Global health research
The NIHR Global Health Research Portfolio uses UK aid to fund high quality applied health research and training in areas of unmet need.
Our research is for the direct and primary benefit of people in low and middle income countries (LMICs).
NIHR is a major funder of high quality global health research that directly addresses the diverse health needs of people in low and middle income countries (LMICs). We invest in applied health research relevant to the unmet needs of LMIC communities, health system priorities and the evolving global burden of disease.
We fund research in developing countries that are eligible to receive Official Development Assistance (ODA) from the UK aid budget. Our research is delivered through programmes that award funding to equitable partnerships between groups of researchers and institutions in LMICs and the UK. We also fund the career development of researchers at all stages and provide funding to support the careers of research support staff.
Through the wider Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) Global Health Research Portfolio, we have built strategic partnerships with other global funders and international organisations.
The portfolio was established by DHSC in 2016, to support the objectives of the UK Aid Strategy and the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.
Our strategic priorities from 2022-2025 are to:
- address the shifting global burden of disease
- develop health systems to identify and respond to population needs,
- build resilience to tackle future global health threats, and
- strengthen research capacity in LMICs through equitable partnerships between LMIC and UK researchers.
These priorities are driven by our NIHR principles promoting community engagement and involvement, equitable partnerships and funding high-quality, policy-relevant, impactful research.
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All research activities commissioned and funded through our Global Health Research Portfolio contribute towards the UK aid commitment and must deliver direct and primary benefit to countries eligible for ODA. This supports the UK government’s commitment to ensuring healthy lives and promoting wellbeing in the world’s poorest countries, as set out in the UN Sustainable Development Goals, builds on NIHR’s operating principles of impact, excellence, effectiveness, inclusion and collaboration, and strengthens research capability and training through equitable partnerships.
Community engagement and involvement
NIHR champions the involvement of LMIC communities in all aspects of the research we fund, to improve its reach, quality and impact. Enabling patients and communities to have a genuine voice in global health research - from the funding process to study design, delivery and dissemination - is essential to achieving our ambition for long-term research impact and changing lives.
We expect communities to be actively engaged and involved:
- at the start of research when priorities are being decided
- when research is being designed and funded
- through delivery of the research project, and
- in dissemination of research outputs.
We include community members and CEI experts in our research funding activities by asking representatives to join our funding committees and to review applications.
Anyone applying for NIHR global health research funding must include CEI as a core component of the research strategy, planning, implementation and evaluation process. We also include patients and communities in NIHR’s research funding activities by asking representatives to join our committees and to review applications. Our Global Health CEI Advisory Network brings together people with knowledge and experience of public involvement in research and community engagement in LMICs.
NIHR has worked closely with other research funders to harmonise approaches and promote awareness and implementation of safeguarding guidance across the research sector. All organisations managing or receiving funding from our Global Health Research Portfolio are required to ensure that all staff members and partners involved in the delivery chain adhere to their safeguarding responsibilities.
Transparency in international development delivers greater accountability, drives economic growth and improves the lives of people in LMICs.
DHSC and its ODA spend through NIHR were scored as ‘Very Good’ in the 2019 analysis of transparency of aid spend across the UK government, in the first assessment of its type. The score of 82.1% was noted as ‘a considerable achievement’ in the report by Publish What You Fund (.PDF), the global campaign for aid and development transparency.
NIHR publishes information on all its ODA-funded activities in the International Aid Transparency Initiative Standard. We also publish information about our global health research in the UK Development Tracker (DevTracker) under the DHSC, alongside the department’s other ODA activities.
The NIHR supports the principle of open access to the outputs of research, which can offer both social and economic benefits, as well as aid the development of new research and stimulate wider economic growth of the UK economy. We require that researchers funded by our Global Health Research Portfolio publish their main study findings in a peer-reviewed, open access journal.
The research we fund is intended to deliver benefits and improve health outcomes for people in LMICs. Our Theory of Change model for the NIHR Global Health Research Portfolio outlines the pathways by which we expect our funding to deliver this impact.
We expect funded researchers to develop their own plans for how their research might deliver impact for people in LMICs, and to monitor outputs and outcomes to evaluate progress against the intended aims of their research. Their annual reporting supports us in evaluating how our funding is delivering impact and learning from the experiences of researchers.
We award research funding to equitable partnerships between groups of researchers or groups of research institutions through a number of different funding programmes. We both commission research on specific topics and invite researchers to submit proposals on topics of their choice. We run five programmes that offer funding for research on areas of unmet need of direct and primary relevance for people in LMICs:
- Global Health Research Units are partnerships between researchers in universities and research institutes with an existing track-record of delivering internationally recognised research, with our funding helping them to consolidate and expand this work.
- Global Health Research Groups funding is awarded to existing specialist academic groups who wish to expand into the field of global health, especially in shortage areas of research.
- The Global Health Policy and Systems Research (Global HPSR) programme supports global health policy and systems research in LMICs. Global HPSR holds both commissioned and researcher-led funding calls.
- Research and Innovation for Global Health Transformation (RIGHT) funds cutting-edge interdisciplinary applied health research in key areas in LMICs where a strategic and targeted investment can result in a transformative impact. To date, RIGHT has commissioned research on multimorbidity, mental health, epilepsy, infection-related cancers, stigmatising skin diseases and unintentional injuries and emergency medicine.
- Global Health Research Centres provide substantive funding to support research-driven partnerships between institutions in LMICs and those in the UK. The first funding call in 2020/21 focused on high quality applied health research on non-communicable diseases in LMICs.
Training and career development
NIHR trains and develops future leaders in applied global health research, to support research that improves the health outcomes of people in LMICs. We also strengthen the research capacity of LMICs at individual, institutional and system level.
We support career pathways to develop global health researchers in LMICs and in the UK. Across our NIHR career development awards and our awards in partnership with other organisations, we have supported more than 350 researchers to progress their career in global health.
NIHR Global Health Research Academy
NIHR Global Health Research Academy Membership includes early career researchers who are receiving funding from or being supported by NIHR Global Health Research Programmes to develop their academic career. Members are supported by local Global Health Research Training Leads, who act as points of contact for members, and are responsible for developing a local training strategy. They take an active role in providing advice and support for academic development to ensure members can thrive as successful academics and future leaders, as well as sharing examples of best practice and development opportunities.
Global Research Professorships
Our Global Research Professorship awards fund research leaders to promote effective translation of research and to strengthen research leadership at the highest academic levels. The awards fund people undertaking research that aims to specifically and primarily benefit people in LMICs.
Global Health Research Training Programme
The Global Health Research Training Programme was created to add value to and build on our existing investment through our research programmes by strengthening academic research capacity. There are more than 300 Masters, PhD and post-doctoral students supported in Global Health Research Units and Groups, HPSR and RIGHT programmes in LMICs and in the UK, all of whom are members of the NIHR Academy.
The training programme offers a number schemes to support the training and career development of researchers associated with our Global Health Research programmes:
- Global Health Research Short Placement Award for Research Collaboration (GHR SPARC)
- Global Health Research Cohort Academic Development Award (GHR CADA)
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