An article recently published in the September 12th issue of Science discusses the necessity of creating a global map of health R&D activities. The goal is to improve coordination of research and create a “global observatory” for health research.
The Science article states, “How to finance research and development where normal market forces are absent has been the focus of a number of studies organized by the World Health Organization (WHO), culminating in 2012 with a report that assessed the strengths and weaknesses of more than 100 new financing mechanisms (1). One of the issues that became clear in compiling this report was the absence of good data. There is no global health R&D map that provides a comprehensive picture of research funding, ongoing research, and results that could be used to guide the allocation of the limited available funding. Consequently, the member states of WHO have called for the establishment of a global observatory on health R&D to address this lack of information (2).”
While a truly comprehensive global health observatory is still years away, the World Health Organization recently created a database, the World Research -Portfolio Online Reporting Tool (World RePORT), which constitutes an important first step toward this goal. Released last year, the beta version of World RePORT was initially limited to research conducted in sub-Saharan Africa. However since then, a new funding organization has been added (the European & Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership; EDCTP) and coverage has been expanded to include NIH projects funded in 2013 and projects emanating from South Asia and East Asia/Pacific regions of the world.
As existing funders update the database with projects funded in 2013 across this expanded set of regions, the hope is that the database will help researchers build more effective networks and allow governments and donors to invest their time and money more strategically. Complete information from all ten current funders, as well as information on new organizations joining the World RePORT, will be available on the site soon.
As to the question of funding, the article explains: “As with many WHO projects of this type, it is a new activity and will require new and additional funding outside of its existing budget. A conservative estimate is that $11.5 million will be needed in the first 5 years to cover project staff and software development and to build capacity in those countries (the majority) that do not report health R&D data.”