The value of evidence for effective policymaking is precisely the reason why many foundations and bilateral agencies have invested for decades in research in the Global South, carried out by in-country, regional, and international research organizations, as well as academic centers around the world. For example, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the U.K. Department for International Development, the U.S. Agency for International Development, and many more have been steadfast funders of excellent — and even Nobel Prize-winning — research. While biomedical and public health studies account for the largest share of that support, funding has also gone to research in the physical, environmental, agricultural, and social sciences.
In this moment of crisis response, funders must act quickly to protect these key research investments and give them the opportunity to pay off.
So how can funders help? The Council on Foundations’ COVID-19 Commitment Pledge is a great start, but, in my view, these are the most urgent steps funders should be taking right now:
- Loosen or eliminate restrictions on any existing funding. This crisis is changing daily, sometimes hourly. If you trusted the organization enough to give them a grant, trust them now to respond quickly.
- Communicate with funded organizations. Reach out to research organizations you fund and ask how you can help, including things as simple as making connections between organizations or other partners (such as experts, local officials, or professional colleagues) who might be able to work together.
- Communicate with the public. One of the reasons it is challenging for public funders like bilateral aid agencies to relax funding constraints is a concern about recriminations from the media and taxpayers around perceived lack of accountability. This risk can be mitigated by proactive communication about the value of the research — past, present, and future — for an informed pandemic response. There is now heightened awareness about the importance of expertise and how making investments in relevant research visible can bolster, rather than undermine, public support for this type of funding.
- If you have the capacity, make additional funding available — and optimized for speed. If you have a fund for experimental ideas, pilot funding, or a rainy-day fund, now is the time to use it. This is the rainy day.
Read the full article about global research by Ruth Levine at The Center for Effective Philanthropy.