition in Zimbabwe

Following Dr. Schuster’s presentation, Professor Andrew Prendergast, Professor of Paediatric Infection and Immunology, QMUL and GCRF Grant Holder, spoke about his work to tackle child undernutrition in Zimbabwe, the SHINE trial. This project is a cluster randomized trial to investigate the independent and combined effects of a water, sanitation and hygiene intervention and improved infant and young child feeding intervention on child growth and anemia in rural Zimbabwe. It also aimed to compare the conventional approach of malnutrition to improving environmental factors.

Professor Prendergast also emphasised the importance of establishing strong and meaningful north-south collaborations. Likewise, he stressed that timelines for GCRF funding are very short. Consequently, it is important that researchers develop collaborations and ideas first before addressing an appropriate funding call. 


Professor Heffernan rounded off the panel discussion with an informative presentation on winning GCRF funding and demonstrating interdisciplinarity in applications. She noted that the best proposals combine the natural and social sciences in a unique way. Professor Heffernan also advised researchers to frame their projects within the existing literature. Furthermore, she emphasised that up to seven reviewers would read proposals so researchers needed to ensure that applications were accessible, but catered for ‘deep experts’.

Panel and Q & A Session

The afternoon culminated in a Q and A session with our distinguished speakers. Our attendees asked insightful questions about the process of applying to GCRF funding, as well as creating links with low to middle income countries. 

Thank you to all those who attended our GCRF Seminar! An especially big thank you to the speakers for their stimulating presentations!

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