Portfolio analysis for Global development and international relations
Published 12 Nov 2021
Assessment of the portfolio's achievements
The guiding document for this portfolio, the Portfolio plan for Global development and International relations, sets out the following overall goals:
Promote research and new knowledge, to underpin Norwegian and international efforts in meeting global and regional challenges, to help safeguarding Norway’s role in a globalized world and to ensure the integrity of Norwegian politics, economy, legislation, society, and business.
The goals for the research community and key stakeholders are:
- The Government has a good understanding of the international system, international cooperation and conflict, and the global and regional institutions and Norway´s place therein;
- The Norwegian foreign administration uses research for framing foreign and security policy and for underpinning Norway's commitment in contributing to achieving the SDGs;
- Research institutions and researchers on the areas of development, foreign and security related research are highly competitive and of international standing;
- The R&D environment interact with and transfer knowledge to users of research;
- Politics and administration, business, and civil society utilize a broad knowledge base to deal with global challenges and international cooperation.
And, finally, the societal goals are:
- Norway contributes effectively to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals;
- Norway is aware of the challenges, opportunities, and alternative options it is facing in the pursuit of its interests and values;
- The Norwegian society is robust and informed.
To secure that targeted efforts contribute to reaching the goals and objectives set for this portfolio, the investment strategy for the relevant funding schemes have emphasized some or all of the following aspects in calls for proposals:
- Better publications, both scientific and more wide-ranging and user-focused;
- Strengthened research capacity and increased recruitment;
- Scientific renewal throughout methodological diversity and theoretical scope;
- Relevant use of trans- and multidisciplinarity;
- Extensive collaboration across research institutions, both nationally and internationally;
- User involvement in research and collaboration between researchers and users;
- Targeted communication and dissemination, including user dialogue;
- Expanded 'toolbox' with greater variety of research tools and resources.
The portfolio includes projects by several researchers who publish regularly in highly esteemed publications and with high citation scores. The analysis of scientific publication data shows a particularly strong growth in Norwegian researchers’ collaboration with developing countries during the last twenty-year period. The Research Council's programmes on international development have made substantial contributions to this. The citation rate shows a slightly increasing trend during the last twenty years. Overall, the articles in development research that can be traced to RCN-funding have been cited slightly below or in line with the average for Norwegian research in the same period, which again is well above world average. Interviews with various users in policy and public administration show that development researchers are frequently used as experts and advisers by politicians and public officials. On the other hand, their scientific articles and reports are less mentioned as a direct source for decisions and policy processes. Another general conclusion is that research in this area is mainly linked to evaluations, overviews and insight in topics that emerge on the policy agenda. There are fewer references to more strategic use of research for shaping future strategies and priorities in the area. In other words, there is an emphasis on research for “policy readiness” instead of research as a “strategic and corrective factor”.
Strengthened research capacity
The research capacity has increased with targeted recruitment of Ph.D. and Post-doctoral fellows. Especially NORGLOBAL2 and UTENRIKS have contributed to this by requiring that projects should include recruitment positions. Also, GLOBVAC has contributed significantly to recruitment positions. The gender balance in new Ph.D. positions is very good, with almost 50/50 across male and female fellows. The overall number of post-doctoral fellowships are declining, especially under the GLOBVAC funding scheme. However, this will likely change now that new funding is in place. The gender balance is also good, with a modest predominance of male fellows.
The evaluation of research related to the High North and Russia confirm that the UTENRIKSprogramme has achieved its goal of including the universities in the north as well as building capacity and quality across all relevant research groups.
The GLOBVAC Programme has used several measures to build and strengthen global health research capacity in Norway over the years. A key element has been the funding of young researchers. Several of those funded have been appointed to higher positions during their research projects, and some submitted new applications with high quality for the latest GLOBVAC call. By supporting the Norwegian Research School of Global Health GLOBVAC contributes to further develop capacity, and a critical mass of committed researchers working in global health research. In 2020, a total of 209 PhDs had been members of the Research School, attending networking activities and courses.
The portfolio's contribution to scientific renewal throughout methodological diversity and theoretical scope varies across funding schemes, and sub-funding schemes. The overall grades from expert assessments centers around 5 (very good), but with quite a few proposals obtaining grade 4 (good). In general, there are enough proposals which obtain the overall grade 6 (excellent) to ensure a high quality within the portfolio. Only very few proposals obtain grade 7 (exceptional).
The quality of proposals within UTENRIKS has improved over the past few years. Regarding research on European issues, the expert assessments in the past three years have made comments on some researchers' ability to set forth a clear hypothesis, a sound theory and a well explained methodology in proposals directed at the UTENRIKS' Europe-calls. Although, Norwegian researchers are doing very well in calls for proposals within the Horizon 2020. The quality of the NORGLOBAL2 applications in general is very high and has even improved in the last year. There is noted a challenge regarding applications on taxation and illicit capital flows. There are few applications, however, the quality of the submitted applications is high. The number of applications over the last four years has remained steady, and there are not sufficient funds to support all the excellent proposals. During the second period of GLOBVAC (2012-2020) the quality of submitted proposals has increased substantially. GLOBVAC was not able to spend all funding on the first calls due to a lack of proposals of satisfying quality, while in the last calls there have not been sufficient funds to support all the strong proposals. Due to a narrower thematic scope of the call for proposals in 2020 GLOBVAC received fewer applications than in previous calls. The quality of the submitted applications was high.
Trans- and multidisciplinarity
The scopes of the portfolio's calls for proposals are inherently cross-disciplinary, as they are primarily aimed at contributing to solving complex problems. The portfolio thus contributes considerably to relevant use of trans- and multidisciplinarity, especially within the social sciences. There is a potential to increase more radical trans-disciplinary research and, following the new call for proposals on Large-scale trans-disciplinary projects in 2021, the impact of the funding decisions of these on the portfolio will be monitored closely.
Collaboration, nationally and internationally
All targeted funding schemes under the portfolio encourage extensive collaboration across research institutions, especially internationally. All activities in the portfolio fund researcher networks with national and international participation. Some of the calls for proposals have also had national collaboration as a prerequisite. For the targeted funding mechanisms, it is a requirement that Norwegian research institutions must include international partners, also from developing countries in the NORGLOBAL2 and GLOBVAC projects. In the 60 funded NORGLOBAL2-projects there are research partner organizations from more than 40 different countries cooperating with Norwegian research institutions. Most of the projects include more than one international partner, and this contributes to strengthen research capacity both in Norway and in the developing countries. NORGLOBAL2 has some funds to support dissemination activities such as conferences and seminars that are within the framework of thematic priorities.
During the GLOBVAC2 period from 2012 to 2020 the funded projects have collaborated with 217 international institutions from 44 different countries, and with 53 Norwegian institutions. Collaboration with international partners has contributed to the establishment of strong, sustainable research institutions and research groups at an international level in Norway, but also led to capacity strengthening of partners in LLMICs. Measures securing this have included encouraging coleadership, supporting young research talents from LLMICs and no limitations to the amount of funding going to LLMIC partners. Equitable partnerships will remain a key element in the new global health funding initiative.
In addition to involving international partners into projects funded by UTENRIKS, this funding scheme coordinates the bilateral calls with Russian funding agencies. Since 2012 five bilateral calls have been announced between Norway and Russia, administered by RCN and the UTENRIKS scheme. Through the UTENRIKS sub-portfolio on Asia one has also included bilateral cooperation with China and India as prerequisite for funding in the 2019 call for proposals.
User involvement in research and collaboration between researchers and users is of great importance across this portfolio. Genuine user involvement goes beyond merely informing users about the proposed research to implement carefully planned and well-organized mechanisms that value knowledge and perspectives of different users when developing the direction and purpose of the proposed research.
The UTENRIKS programme has collaborated with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to raise research activity in the Barents Region, - as a part of the Norwegian Chairmanship in the Barents Euro Arctic Council 2019-2021. One effort was the targeted call for proposals for Collaborative and Knowledgebuilding projects in the Barents Region in 2020, focusing on the Governments priority areas for their chairmanship period, Health and welfare, cross-border business development and building research and knowledge building.
To better define relevant research priorities and questions, and to enhance the benefit to society of the research, user-involvement was a requirement in the global health call for Researcher projects in 2020. To be relevant, all the proposals had to have justification in, and describe the users' needs and participation in all parts of the project. The users could be patients, clients and relatives, the general public, employees in the health and care services system, government administrators and the authorities. The projects will have to report annually to the Research Council on the involvement of users in their projects.
The projects funded by the NORGLOBAL2 programme are encouraged to establish contact with the users and with the ministry and Norad directly. Several of the projects have established advisory groups that include users.
Communication and dissemination
Targeted communication and dissemination, including user dialogue, is strongly emphasized by the funding schemes, and the Ministry of foreign affairs have funded a specific effort to ensure a systematic transfer of knowledge between researchers and key stakeholders – Strategic Institute Projects (SIS).
Every year, a kick-off conference presenting new NORGLOBAL2-projects is organised in collaboration with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Norad. In addition, dissemination and communication events are being organised in relation to the individual projects during the project period, including establishing regular dialogue with users of research, and presenting results from the projects. However, due to Covid-19 restrictions, the 2020 kick-off conference has been postponed.
UTENRIKS had a kick-off webinar for the newly funded Collaboration and knowledge building projects for the Barents Region in May 2021. The main focal point for this webinar was to introduce the projects and participants to each other and to the relevant departments in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and regional authorities and cross-border institutions. The projects are expected to help keep up the cross-border activities within the research areas.
The High North and Russia portfolio of UTENRIKS are by 2021 at the end of its funding period. Some of the projects will run till 2026, but quite a few are already showing results. By request of the MFA a popular presentation of the whole High North and Russia portfolio have been commissioned by one of Norway’s leading Russia correspondents. This report will be ready by September 2021.
The bi-annual Global Health Conference, where many GLOBVAC-funded projects present their results, was postponed until 2021 due to Covid-19. Instead, 4 webinars presenting results from global health research was organized. Other measures of communication include a meeting between the Minister of Foreign Development and four projects funded by the Research Council's Covid-19 emergency call, and the development of a digital map providing an overview of all project owners and partners to GLOBVAC2-funded projects. These are all measures to increase the interaction and knowledge transfer between the R&D environment and the users of research.
Expanding the toolbox
The portfolio's effort to ensure an expanded 'toolbox' with a greater variety of research tools and resources, has been put on momentarily hold due to lack of administrative resources and the Covid- 19 pandemics. However, the use of digital arenas for communication and networking has increased, both in research projects and in the communication between the Research Council and the projects.
The thematic priorities for this portfolio entail a strong emphasis on social science research and medicine and health sciences. There has been a shift in balance between disciplines, as the funding of global health research declined significantly over the past few years. At the same time there has been a modest increase in funding relating to foreign and development research. However, with renewed funding for global health in place, research within medicine and health increased in 2020 and is expected to increase further in the years to come due to cumulative effects of calls for proposals in the new programme period. Two thirds of the EUs contributions to the portfolio (appr. 100 million kroner) is within health-related research. This helps strengthen the effort in global health research.
There is an ambition to support more research within the humanities which is not fully realised. This is partly due to few relevant applications from the humanities to call for proposals, but also due to little available overall funding for research within the portfolio. Jurisprudence is another discipline where there is a potential to further strengthen the effort, especially in relation to international law issues. However, the call for proposals in 2020 relating to this area received few eligible proposals. Further, the research effort within economics could be increased related to questions regarding the international economic order, etc. In this area the proposals to the relevant calls in 2020 were, however, of insufficient scientific quality. Research within science and technology is, for the most part, relying on funding from other portfolios, thus an increase in these disciplines entails funding collaboration across portfolios. For details regarding the disciplinary distribution within the portfolio, see appendix 1.
The portfolio spans across the following eight thematic priorities: World Order and the International System; System of government, democracy, and human rights; Foreign and Security Policy; Peace and Conflict; Poverty reduction; Humanitarian Efforts; Global health and Climate, environment, and renewable energy. The effort for each of these priorities are dependent not only of the priorities in investment plans and calls for proposals, but first and foremost on available funding and the ministries various earmarking of funds.
Global health and Climate, the environment and renewable energy are the two dominating priorities of the portfolio, regardless of funding source. EU is a strong contributor to both, in addition to the priority World order and the international system. Further, all of CHINOR-funds and most of INDNORfunds are paired with funding from funding schemes in other portfolio's, of which a large portion is dedicated research on Climate, the environment and renewable energy. The nationally oriented health research funding schemes also have several projects relevant to the priority Global health. The funding scheme BIONÆR (Land-based food, the environment and bioresources) and HAVBRUK (seafarming) contribute with a few projects relevant to Poverty reduction. The priority with the least projects is Peace and conflict, albeit that a few of the projects listed under the priority World order and international system could also be regarded as relevant to this area.
As the portfolio is funded almost equally by targeted and non-targeted funding schemes, the direction of the portfolio development across the thematic priorities is not only dictated by the Portfolio board's funding decisions. However, the funding decisions for the targeted funding schemes lies within the competence of the Portfolio board, and by negotiating instructions from the ministries, priorities of the portfolio plan and the thematic distribution of projects from non-targeted efforts, it is possible to ensure that the thematic priorities, to some extent, are balanced and wellrepresented within the portfolio.
Although the UTENRIKS programme has a wide thematic scope being International relations, foreign and security policy, the earmarking of funding makes it difficult to fund research on issues other than those related to the more geographic specifications for the programme, i.e., Europe, Asia, Russia, and the High North/Arctic.
NORGLOBAL2 aims to contribute to progress towards the SDGs and the funded research falls within the priority areas for Norwegian development policy and cooperation: - Education - Business development, job creation and taxation - Humanitarian efforts - Conflict, security, and fragile states - Environment, climate, oceans, and renewable energy. NORGLOBAL2 has launched five calls for proposals for researcher projects, one call for proposals for Collaborative projects to meet Societal and industrial needs (KSP) and two calls for Networks. By 2021 the programme funds 60 projects (Researcher projects and KSP) and 6 networks. Up to the call 2021 the thematic area Climate and the environment had received the highest proportion of the funds allocated. Thus, to ensure a balanced portfolio, good proposals are being sought in the Other prioritized thematic areas, particularly global education, and humanitarian issues. Taxation and illicit capital flows are new priorities for 2020-2023 with 60 million kroner in earmarked funds. To strengthen the portfolio in this area 30 million was earmarked for this purpose in the 2020 call for researcher projects, and additionally, a separate call for Collaborative and knowledge building proposals (KSP) on taxation was launched with deadline 17 February 2021. A network on taxation and illicit capital flows was funded in 2021, as a prolongation of the previous SkattJakt network. NORGLOBAL2 has had several joint calls with other thematic activities.
GLOBVAC2 has had four broad thematic areas, covering infectious diseases, maternal and child health, health systems research and innovation in technology and methods development. Most of the calls for proposals have been thematically broad. To secure the best impact, the strongest proposals have been funded regardless of which thematic area they fit into.
GLOBVAC2 has funded several projects that have had an important influence on global health policies and practice. This applies specifically to projects that has had a close dialogue with national or local authorities in the countries in which they are implemented. These projects contribute to achieving the SDGs by reducing disease burden and reducing inequalities.
R&D value chain
The portfolio covers the entire value chain from basic research to innovation/piloting. There is, however, a strong emphasis on applied research following that the main purpose of most funding mechanisms relevant for the portfolio is to inform policy making. The GLOBVAC-programme and VISJON2030 have a somewhat more operational purpose for health services, vaccine-development, job-creation, and education in developing countries. Across the portfolio 77 % of the projects funded by the Research Council are researcher projects, 16 % are other support projects (most of which are innovation projects), 7 % of the projects are Collaboration and Knowledge-building projects.
The portfolio targets primarily Norwegian research organisations. However, measures are put in place to ensure that the public sector, business, NGOs, and society at large may benefit from the research results. Research relevant for policy making and public administration, especially the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Defence, the Ministry of Justice and Public Security, The Ministry of Health and Care Services and the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD) is an important priority. Other ministries and public agencies also benefit from the research funded by the portfolio. Further, the portfolio prioritises research relevant for policy makers, the public sector and business in developing countries, and aim at underpinning the national STIpriorities in partner countries. Global health research is conducted in close cooperation with relevant local partners and the public health sector to secure relevance and benefits for the users.
National and international efforts
The research effort has strengthened the Norwegian research capacity across the portfolio's thematic priorities and has made it possible to ensure research capacity in areas that arise on the global agenda, such as research on tax havens and illicit capital flows (actualized by Panama Papers) and global health (actualized by SARS, ebola, Covid-19, etc.).
The national efforts account for 70 percent of the overall portfolio on Global development and International relations. The funding ministries use research to underpin policymaking, and for some areas it is crucial to sustain and further develop a national research capacity, especially in connection with national interests related to foreign and security policy. Although Climate, the environment and renewable energy is a priority area of the portfolio and in targeted funding schemes such as NORGLBOAL2, UTENRIKS, INDNOR, SANOCEAN and CHINOR, most projects in this area is funded by non-targeted funding schemes like ENERGIX and KLIMAFORSK. These funding schemes have very large budgets, and it is encouraged that the scope of the research is directed towards more global perspectives. The EU accounts for 30 percent of the overall portfolio, of which most is related to Global health research.
Funding-decisions made for key targeted funding schemes have further strengthened the research within the portfolio:
International relations, foreign and security policy (UTENRIKS)
The UTENRIKS portfolio consists of 51 researcher projects, three collaborative and knowledgebuilding projects and one network project. The total amount of funding within UTENRIKS is 417 million kroner which includes five projects that are funded by the Ministry of Higher Education and Research to enhance research within humanities on topics relevant to UTENRIKS.
The projects in the UTENRIKS portfolio cover the following thematic and geographic areas:
International development research (NORGLOBAL2)
The NORGLOBAL2 programme has funded 60 researcher projects and 6 networks, and about 550 million kroner have been reserved for these projects and some smaller projects to support dissemination and conferences/seminars. Two of the projects are followed up by the Maritime programme, and one by FINNUT. NORGLOBAL2 has called for and funded several multidisciplinary projects that targets more than one of the thematic areas in the portfolio plan. The projects are, to some degree, evenly distributed across the thematic priorities for the programme: 29 % is on Climate and environment; 24 % on Conflict, security, and vulnerability; 19 % on Job, business, and taxation; 16 % on Humanitarian issues and 12 % on Global education. However, the priority Climate and environment has overall a much larger portfolio across the Research Council's portfolios than the other priorities, as there are large, designated funding schemes for each of the topics (funding schemes for climate-, ocean- and environmental research: KLIMAFORSK, HAVFORSK, MILJØFORSK).
Partner institutions from 43 different countries participates in NORGLOBAL2 projects together with Norwegian researcher institutions. The Norwegian researcher organizations are the project owners of these projects. The overview below shows the country of project partners in the different projects.
Global health (GLOBVAC2)
The second period of GLOBVAC ended in 2020. During the period lasting from 2012 to 2020 GLOBVAC has funded 60 projects (40 researcher projects, 5 innovation projects in the private sector, 6 PhDs with mandatory stay in an LLMIC and 9 young research talents), 23 events, one network (Norwegian Forum for Global Health Research) and one researcher school (Norwegian Research School of Global Health) for a total of approximately 780 million kroner. This means that almost all the funding for GLOBVAC2 is spent or allocated.
Most GLOBVAC-projects are in close partnership with local institutions in developing countries. During the period of GLOBVAC2 the projects funded have collaborated with 53 Norwegian partners, and 217 international partners from 44 different countries.
GLOBVAC2 had four thematic priority areas; 1) Prevention and treatment of, and diagnostics for, communicable diseases, particularly vaccine and vaccination research; 2) Family planning, reproductive, maternal, neonatal, child and adolescent health; 3) Health systems and health policy research; and 4) Innovation in technology and methods development. An overview of the projects shows that the thematic area “Prevention, treatment, diagnostics communicable disease” is the largest, both in terms of funding and of the number of grants. Funding of projects with a focus on reproductive, sexual, maternal, neonatal and child health constitutes almost the same share of funded projects as the ones doing research within the area of health systems. However, we see that many projects cover several of the priority areas. For instance, many of the projects on communicable diseases have a focus on prevention, treatment, and diagnostics of diseases in women or children. The priority area with least funding is innovation in technology and methods development for maternal and child health.
In an emergency call set up to contribute to the global response to the COVID-19 outbreak during spring 2020, four projects with relevance to developing countries were funded with a total of 16,5 million kroner by our portfolio. In addition, funding was also granted to Norwegian partners participating in an application for the EDCTP COVID-19 emergency call.
In 2020 the Research Council published a call for proposals where 80 million kroner was available for projects that will generate new knowledge on how to achieve universal health coverage and sustainable health systems in developing countries. To increase the number of projects within the prioritized area of health systems research the call was thematically narrower than the previous GLOBVAC calls. 20 million kroner of the total funding was earmarked research contributing to filling in knowledge gaps related to COVID-19. 6 projects received funding, of which one relevant to the COVID-19 pandemic. These projects are the first projects funded by the new funding initiative on global health research, officially starting in 2021.
Late 2020, following a comprehensive process with broad participation, a working group finalized a policy document setting priorities for the new funding initiative replacing GLOBVAC2. This document, New Priorities in Global Health, was launched in December 2020 and laid the foundation for the priorities in the call for proposals (researcher projects) in 2021.
The annual budget for the new funding initiative is 50 million kroner. To maximize impact, it is expected to devote at least 50 percent of the available funding to the prioritized area of implementation research. In addition, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has earmarked 10 million kroner of their annual allocation to research on NCDs. The remaining funding can be allocated to thematically unrestricted calls for projects relevant to the initiative’s primary objective.
10 projects have been granted funding from the new initiative so far. 7 of the projects fall within the priority of implementation research, while only one is covering NCDs (mental health).
Research and knowledge development are integral parts of policy development, and necessary tools for realising the goals of the individual sector or ministry. This means that for the ministries, except for the Ministry of Education and Research, research is not an end in itself. Research as an instrument for goal attainment is continually being assessed against other instruments and measures that may be of a more short-term nature. In such a balance sheet, it is vitally important that the sector ministries have both a clear understanding of what research can contribute to and a certain time horizon for research initiatives. Research-based knowledge is an important basis for academic and political decisions and in the evaluation of measures taken. Furthermore, research-based teaching is a prerequisite for high quality education.
Most of the research funding comes from budgetary grant items on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' annual budget. Responsibility for grant funding is distributed among the departments in the Ministry and the embassies, a practice that is the origin of a plethora of earmarking of funds. There are furthermore important contributions from the Ministry of Health and Care Services and the Ministry of Education and Research. In addition, there is some funding from the Ministry of Defence, the Ministry of Justice and Public Security and the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs. These ministries with minor funding, albeit they are already funding the portfolio, and others, should step up their efforts to secure research on international and global conditions relevant to the ministries' various sector responsibilities. This is especially important considering the Global Sustainability Goals, where every ministry has a responsibility to contribute both on a national and on a global level.
The renewed effort on global health and vaccination research is welcomed and will, to some extent, ensure the maintenance of Norwegian research competence in these areas. The effort will also underpin Norwegian development policy on this point. The continued national effort in this area is also a prerequisite for Norwegian researchers to participate in international research collaboration under CEPI, EDCTP, etc. However, to fully exploit the potential of the Norwegian research capacity, - and opportunities for Norwegian researchers in international arenas, the budget for GLOBVAC must increase. Current budget allocation to global health research through GLOBVAC2 is only 1,2 percent of total Norwegian global health efforts, which amounts to 4,152 million kroner. Policymakers and practitioners should, when managing public spending on this area, thus be informed by research.
We need a better understanding of how international development and trends affect Norway and make us vulnerable in terms of health, welfare, legal conditions, economy, and national security. The centre of gravity of the global economy and power is shifting, and so is the relationship between countries and regions. In vulnerable areas, social unrest, conflicts, and poor living conditions lead to increased migration, which challenges international cohesion as well as national welfare systems. The development of technology leads to new and larger threats. Thus, there is a need to strengthen multidisciplinary research on foreign and security policy, strengthen international research cooperation and link knowledge of national and international affairs. In addition to the present portfolio's emphasis on developing countries, Europe, Russia and China, there is a need to secure funds for research on cross-cutting perspectives across countries and regions, i.e., in connection to international organisations etc. and to allow for research on countries and regions that are not prioritised, like the Middle East and North America. Fewer ear markings in the ministries annual allotment letters would facilitate more cross-cutting research, in addition to increased funding, particularly from non-ODA funds.
 For details, please consult new-priorities-for-global-health-research-21-web.pdf (forskningsradet.no)