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Collaborative One Health Research Initiative on Epidemics (COHRIE): Call for Concept Notes

Overview

Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC) is pleased to announce a new funding opportunity to understand and demonstrate how One Health research on emerging epidemic threats can help to protect the health and livelihoods of vulnerable populations, strengthen local food systems, and promote environmental sustainability.

This Call for Concept Notes will fund multi-institutional One Health research projects in geographic hotspots for emerging epidemics as well as regions which are characterized by human, animal, and environmental drivers of infectious epidemics, such as unsustainable environmental and land-use patterns, loss of biodiversity, and increasing interaction between humans and wildlife.

Research projects funded through this Call will be expected to produce stronger localized evidence on the root drivers that underpin emerging epidemics; strengthen structures, programs, and policies to enhance the prevention, preparedness, and response to epidemics; and facilitate the uptake and use of this evidence into national and global programs, policies, and practices. Additionally, these projects will be expected to identify innovative approaches that increase the capacity of food, environmental, and health systems, particularly community systems and structures, to be resilient to current and future epidemic threats.

Concept notes are invited from research consortia that bring together the range of intersectoral and multi-disciplinary perspectives, capacities, and contributions needed to undertake One Health research in line with the objective and themes of this funding opportunity.

Geographic Focus: Proposed research must take place in one or more of the following countries from the following three regions:

  • Southeast Asia: Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam
  • Latin America: Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru, Suriname, and Venezuela
  • Central, East, and West Africa: Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Côte d'Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, and Uganda

Duration of research grants: 36 months

Budget: Between CA$2–5 million per project. A total of CA$16 million in funding is available for this funding opportunity.

Contact email: onehealthcall@idrc.ca

Deadline for submission: Monday, 5 April 2021 (17:00 Eastern Daylight Time)

Background and rationale

Over the past two decades, infectious epidemic threats have emerged with greater frequency and scale of impact, threatening to disrupt our collective health security and roll back decades of global development progress. Epidemics like SARS-CoV, H1N1, H5N1, MERS, Ebola, and COVID-19 have caused immeasurable damage in lost lives and livelihoods, in addition to collateral impacts to local economies, healthcare systems, and disruptions to regional and global health security. These epidemics have also exacerbated social and gender inequalities, leading to devastating impacts for women, children, and other vulnerable and marginalized groups.

Epidemics commonly emerge at the human-animal-environment interface (the majority emerging from domestic animals and wildlife) and are driven by multiple factors including growing and increasingly mobile populations, agricultural intensification, changes in land use patterns, increased human-wildlife contact, increases in demand for animal-source products, and widespread environmentally unsustainable activities.

Against this backdrop, there is renewed and increasing global interest in strengthening epidemic preparedness and response particularly in existing and potential “hotspots” of infectious disease outbreaks. Situated in tropical and sub-tropical regions, these hotspots tend to be concentrated in low- and middle-income countries (LMIC) where wildlife biodiversity is high, land-use changes are occurring, and where human population is dense and growing rapidly. These demographic, environmental, and epidemiological factors play a critical role in driving the emergence of infectious threats. These LMIC hotspots are therefore some of the most important and cost-effective sites for developing and implementing policies and programs to build local capacity and infrastructure that can pre-empt, control, and mitigate the threat of infectious epidemics.

It is known that the emergence and transmission of infectious epidemics in hotspots are often driven by a range of factors linking issues of livelihoods, sociocultural practices, agricultural systems, and human interactions with wildlife and natural environments. Thus, for epidemic prevention and response programs targeting hotspots to be successful, they must apply an intersectoral, multidisciplinary, and systems-based approach to research, policy, and actions at the human-animal-environment interface. This approach is known as One Health. However, while a One Health approach is theoretically attractive, significant barriers remain to its implementation especially in LMICs where other health and development priorities compete for attention and funding.

One specific and critical barrier to the widespread adoption of One Health approaches is limited investment in evidence generation and knowledge translation. This is compounded by institutional and disciplinary siloes between researchers and practitioners in public health, veterinary, agricultural, and environmental sectors. Furthermore, systemic and structural barriers between researchers, communities, local health actors, and policymakers impair the use and uptake of localized and relevant evidence into policy and practice changes at national and international scales.

To date, there have been few examples of successful national and international policies, programs, and practices that use a One Health approach to prevent the emergence of infectious diseases or to strengthen preparedness and response capacities that mitigate and control these diseases before they grow and spread to become epidemics or global pandemics. There is also a lack of technical and operational knowledge of how such policies, programs, and practices can be designed and implemented appropriately, sustainably, and equitably at different scales (from local community actions to those involving national and international mechanisms), and how they can involve and empower populations that are the most vulnerable to the impacts of emerging epidemics.

Objectives

The objective of this Call for Concept Notes is to support implementation research that applies a One Health approach to identify, implement, and assess potential innovations in policies, programs, or practices that can support countries in better preventing, preparing for, and responding to emerging infectious epidemics.

This Call aims to address this overarching research question:

  • How can equitable and localized One Health research on emerging epidemic threats help to protect the health and livelihoods of vulnerable populations, strengthen local food systems, and promote environmental sustainability?

This Call will fund multi-sectoral One Health research projects that can provide insights to this overall question. Research projects are expected to produce stronger localized evidence on the root drivers underlying emerging epidemics; strengthen structures, programs, and policies to enhance the prevention, preparedness, and response to epidemics; and facilitate the uptake and use of this evidence into national and global programs, policies, and practices.

Scope of the Call

Applications are required to address topics relevant to at least one of the following themes. Please note that applications may propose research questions that fit under more than one theme:

Theme 1: Understanding and addressing intersectoral drivers of epidemics

Comprehensive One Health research is needed to investigate the interactions between the environmental, animal (domestic and wildlife), and human health dimensions of epidemics. Although factors such as agricultural intensification, loss of biodiversity, and demographic pressures are widely thought to drive the emergence and spread of infectious epidemics, the epidemiological and causal mechanisms underlying these relationships remain unclear. For instance, it is still unclear how environmental changes such as deforestation, changing agricultural production systems, and food consumption practices in LMICs, may promote epidemics. The linkages between epidemics, smallholder farming, and informal food systems versus larger, intensified agricultural systems also merit much closer study. Finally, more research is also needed to understand and demonstrate how a One Health approach can be used to prevent or mitigate epidemics, by promoting sustainable and equitable changes in community behaviours, policies, and practices.

Theme 2: Identifying and developing structural, systemic, and policy level interventions

An integral focus of this initiative is understanding the systemic and structural changes that are needed in agricultural, health, and food systems to promote greater LMIC resilience against epidemics. In addition to high-quality knowledge generation, support is also needed to inform and strengthen evidence-informed decision-making to improve local, national, and international policies and practices. This includes the identification, implementation, and evaluation of governance and coordination mechanisms that promote the development and implementation of multi-sectoral One Health policies and actions. It is also critical to understand how policy change can address the socio-economic, cultural, and environmental determinants of epidemics, particularly with respect to gender roles and responsibilities. How can agricultural, food, and health policies and programs enhance gender equality and social inclusiveness, and better engage and protect vulnerable populations against epidemics? Furthermore, this theme includes understanding how systems- and community-based interventions (such as interventions that influence social and cultural norms and practices, health promotion, and economic compensation mechanisms) can be implemented successfully to reduce transmission and improve control of epidemics.

Theme 3: Strengthening data systems for enhanced multisectoral communication, coordination, and collaboration

Under this theme, applicants are invited to propose research on how to establish and operationalize relevant, comprehensive, timely, accessible, and usable data systems that can detect, monitor, and respond to human health, animal health, and environmental threats. Guidance is needed on how to integrate gender and inclusion-oriented considerations into local surveillance and data systems as part of preparedness and response efforts to epidemics. Under this theme, applicants are also encouraged to investigate the role, effectiveness, and feasibility of technological innovations, such as artificial intelligence systems, in strengthening public health surveillance and data systems for a One Health approach to epidemic preparedness and response. Applications could also explore potential innovations in data systems, such as how civil identity systems can be synergized with agricultural livestock identification and tracking systems, to strengthen the early detection and response of emerging epidemics connected to agricultural farming systems.

Other key considerations

In addition to proposing research that aligns with one or more of the above themes, proposals must clearly describe the following:

  • How will the project involve multisectoral consortia in order to facilitate the uptake and use of evidence into national and global programs, policies, and practices? Preference will be given to projects that include substantive intellectual contributions and participation by local, national, and/or regional policymakers.
  • How will the project embed a social and gender equality perspective? Please see Annex A for more guidance on this challenge.
  • How will the project promote interdisciplinary networks that contribute to build research capacity and leadership in LMICs?

Finally, this Call is being launched amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Recognizing that the pandemic is likely to take several more months to resolve, applicants are encouraged to submit ideas that consider the immediate and long-term impacts of the pandemic on regional and local food, environmental, and health systems. Research is sought on innovative solutions that increase the capacity of food, environmental, and health systems, particularly community systems and structures, to be resilient to current and future epidemic threats.

Out of scope

In order to maintain a strategic and focused approach within this large and complex field, the following types of projects are outside the scope of this Call and will not be reviewed:

  • descriptive research that does not contribute novel findings nor adds to the understanding, response, or surveillance of infectious epidemics;
  • research solely focussed on food systems that is not connected to the understanding, response, or surveillance of infectious epidemics;
  • purely epidemiological, public health, or health systems research that does not incorporate a One Health approach;
  • research that exclusively focuses on one of the One Health domains (human, animal, and environmental health) and does not explore its relationships to the other domains; and
  • purely clinical or biomedical studies

Eligibility requirements

Geographic focus

This Call will support research conducted in known geographic hotspots for emerging epidemics as well as regions which are characterized by human, animal and environmental drivers of infectious epidemics, such as unsustainable environmental and land-use patterns, loss of biodiversity and increasing interaction between humans and wildlife.

Only applications which propose research in the following regions and countries will be eligible for funding consideration:

  • Southeast Asia: Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam
  • Latin America: Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru, Suriname, and Venezuela
  • Central, East, and West Africa: Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Côte d'Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, and Uganda

Team composition

Eligible projects will be undertaken by multi-institutional research consortia that bring together the range of intersectoral and multi-disciplinary perspectives, capacities, and contributions needed to achieve One Health research at the human-animal-environment interface.

Consortia should consist of at least two organizations (and/or networks) that integrate complementary knowledge and expertise. Consortia should be led a research institution with experience in leading or working within consortia or networks of researchers, policymakers, and practitioners, and in supporting communities of practice or centres of excellence.

In addition, consortia are expected to consist of researchers, community organizations, practitioners, and policy actors that will work toward achieving commonly defined research objectives, assessing progress of work, and evaluating project results.

Research consortia will be expected to have a track record of strong research leadership in LMICs and proven experience in building multi-stakeholder partnerships to identify and assess solutions with measurable impact. This body of work should be based in two or more of the following areas of work: human health, animal health, food systems, and environmental sciences, and between multiple actors (government, civil society, business, academia, and non-profit organizations).

Grant structure and funding conditions

Eligible research consortia must identify a Lead Applicant Organization which will assume responsibility for managing grant funds, including developing and administering funding arrangements with the other organizations in the consortium.

For proposals selected for funding, IDRC will only enter into a funding agreement with the identified Lead Applicant Organization. The Lead Applicant Organization must have a legal corporate registration in an eligible LMIC country as defined by the 2020 DAC List of ODA recipients and must be legally eligible to conduct research in the eligible study countries (see the Geographic focus section above).

A member of the research team based in the Lead Applicant Organization should serve as the Principal Investigator. This individual must be a citizen or permanent resident with a primary work affiliation in an LMIC. Please see Annex B for more information on minimum requirements to receive an IDRC grant. 

Other organizations in the research consortium will serve as Co-Applicant Organizations or Third-Party Organizations.

Co-Applicant Organizations are direct partners in the research and jointly share with the Lead Applicant Organization the intellectual responsibility for and ownership of the knowledge and outputs produced.

International organizations are eligible to apply as Co-Applicant Organizations provided that they have regional chapters or offices with appropriate legal status to operate and manage funds in an eligible LMIC country.

Third-Party Organizations may provide support to a project by providing expert advice or consultancy services. Third-Party Organizations are not required to be located in an LMIC country. All proposals that involve Third-Party Organizations must clearly justify their involvement and explain their role(s). For more details including budget restrictions for Third-Party Organizations, please consult the Frequently Asked Questions site.

Note that United Nations organizations and CGIAR members already receive significant Canadian funds via other funding windows and therefore are only eligible to serve as third-party organizations or as consultants to a research consortium.

Budget and duration of research grants

Projects are expected to have a duration of 36 months and budgets of CA$2–5 million per consortium.

Evaluation Process

Proposals submitted to this competitive call will be evaluated through a two-stage selection process.

Stage 1

In the first stage, applicants must submit a concept note by the first deadline (see Key Dates section). Concept notes will be reviewed by IDRC to determine if the application meets eligibility criteria, is relevant to the Call themes, and meets quality standards for IDRC-funded research projects:

  • Eligibility
  • Thematic relevance and scope
    • Is the concept note aligned with the scope, and one or more of the thematic directions and key considerations of this Call?
  • Quality of the proposed research
  • Research merit and effectiveness
    • Does the concept note propose a gender-responsive research study? IDRC will not fund gender-blind or gender-unequal research.
    • Are the study design, objectives, research questions, methodology, and expected results sufficiently described?
  • Team strength, multi-disciplinarity, and collaboration
  • Project feasibility
  • Knowledge translation, use of results, and potential research impact

Concept notes that meet all eligibility criteria, are aligned with the themes and scope of the Call, and that meet research quality standards (as described above), will be invited to submit a full proposal. Note that an invitation to submit a full proposal should not be considered a guarantee of funding.

Stage 2

Invited applicants will be required to submit a full proposal by the second deadline (see Key Dates section). An external Scientific Review Committee composed of international and multi-disciplinary experts will evaluate and score full proposals for scientific and technical merit. Guidelines on preparing full proposals and a more detailed breakdown of these evaluation criteria will be provided to applicants invited to submit a full proposal. 

Following their individual reviews, the Scientific Review Committee will meet to discuss their reviews of each proposal, agree on a consensus score for each proposal, and prepare a ranked list of proposals recommended for IDRC funding.

Final selection

A final funding decision will then be taken by IDRC after applying the following considerations:

  • Overall merit of applications as informed by the scientific review committee
  • Balance of priority research themes among applications deemed of high merit
  • Geographic balance
  • Availability of funds
  • Internal approval requirements based on local risks identified

Required application details

Cover page

  • Project title
  • Country or countries where the research is taking place
  • Name and full address of the Lead Applicant Organization
  • Name, title, work affiliation, and email addresses of the study’s Principal Investigator and Co-Principal Investigators
  • Total amount of funding requested and project duration

Concept note content, 10 pages maximum

  • Brief problem statement
  • Overall and specific objectives of the project as they relate to the objective of the Call for Concept Notes (ensure that at least one objective has an explicit gender equality focus)
  • Brief methodology description, including study design, research questions, and methods
  • Clear rationale as how this research will align with:
    • The research themes covered in the Objectives section
    • The key considerations
  • Expected results and anticipated outcomes, including a clear explanation of how the project will achieve impact in improving policies and practices
  • Team composition and expertise (ensuring that your team has demonstrated capacities for gender responsive research)
  • Estimated budget (total amount with brief notes and justification)

Concept notes should outline the nature of the consortium and how partner organizations will work together. Shortlisted applicants that are invited to submit full proposals will be required to outline in their submission a knowledge management that fosters active engagement among all collaborating partners as well as a knowledge translation strategy for disseminating research findings with broader national and international stakeholder groups.

Applying to the Call

Full applications to this Call must be submitted online through the Survey Monkey Application platform here by 5 April 2021. Applications must be submitted in English or French.

Applications must consist of a concept note that may be written in English or French. The maximum length of the concept note is 10 pages if written in English or 12 pages if written in French. Concept notes should be written in 11-point Arial font, single spaced, and with normal 2.54 cm margins.  Concept notes should be organized according to the headings described above. 

Applications must also include the following supporting documents:

  • Signed letters of support from all organizations in the consortium
  • Signed letters of support from relevant government ministries or other key stakeholders, where appropriate
  • Short biographies or CVs of the Principal Investigator and Co-Principal Investigators

We will inform all applicants of a decision no later than 30 April 2021. Applicants will be notified by the given date on whether their application has been shortlisted to the next stage of the review process.  IDRC reserves the right to cancel the process at any time without prior notice and/or at its discretion to grant all or none of the awards under this Call. Moreover, grants will only be awarded subject to the availability of funding.

Key dates

Deadline for submitting concept note:    5 April 2021
Successful applicants will be invited to develop full proposals:  30 April 2021
Deadline for submitting full proposals, no later than:        7 June 2021
Unless otherwise notified, applicants will be informed of funding decision:     9 July 2021

Contact details

Any inquiries related to the Call and application process should be sent by e-mail to onehealthcall@idrc.ca

Annex A - Ensuring research ideas are rooted in social and gender equality

IDRC strives for equality in all aspects of its work. Inequalities exist across multiple and intersecting categories of identity, including, but not limited to, gender, sexuality, age, class, race, caste, ethnicity, citizenship status, religion, and ability.

Achieving equality varies by place and must be situated within the socio-cultural, political, and economic contexts in the different regions where IDRC works; similarly, inequalities are not static and can vary and change over time.

In order to develop a full and nuanced understanding of local health, environmental, and food systems, and entry points for promoting positive transformation through a One Health approach, it is critical for research projects to strongly consider investigating the roles of sex, gender, and other diverse identities and experiences and their relationship to the history, structures, and functioning of these systems, in so far as epidemic preparedness and control are concerned.

IDRC recognizes the importance of striking a balance between ambition and pragmatism. Actions to address gender and other social inequalities require doing the groundwork to interrogate and surface the ultimate root causes of inequality, while at the same time, changing gendered structural dynamics takes time, trust, and long-term commitments to policies and practices.

The questions below are intended to guide you in reflecting how your research is rooted in social and gender equality and how you can strengthen these dimensions in your proposal.

  1. Does your proposal intend to understand and address gender inequalities and their underlying causes?
  2. Do you have a stand-alone objective on addressing social and gender equality? How are other objectives framed in relation to addressing gender and inclusion?
  3. Is there a logical theory of change of how your research objectives will promote or lead to gender equality? What impact will your research proposal have on social and gender equality?
  4. In the context of your proposal, what are the power structures and power dynamics that exist between men and women, and other groups which underpin gender inequality? What are some possible avenues to address and change these conditions?
  5. How does your research problem affect men, women, boys and girls? How is this affected by identities or experiences such as race, ethnicity, socioeconomic class, income levels, where individuals live (e.g., rural, urban settings)?
  6. Do the members of your research team understand contextual gender issues? Do you have the right skills and experience in your consortium? Which of your team members will take the lead in designing, implementing, monitoring, and assessing your project’s objectives to address gender inequality and inclusion?
  7. Does your research team have a good balance between male and female scientists or other identities?
  8. Have you clearly budgeted for gender activities and staffing? Have you allocated sufficient time and resources to strengthen the capacity of your team, partners, and other stakeholders on gender and inclusion issues?
  9. Has your project identified clear outcomes and indicators with respect to social and gender equality? Are these integrated into project measurement tools? For example, do you plan to collect and analyze sex-disaggregated data? Have you planned to undertake a pre- and post-project gender analysis?

Please note that these are some assumptions that we have come across that are important to avoid in your proposal:

  • Assuming women or a certain group do a task so that they will benefit is not adequate. Instead, it will be important for your project to identify the gender inequality and outline steps by which your research will help re-define the power dynamic.
  • Adding “especially women and marginalized groups” after each of your objectives is not adequate – you must be able to define how gender dynamics are present in your research objectives. Research rigour and quality is critical.
  • Addressing gender in the project is not just the responsibility of the gender experts only – rather, the entire team must understand gender dynamics at play in your research.
  • Addressing gender takes real resources. Saying gender cannot be integrated because you don’t have resources is not acceptable. Budget resources for gender at the outset.
  • The woman in the team does not always qualify as the gender expert. Get real gender expertise and partnerships that bring in the necessary skills.

Annex B - Authorization Requirements

IDRC has conducted general agreements for scientific and technical cooperation with a number of governments. These agreements establish the framework for IDRC cooperation with that country by defining the rights and obligations of both IDRC and the government. As such, the applicant institution may be required to obtain approval from the host country in accordance with these agreements prior to receiving funding from IDRC. This requirement applies only for selected applications. IDRC reserves the right to not pursue the funding of a selected project if the country approval is not secured within six months after IDRC officially announces approval of the project as this would jeopardize the timely completion of the initiative.

Applicants must meet minimum requirements to receive an IDRC grant. Any selected proponents shall be required to sign IDRC’s standard Grant Agreement, as amended by IDRC from time to time. Furthermore, IDRC reserves the right to cancel the granting process at any time without prior notice and/or reserves the right to grant, at its discretion, all or none of the awards under this process. The grant agreement will provide a schedule for submitting interim and final technical and financial reports.