Porteføljeanalysen for Global utvikling og internasjonale relasjoner

Assessment of the portfolio's achievements

Discipline

The thematic priorities for this portfolio entail a strong emphasis on social science research. However, 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. Further the research effort within economics could be increased related to questions regarding the international economic order. However, the earmarkings on funding for the UTENRIKS-programme does not open for research on generic issues other than those related to the more geographic specifications for the programme, i.e. Europe, Asia and Russia/High North. Although health research today is an important part of the portfolio, most of this derives from the GLOBVAC-programme, which has a significant decline in available funding.

Thematic priorities

The portfolio covers a wide range of thematic areas and contributes significantly to other portfolios such as the portfolio for social sciences, for natural science, health, life science, food and bioresources and climate and polar research.

The evaluation of research related to the High North and Russia confirm that the UTENRIKS-programme has achieved its goal of including the universities in the north as well as building capacity and quality across all relevant research groups. The overall quality of proposals has improved over the past few years. Regarding research on European issues, Norwegian researchers are doing very well in calls for proposals within the EU framework programme Horizon 2020.

The overall quality of proposals sent to NORGLOBAL is good. The number of applications over the last three years has remained steady. NORGLOBAL covers several thematic areas. The thematic area, which includes climate and the environment, has so far received the highest proportion of the funds allocated. Thus, to ensure a balanced portfolio, good proposals are being sought in the area of humanitarian issues and global education.

GLOBVAC has been a long-term programme using different funding mechanisms to strengthen capacity and to improve the quality of the research to create sustainable research environments within the field of global health and vaccination research. The applicants to GLOBVAC have used the feedback from the panels and the Board to strengthen their proposals and improve the quality of their research. GLOBVAC has seen a significant improvement in quality of the submitted applications to the Programme over the last programme period. This is measured by the marks given by the expert panels and the funding decisions made by the previous Programme Board. In the first calls of the programme period it was decided not to grant the total sum available due to a lack of qualified applications. The situation now is the opposite: in the last call many applications that were judged to be of very high international level and of great national and international interest (score 6) could not be funded due to limited funding. There is however an unbalance in the distribution of the funded projects on the thematic priorities in that more than half the funding covers the priority on communicable diseases. There are many strong research groups working on communicable diseases and maternal, neonatal and child health in Norway now as a result of funding from the GLOBVAC Programme.  For example, the external mid-term evaluation from 2016 pointed out that GLOBVAC has been instrumental in the creation of the Centre for Intervention Science in Maternal and Child Health (CISMAC), a Centre of Excellence in Bergen. A lack of strong applications within the thematic area of health system and innovation has however resulted in few funded projects within these areas. The Research Council has published a call for applications within the framework of global health system and health care services research in 2020. This will increase the funding to this area of research within global health.

Output, outcome and impact

In 2016 the Research Council commissioned an impact assessment of development research – Pathways to global impact. The key findings from this report was that Norwegian development research is widely used and applied in various settings, both in national contexts and not least internationally. However, many users seem unable to absorb and exploit the variety of research performed in the area. Better mechanisms for interaction between users and researchers are needed, both outside and within the funding arenas. Furthermore, there is clear evidence that the Research Council's targeted programmes on development research have made substantial contributions to building research capacity as well as societal impact in the field. On the other hand, many users seem to have little insight and engagement in the programmes. This applies both for policymakers and for practitioners / NGOs.

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 development research programmes have made substantial contributions to this development. 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 shows 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”.

In general, development research seems well represented among the impact cases submitted from institutions and research groups within humanities and especially social science research. The majority of these cases also include references to support from the Research Council. Among the social science impact cases related to development issues, human rights stands out as the topic that most cases can be related to. Compared with a similar although larger set of British impact cases, we observe that Norwegian cases more frequently highlight impacts related to faith/culture and crime/justice. Most striking is the high frequency of Norwegian impact cases related to gender issues, as this aspect seems to have little importance in the British cases.

The Research Council emphasizes communication between the researchers and the users of the research. Every year, a kick-off conference presenting new NORGLOBAL-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 during the project period, including establishing regular dialogue with users of research, and presenting results from the projects.

After some time not having been able to fund new projects, GLOBVAC organised a start-up seminar in 2019 where the research projects that were funded the previous year were presented to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Norad and the Ministry of Health and Care Services. The organisation Global health Norway was hosting the Global Health Conference in Bergen, where many GLOBVAC-funded projects presented their results.

In 2016 an external mid-term evaluation of GLOBVAC was carried out by Technopolis Group. The evaluation concluded that GLOBVAC has made significant achievements in several areas and fills an important gap in the Norwegian funding landscape. The GLOBVAC programme has made some significant achievements in several areas. Overall, it can be considered a reasonably efficient and effective research support mechanism that fills an important gap in the Norwegian funding landscape. It has been particularly successful in boosting the capacity for, and commitment to, global health and vaccination research. Since the beginning of the programme the number of research groups and institutes that are involved in the field has markedly increased. Many Norwegian research institutes have benefited themselves from international collaboration with well-known universities with long track records in global health research. In turn, through North-South collaboration they have contributed to the development of capacity in LLMIC. The programme has already achieved some remarkable scientific successes that will have important impact on the health of target populations. GLOBVAC has been particularly successful in boosting the national capacity for global health and vaccination research. The evaluation highlighted the quality of the research that had been supported, and while the consistency in quality across the project portfolio could be improved, the portfolio was rated as overall good, with some projects having gained significant international recognition. This included a study by the Norwegian company BIONOR Pharma demonstrating promising results in attempts to develop a therapeutic HIV vaccine. Another notable study was the Ebola ring vaccination trial in Guinea which showed very high efficacy for a vaccine developed against Ebola by Merck, amongst others. Real impact is often not materialized before long after the project has ended. For instance, the ring vaccination method developed in a GLOBVAC-funded trial during the ebola outbreak in Guinea in 2015 was proven so effective it has been used in the fight against the ebola during the recent ebola outbreak in DRC. Another example of impact is a smart, simple and cheap heart-rate monitor for new-borns in developing countries developed by the Norwegian firm Lærdal Global Health. The monitor was developed based on data from a GLOBVAC-funded project. The belt is expected to ease the monitoring of new-born babies in low-resource settings and to increase the survival rate.

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 VISION2030 have a somewhat more operational purpose health services, vaccine-development and education in developing countries. Across the portfolio 65% of the projects are researcher projects, 17% are other support projects (most of which in reality are innovation projects), 8% of the projects are Young Researcher Projects / Ph.D.-scholarships. 

National and international efforts

The research effort, especially in connection with targeted efforts, has strengthened the Norwegian research capacity across the portfolio's thematic priorities. Norway had few researchers on global health until the Research Council established a global health research programme.

It is a requirement that Norwegian research institutions must include international partners, also from developing countries in the NORGLOBAL projects. In the 44 funded project there are research partner organisations from 40 different countries cooperate with Norwegian research institutions in NORGLOBAL projects. Most of the projects include more than one international partner, and this contributes to strengthen research capacity in Norway and in the developing countries.

A key element of the GLOBVAC Programme has been the funding of young researchers. Several of those funded have been appointed to higher positions during their research projects. Several of the previously funded young researchers submitted new applications with high quality for the last GLOBVAC call. 

The GLOBVAC Programme has used several measures to build and strengthen global health research capacity in Norway. In addition to supporting researcher projects, the Programme has had specific calls for young researchers and personal PhD scholarships for which there has been a mandatory stay abroad for at least a year, as living and working in a low-income country was judged as a critical way of developing a long-term interest and commitment to global health research. In addition, the Programme has also had separate calls for innovation projects in the private sector.

Two active Norwegian Global Health Fora - The Norwegian Forum for Global Health Research and the Norwegian Research School of Global Health – have been actively supported by GLOBVAC, to further develop capacity, and a critical mass of committed researchers working, in global health research. GLOBVAC has for ten years supported the Norwegian Forum for Global Health Research. The Forum has brought researchers from different Norwegian institutions together. The Forum has been an important partner to GLOBVAC when planning the GLOBVAC conferences. GLOBVAC also supported the establishment of the Norwegian Research School of Global Health Research. The School has over 100 PhD candidates as members and is working actively to build a network among the PhD candidates by arranging courses and annual conferences.

All projects funded by GLOBVAC must have research questions that are clearly relevant to LLMICs. During GLOBVAC2 the Programme has used several means to strengthen the international collaboration and to secure capacity strengthening of partners in LLMICs. For instance, there is no limit on the amount of funding that can go to partners in LLMICs, a maximum of 30% can go to partners in high-income countries. The Programme allows co-project leaders that are from an LLMIC.  Also, young researchers from LLMICs have been eligible to apply for the Young Researcher Talent calls. They must collaborate with a Norwegian Institution, but they can (and preferably should) perform the research in their home country. GLOBVAC has funded several. All GLOBVAC-funded projects have international partners, most have partners in low-income countries.

Funding

Research and knowledge development is an integral part of policy development, and is one of several tools for realising the goals of the individual sector or ministry. This means that for the ministries, 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 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.

The portfolio is mainly funded by the Ministry of foreign affairs. 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 numerous earmarkings, and the distribution of the funding for development research is delegated to NORAD. 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.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is a long way in fulfilling its sector responsibility for research. There is still a need to strengthen global health research, following the budgetary cuts for R&D that came in the wake of the migration crisis in 2015. Other ministries, both those 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 in light of the Global Sustainability Goals, where every ministry has a responsibility to contribute both on a national and on a global level.