LIDC GCRF Networking Workshop: A round up


Written by Sarah Hambly

On 7th November, LIDC welcomed over 80 people to our GCRF Networking Workshop.

The Workshop brought together academic researchers, professional services staff and postgraduate students from our member institutions for a day of panel discussions and activities relating to the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF). The event also allowed guests to meet and connect with current GCRF grant holders and other researchers.

Achieving interdisciplinarity

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 the UK’s international development funding landscape, interdisciplinarity and impact. Claire also stressed LIDC’s remit to work with academics to translate their ideas into successful interdisciplinary research.

Furthermore Claire reflected on challenges associated with achieving truly ‘interdisciplinary’ research. For her, barriers included funding, disciplinary bias, and a lack of institutional incentive structure. She noted that solutions-based research is an emerging paradigm. In the future, she hoped that researchers would integrate the best elements of disciplinary insights to generate a more comprehensive understanding of an issue.

The GCRF’s place in the UK’s international development research funding landscape

Marta Tufet, Executive Director of the UK Collaborative on Development Research (UKCDR), opened the panel. First of all, she gave an overview of Official Development Assistance (ODA) funding for research in the UK. Marta stressed that the UK invested 0.7% of its GDP in foreign aid. She also explained UKCDR’s role in its advocacy for the need to invest in research for international development, and brokering dialogue with the wider academic community.

Following this, we were delighted to welcome Mark Claydon-Smith, Associate Director- International Development, UK Research and Innovation. Mark spoke eloquently about the GCRF and its efforts to foster cutting-edge interdisciplinary research that addressed the Sustainable Development Goals. He noted that the Fund aligns with the UK’s aid strategy, which upholds the country’s obligations to help the world’s most vulnerable. At the same time, the Fund serves the UK’s national interest by fostering the development of a local research base.

Mark also explained that in 2018, the GCRF’s next substantive allocation would be in coherence and integration, innovation and commercialisation, and global partnerships. To achieve coherence and integration, the GCRF will build new communities and partnerships and challenge leaders to develop new opportunities, among other measures. In addition, the GCRF will aim to strengthen innovation systems within developing countries, and foster business-led innovation. The Fund will also build partnerships within developing countries and UN agencies and institutions. Finally he stressed that it was essential to demonstrate value and impact from ODA research.

GCRF funded projects

Ian Roberts, Professor of Epidemiology and Public Health at London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, was our next speaker. Ian explained the rationale behind the CRASH-3 trial, which received over £2 million in funding from the Medical Research Council. (This trial aims to provide reliable evidence about the effect of tranexamic acid on mortality and disability in patients with traumatic brain injury). He also urged funders to focus on the results of funded research and truly consider pathways to impact.

Following Ian’s presentation, our next speaker was Jonathan Goodhand, Professor in Conflict and Development Studies at SOAS. Jonathan discussed his work as Principal Investigator on ‘GCRF Drugs and (dis)order: Building sustainable peacetime economies in the aftermath of war’, which had received £7 million from the GCRF. He explained that the project aimed to investigate how war economies could be transformed into peace economies in regions that have experienced armed conflict. In addition Jonathan discussed the challenges and opportunities arising from such a large and complex project. For example he cautioned researchers that there was significant front loading of time and resources in the set up phase. This impacted time available for teaching and other research.

Richard Dove, Head of the Knowledge Hub, World Vision, was the last speaker in the morning panel discussion. Richard discussed World Vision’s efforts to place more emphasis on the most vulnerable children. Additionally he explained the charity’s approach to doing research with academic institutions.

From there, the speakers engaged in a lively and interactive Q&A with our audience. Key issues raised included decolonising research, the impact agenda, and crafting interdisciplinary research proposals.

Afternoon activities

Following lunch, our facilitator, Thalia Carr, led our attendees in a round of interactive activities. These focused on accelerating impact in sustainable development, and creating cutting-edge solutions. Thalia challenged our guests to come up with solutions to some of the GCRF’s priority challenges. Following this, guests had to present their solutions to the wider event, and listeners had to vote for the top solutions. The winning solutions included a project that aimed to find an environmentally friendly alternative for lead in electronic packaging, an initiative to improve community networks in Mongolia.

Thank you to all those who attended our GCRF Networking Workshop and made the day a success. An especially big thank you to the speakers for their stimulating presentations!