Leading scientists have called on investors and donors to ensure more equitable funding for research in low-resource settings (LRS). These are where diseases arise and often cause the most harm – but where research is rarely funded, so LRS scientists cannot contribute to key global health decision making. They warned that the world cannot afford a repeat of COVID-19, where less than 6% of the nearly USD 8 billion COVID-19 2020/21 research funding went to low- or middle-income countries for locally relevant research.
Leading scientists announced the launch of a global Coalition for Equitable ResearCh in Low-resource sEttings (CERCLE) at the 2023 Global Research Collaboration for Infectious Disease Preparedness (GLoPID-R), to ensure that future research is more equitable and relevant beyond COVID, and that scientists contribute to key global health decision making.
More than 900 CERCLE researchers (75% from low- and middle-income countries, previously part of the COVID-19 Clinical Research Coalition) believe the world must learn from COVID-19, as researchers in low-resource settings could not obtain sufficient funding for locally relevant research, and so did not contribute to key global health decision making. They are now calling for future medical tools (guidelines, devices, treatments, diagnostics, vaccines etc.) to be better researched and adapted to the people they affect, wherever they reside.
“If we want relevant research evidence to drive public health policies, global health emergencies must also involve clinical researchers, social scientists, policymakers and others from all affected regions.” Said Prof. Patricia Garcia, Latin America representative on CERCLE's Steering Committee, former Minister of Health in Peru and Professor at Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia. “During COVID-19, the epidemiology and disease varied widely across the world, but the so-called global research priorities were set by high-income countries, so were funded accordingly.”
“CERCLE’s strength lies in its unique membership of scientists, physicians and policymakers from nearly 100 countries, all share a vision of fairer global research and investment.’” said Prof. Mohammad Abul Faiz, a CERCLE’s Steering Committee member, based in Bangladesh. “Change will not come overnight, but we commit to a range of technical and political challenges to facilitate research so it is driven for and by people in low-resource settings. First this means recognizing the research capacity, experience, and expertise of the global South, but also participating in fair and equal research partnerships across the globe.”
The Coalition for Equitable ResearCh in Low-resource sEttings (CERCLE) came out of the COVID-19 Clinical Research Coalition and is pushing for more equitable investment in researchers in low-resource settings, as well as greater representation of these researchers and their research to develop policies and practices.