Skip to main content

Upcoming Monkeypox rapid response funding opportunity

July 13, 2022
The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and IDRC, on behalf of the Government of Canada, are supporting a rapid research response to outbreaks of Monkeypox in Canada and Africa. The Monkeypox Rapid Research Response competition will launch the week of August 1, 2022.
Monkeypox lesions on a hand and forearm.
Typical monkeypox lesions.

All applications must be co-led by Canadian and African researchers. The maximum grant available will be up to CAD3 million for a period of up to two years in the form of a single grant. This amount may increase if partner funding becomes available. A supplement to a grant or its renewal may be possible depending on the evolution of the Monkeypox outbreak. 

Since an interdisciplinary research response is important, this opportunity will include an expression of interest stage. All applicants must submit a summary of up to 250 words that describes the early thinking regarding their proposal and potential approaches to collaborate with both domestic and international researchers. 

More information on this competition is available on the CIHR website

AI for Global Health

June 30, 2022

Artificial Intelligence for Global Health (AI4GH) is a  five-year, CAD$15.5 million investment from IDRC. It funds researchers in the Global South to strengthen health systems by leveraging contextualized responsible artificial intelligence (AI) solutions to improve sexual, reproductive and maternal health for women and girls and support more effective and equitable preparedness and responses to epidemics and pandemics.

The challenge 

The use of AI is transforming how health systems are planned and how health services are delivered across low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) today. When AI solutions are implemented using people-centred and rights-based approaches, they can create efficiencies and improve health outcomes from public health monitoring to point-of-care services. AI also offers potential to support pandemic and epidemic preparedness, recovery and response.  

Despite the promise of AI to improve global health, there are important ethical, legal and social implications that, if not appropriately managed and governed, can translate into very real risks to individuals and populations. The current increase in demand for health-focused AI solutions in LMICs is not commensurate to the investments made to strengthen health systems, credible data, skilled individuals and requisite computing infrastructure.

The Initiative/Our Approach 

The AI4GH initiative supports work in the following areas:

  • Global network for implementation research on epidemic and pandemic prevention, preparedness and response: designing, implementing, using, scaling and governing contextualized and responsible AI innovations.  
  • Regional implementation research hubs on sexual, reproductive and maternal health: designing, implementing, using, scaling and governing contextualized and responsible AI innovations.  
  • Supporting responsible AI research and innovations: research and support on developing and deploying AI responsibly, including gender and intersectional analyses. 
  • Representative data sets from LMICs: on sexual, reproductive and maternal health. 
  • Commercialization of AI solutions: supporting early-stage businesses to go to market with their AI for health innovations.  
  • Knowledge Exchange and Translation: supporting collaboration, capacities and knowledge translation across all AI4GH projects to position for influence. 

Learn more: 

FAQs for Organizations (Hubs) Managing Regional Innovation Networks for Artificial Intelligence to Improve Sexual, Reproductive and Maternal Health (SRMH) Outcomes

1. Applications from which countries are eligible for funding?

This Call for Proposals is open to select individual organizations or groups of organizations headquartered in the respective regions (MENA, LAC and Asia) with preference given for organizations in low- and medium-income countries. Please see Annex 3 of the Call for eligible countries.

2. What is the geographic focus of the initiative?

For this initiative, individual organizations or groups of organizations must be headquartered in Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC), or the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).

3. Who can apply to this Call for Full Proposals?

This Call for Proposals is not open to individuals or government ministries and agencies, but it is open to public research institutes and public university centres, labs and departments.

4. If submitting as a consortium, who will submit the application to IDRC?

A consortium must identify one Lead Applicant Organization to submit the application, assume the responsibility for managing the IDRC grant funds and coordinate sub-granting arrangements with other organizations in the consortium.

5. The Call for Full Proposals expression of interest indicated that 6 to 10 innovation research projects will be supported. Are there guidelines on how the projects should be distributed between research and innovation?

No, this is something that can be determined by the hub as appropriate to achieve the outcomes of the network. The hubs should be selected from across the three regions Asia, LAC and MENA.

6. Is the three-consortium membership a fixed variable or can this number be larger?

Three is the maximum number of official members of a consortium. More collaborating institutions can be included in the network’s design; however, these institutions will not be officially recognized in the grant agreement. Also note that IDRC’s contractual agreement will only be signed with the Lead Applicant Organization. The other two organizations will be considered sub-grantees.

7. What is the duration of the funding?

Funding for the research will be provided for a maximum of 36 months.

8. When will applicants be informed of the outcome?

Applicants will be notified no later than September 16, 2022, on whether their application was successful in moving to 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.

9. Where do we submit our application?

Please submit applications through this link by August 16, 2022. Applications will not be accepted via email.

10. If we have questions, how can we get answers?

Any inquiries related to the AI4GH Initiative Call and application process should be sent by e-mail to AI4GH@idrc.ca. Inquiries for which answers can be found by a careful read of the Call document or associated documents will not receive a response. Important new questions and answers will be added to this list.

11. Can overhead costs be included in the total project budget?

IDRC expects grantees to absorb the overhead or administrative costs of a project as part of its IDRC grantee contribution. Where an organization has a supportable indirect costs recovery policy, IDRC may allow indirect costs (see below) of up to 13% of all IDRC grantee-administered costs. The indirect cost rate proposed in the budget should not exceed the grantee’s organizational rate and should be verifiable.

Where a project includes sub-IDRC grantees who are administering a portion of the project, the maximum contribution may be shared between the proposing institution and the collaborating institution, but it should never exceed 13% of the total budget in aggregate.

12. Is there a specific format and content for applying to the Call?

Yes, this is described in the Call for Proposals document. Annexes are excluded from the maximum page numbers.

Project duration should be presented in months.

13. Should the budget currency be in Canadian dollars?

The total amount of funding requested by the Lead Applicant Organization should be presented in its working currency and its equivalent in Canadian dollars. The amount of funding being requested by the Canadian Co-applicant should be presented in Canadian dollars.

14. Is co-funding required?

No. Co-funding is not required for this Call. Nevertheless, for those applicants that are selected to receive a grant, IDRC’s policy on local contributions will apply as follows:

  • Any applicant selected to receive IDRC funding will be required to make local contributions to the project.
  • Local contributions represent cash amounts expended by the applicant from its own resources, from private grants or from grants received from local, provincial or national authorities for the purpose of the project.
  • In-kind contributions may include salaries of regular staff, as well as equipment and infrastructure and overhead costs.
  • Cash and/or in-kind contributions should be reflected in the project budget.

15. Will I receive reviewers’ comments on my application?

Only applications that meet all eligibility criteria and move on to the External Review Committee will receive comments on their applications.

Call for Proposals: Organizations (Hubs) Managing Regional Innovation Networks for Responsible Artificial Intelligence to Improve Sexual, Reproductive and Maternal Health (SRMH) Outcomes

A photo illustrating the application of artificial intelligence to health

Full proposals must be received no later than August 16, 2022, at 11:59 pm Eastern Daylight Time (EDT). Please note the deadline has been extended until August 16th, and the selection process will be delayed by one week.

The International Development Research Centre (IDRC) is pleased to announce a Call for Proposals to select up to three institutions to establish regional hubs to manage networks in Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC), and the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). Each hub will be managed by an institution (or consortia of institutions) based in the region and will develop a regional research network based on a competitive selection process focused on advancing sexual, reproductive and maternal health (SRMH) outcomes using responsible Artificial Intelligence (AI) approaches and solutions.

About IDRC, the Program Divisions and the Focus Area

IDRC is a Crown corporation created in 1970 by the Parliament of Canada. IDRC supports and strengthens the capacity of people and institutions in developing countries to undertake the research that they identify as most urgent. It works with researchers and research users as they confront contemporary challenges within their own countries and contributes to global advances in their fields.

The Centre’s 10-year strategy, Strategy 2030, affirms IDRC’s vision for a more sustainable and inclusive world and commits the Centre to the following mission: IDRC will be a leader in research for development, investing in high-quality research and innovation, sharing knowledge for greater uptake and use, and mobilizing alliances for more sustainable, prosperous, and inclusive societies. (Please refer to IDRC’s Strategy 2030 for more information.)

In the context of this strategy, we identified the following five programs that will shape IDRC’s work over the next decade — making knowledge a tool for improving lives across the developing world:

  • Climate-Resilient Food Systems
  • Democratic and Inclusive Governance
  • Education and Science
  • Global Health
  • Sustainable Inclusive Economies

Gender equality and inclusion are central to all our programs. In the following sections, you will see how we plan to address this in all our programming.

This Call is a joint initiative of the Global Health and Education and Science programs. It seeks to leverage IDRC’s investments in AI and strengthening people-centred health systems to advance learning about how AI applications can be tested and scaled to advance outcomes related to sexual, reproductive and maternal health.

Overview of the Call

Background and rationale

The use of AI is showing promise in transforming how health systems are planned and health services are delivered across low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) today. Responsibly designed and implemented AI has the potential to contribute to improved global health outcomes. In the area of SRMH outcomes, AI applications have the potential to strengthen point-of-care services, inform diagnoses and provide personalized information based on real-time analysis of relevant data. For example, AI models and applications have been developed to support the early detection of pre-eclampsia and improve accuracy of HIV testing.

In lower-income countries, indicators for sexual, reproductive and maternal health — referred to by some more generally as sexual and reproductive health rights (SRHR) — are not on track to achieve Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 3: Good Health and Well-Being. Inadequate SRMH service provision has been linked with unintended pregnancies — including teen pregnancies — early and forced marriage, complications related to unsafe abortions, gender-based violence and increases in sexually transmitted infections. This is particularly pronounced for vulnerable groups such as adolescents, people living with disabilities, refugees and internally displaced populations. The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on SRMH outcomes such as access to essential services and support for survivors of gender-based violence. Gender inequality, the focus of SDG5, is a central challenge for women and girls to overcome, especially in matters related to sexuality and reproduction.

Despite the promise of AI to improve SRMH outcomes, there are important ethical, legal and social risks that need to be appropriately managed, mitigated and governed. For example, harmful biases can be integrated into algorithms, which can translate into biased public health messaging, diagnoses and treatment protocols. Furthermore, much of the data required to develop AI models to tackle SRMH challenges are non-representative or inaccessible. The current increase in demand for health-focused AI solutions in LMICs is not commensurate with the investments being made to strengthen health systems, credible data, skilled individuals and requisite computing infrastructure.

Key objectives

Through this Call, up to three hubs will be set up and managed, one each in MENA, LAC and Asia. These hubs will be managed by a regionally based organization or consortium of organizations. Each of the hubs will be tasked with establishing, managing and supporting implementation research networks in their respective region. Setting up the network should consist of running an open call to select implementation research projects in the corresponding region working on or researching AI innovations for SRMH, with a typical approach being to select six to ten projects. It is expected that the selected projects will represent linguistic, gender and geographic diversity across the respective region; diversity across relevant areas of application of AI to SRMH; and diversity of relevant involved stakeholders (e.g., university researchers, start-ups, ministries of health, research-oriented think-tanks, consultancies, labs or community groups). The selected innovation research projects will receive funding and support as sub-grants for an implementation research project for a duration of at least 18 months.

The general objective of each of the three innovation research networks is to advance SRMH in MENA, LAC and Asia through implementation research promoting responsible development and deployment of AI innovations. By responsible, we are referring to AI innovations that are ethical, respect human rights, inclusive and contribute to environmental sustainability.

Specific objectives are to:

  1. Strengthen the body of multidisciplinary evidence emerging from LMIC-based researchers on how to develop and scale responsible AI innovations for improving SRMH in MENA, LAC or Asia.
  2. Build innovation research capacities in MENA, LAC or Asia to develop, deploy and scale responsible AI applications in “real world” settings to improve SRMH outcomes.
  3. Deepen understanding and informed practices to enhance gender and social inclusion and limit related biases in the design, implementation and use of AI solutions for SRMH.
  4. Influence AI and SRMH policies, practices and efforts to scale up and/or commercialize responsible AI solutions.

The primary responsibilities of the hubs include:

  • Developing and managing an open call for proposals process to select innovation research projects focused on using AI to improve SRMH outcomes;
  • Strengthening how gender equality and inclusion (GEI) and intersectional analysis are addressed in the innovation research projects, and ensure each research project team has the appropriate multidisciplinary experience required;
  • Supporting networking among selected research teams to strengthen knowledge exchange;
  • Harvesting and synthesizing outcomes related to health outcomes, innovation processes, strengthening GEI and scaling strategies;
  • Facilitating equitable engagement of women in research and leadership roles.

The exact nature of the role of the hubs is not fully determined to allow the proposing organization(s) to provide information on how they propose to add value to the regional networks to ensure that its outputs and outcomes are greater than the simple sum of individual research projects.

The hubs will also play an important role as part of a larger IDRC investment in AI for Global Health (AI4GH). This includes working with the other implementation research networks and innovation hubs in the other regions of the world. For example, we anticipate the need for hubs to collectively think about critical issues such as approaches to gender equality and inclusion, ethics and responsible scaling of AI innovations from early on the project cycle.

Indicative Scope of Work for Network Hubs

The following are indicative activities to be performed by the hubs, building on the primary responsibilities outlined above.

Setting up and managing the network:

  • Develop and run an open call for proposals for AI for SRMH innovation research;
  • Develop and manage a call review committee, made up of multi-disciplinary experts and ensuring equal engagement of men and women — with priority given to individuals based in the region where the hub is based;
  • Sub-grant to successful research teams that will carry out specific innovation research grants of up to 18 months;
  • Support the onboarding and inclusion of selected research teams to become members of the network; and
  • Interim and final technical and financial reporting to IDRC.

Support to network members:

  • Provide technical and methodological assistance to sub-grantees as required;
  • Ensure network members engage in responsible AI practices and approaches;
  • Plan and run network workshops and other network support activities designed to collectively tackle common issues and/or facilitate cross-project collaboration where appropriate;
  • Support network members in finding engagement opportunities with SRMH initiatives that may benefit from their research results and methods;
  • Facilitate sub-grantee reporting and harvesting of outcomes and stories of change; and
  • Connect sub-grantees to other resources (knowledge, financial, etc.) as required.

Provide for International collaboration and engagement:

  • Coordinate with other activities organized by the broader AI4GH program; and
  • Coordinate with IDRC and the other AI4GH projects to engage in global and multi-disciplinary exchange, organize joint initiatives and events as appropriate, and otherwise enable the impactful and responsible development of work at the intersection of AI and health.

Contribute to advancing knowledge and policy dialogues:

  • Support uptake and scaling of research for policy or practice change;
  • Require that all grantees openly release any data sets that are generated by the research project; and
  • Facilitate the production, communication and marketing of research outputs stemming from the network and ensure research publication in appropriate venues in accordance with IDRC’s Open Access Policy.

Funding scope and duration

As a result of this Call, a grant of up to CAD1,225,000 will be issued for the hubs in Asia and LAC, and a grant up to CAD750,000 will be issued for a hub in MENA. The project duration for each hub will not exceed 36 months, including all research activities and final reporting.

IDRC reserves the right to fund additional proposals from this Call if/when additional funding becomes available. 

IDRC is under no obligation to issue any funds prior to the applicant returning a fully executed Grant Agreement to IDRC. 

All grants are subject to sufficient funds being made available to IDRC by the Parliament of Canada.

IDRC reserves the right to cancel this Call for Proposals at any time without prior notice and/or to not issue any grants under this process.

Eligibility criteria

Only proposals that meet the eligibility criteria will be considered.

This Call for Proposals is open to select individual organizations or consortia headquartered in the respective region (MENA, LAC and Asia) with preference given for organizations in LMICs (see Annex 3  for a complete list).

Note that this Call for Proposals is not open to individuals or government ministries and agencies, but it is open to public research institutes and public university centres, labs and departments.

This Call is purposely limited to selected institutions or consortia, and IDRC reserves the right to reject proposals from institutions not directly targeted.

The following eligibility criteria also apply:

  • Have a proven record of working in relevant region (MENA, LAC or Asia) and supporting research on the design, development and scaling of AI and SRMH innovations in these contexts.
  • Internal expertise in AI, SRMH innovations and health systems strengthening from at least one partner institution or demonstrated ability to collaborate on these issues via a consortium.
  • Ability to work in English and the working languages of the region (e.g., Spanish for LAC) at a minimum. Other languages are considered an asset.
  • Ability to transfer funds to other countries within the region.

Applicants must have independent legal status (or “legal personality”) and be capable of contracting in their own right and name, receiving and administering funds, and have authority to direct proposed project activities. Applicants must be able to demonstrate legal status through written documentation. Legal status will only be reviewed if and when applicants are selected following technical selection.

In additional to standalone institutions, transdisciplinary consortia are encouraged to apply. Consortia may consist of up to three (3) organizations. In case of a consortium, the proposal needs to provide a rationale explaining why the consortium has come together to implement this innovation research and describe the role and added value provided by each member organization. Consortia must describe the governance and coordination arrangements they will use to produce high quality work and support fair and equitable partnerships.

In case of a consortium application, individual members can be based in different countries and the non-leading members may be based in countries other than those included in Annex 3. However, the leading institution can only be based in an eligible country (see Annex 3). IDRC will enter into a contractual agreement with the designated lead institution only, and that institution will need to specify their arrangements with other consortia partners within their budgets (either as sub-contractors or sub-grantees).

Submission process

IDRC invites eligible applicants to submit an electronic application through the SurveyMonkey application platform for this Call before the deadline.

  • Applications must be received no later than August 16, 2022, at 11:59 pm EDT. Applications received after the deadline will not be considered.
  • Applications can be submitted in English, French or Spanish.

An acknowledgement of receipt of your submission will be sent to all applicants whose application was received before the closing date and time.

Format and requirements for proposals

Applications should be concise and be presented in single-spaced, 12-point Arial font text, with a maximum length of up to 15 pages (not including the abstract and annexes).

The application form for this Call for Proposals includes seven (7) fields that applicants will need to complete.

Section 1. Contact information 

Please provide the contact information of the lead organization and proposed head of the hub.

Section 2. Abstract

Please provide a short abstract of the project, which should not exceed 250 words. It should be written clearly for a non-technical audience. Avoid acronyms and technical jargon. Describe the development problem, the purpose/objectives of the project and expected results in the form of project outputs and outcomes.

Section 3. Research problem(s) and justification

This section describes the potential range of problem(s) and or problem area(s) that could be investigated and the questions that will guide the innovation research conducted by the networks. It should also provide a brief overview of the body of research related to the problems and indicate the gaps that the network proposes to fill.

To show the importance of the problems, this section should discuss: how the proposed research network relates to the intersection of AI and the sexual, reproductive and maternal health development priorities in the respective region; the scientific importance of the problem(s); the magnitude of the problems and how the research will contribute to their solution; and the need to build up research capacity in the proposed area of research. This section is usually about one quarter of your proposal.

Section 4. Objectives

This short section (no more than half a page) should provide both the general and specific objectives of the research. The general objective should state the development goals being pursued by the research. 

The specific objectives should indicate the specific types of knowledge to be produced, the audiences to be reached and forms of capacity to be reinforced. These are the objectives against which the success of the project will be judged. Use only active verbs. 

Section 5. Methodology

Describe your plan to set up, support and manage the innovation research network including potential thematic priorities (or how you would determine them). This section should list key research questions the network will seek to address and show how they will be answered in the most rigorous way possible. You must be clear about what activities are envisaged and how they will contribute to achieve each objective and define the budget in terms of these activities. The methodology should discuss the following details, as appropriate:

  • Network development and support. Discuss the set of activities that will be taken to develop and support a research and innovation network across countries in MENA, LAC or Asia.
  • Technical and methodological assistance to research members. Indicate how the project will support the selected members of the implementation research network, such as in the areas of intersectional gender analysis, health systems strengthening, AI and machine learning support, research communications, research ethics, innovation design and development, and deployment.
  • Responsible innovation. Discuss your approach to ensure that the innovations being developed and deployed by network members are ethical, inclusive, rights-respecting and sustainable. 
  • Gender equality and inclusion considerations. Indicate how gender equality and inclusion considerations will be integrated into the project and how the network design will address intersectional issues that women, girls and other marginalized groups experience. See Annex 1 for further guidance.
  • Diversity and inclusion. The innovation research network must display sensitivity to, and respect for, local voices, knowledge and contexts. Discuss mitigation strategies to reduce risks for vulnerable groups that are not included or represented, as well as fragile institutions, systems and contexts.
  • Ethical considerations. All research that includes human subjects must ensure that their privacy, dignity and integrity are protected. An independent ethical review committee must approve the protocols. Projects that will collect corporate or personal information must detail how informed consent will be obtained and confidentiality maintained.
  • Climate and environmental impact. How will you ensure the research supported by the network is managing or mitigating the environmental impacts of machine learning (e.g., in terms of quantitative estimates of greenhouse gas emission reductions, or other relevant quantitative or qualitative assessments).
  • Collaboration with regional and/or international institutions. If you envisage regional or international collaborations, give the reasons for the collaboration, describe the role, and added value provided by each member organization and specify the governance and coordination arrangements that will be used to support fair and equitable partnerships. Note that concrete elements of collaboration with the Feminist Artificial Intelligence Research Network will be discussed with the winning recipient — and we will be providing information to support that work as well. 
  • Contribute to advancing knowledge and policy dialogues. Discuss the set of proposed activities taken by the hub and members that will advance knowledge in AI and gender inclusion and equality in MENA, LAC and Asia.

Section 6. Results and dissemination

Define the major outputs and outcomes expected from the research and how the research findings will be disseminated or implemented. Discuss how the research results are likely to be used, what their expected impacts (outcomes) might be and any obstacles to the execution of the research or the eventual use of the results. 

A theory of change can be included in this section if desired.

It is important to keep IDRC's open access policy and open data statement of principles in mind when developing your communication plan. This should include not only the research outputs themselves but also, whenever possible, the data that is created and used for training and education. 

Section 7. Project schedule

The project schedule should include a list of key outputs (key events or deliverables) and outcomes that can be related to the items included in the project budget.

As part of the application process, applicants will also be required to submit the following individual/institutional documents:

  • Budget in local currency:
    • To be prepared and submitted based on the budget template.
    • As a guide, please consult the budget considerations.
    • IDRC does not provide grants for basic operating expenses, endowments or facilities for individual school districts, colleges, universities or human services organizations. It does not generally make grants to individuals or make program-related investments. No curriculum projects within individual schools or colleges are supported.
  • Institutions and personnel:
    • A copy of the legal or corporate registration of the organization with whom the applicant is affiliated.
    • An attestation of your organization's capacity to manage a grant of this size and complexity (largest grants managed to date, compliance with other donor reporting and legal requirements, ability to manage third parties, foreign funds and disbursements).
    • Names of proposed principal investigator (PI), research institutions and study team.
    • For each member of the core research team, this should include information on their respective expertise and previous work in this area.
    • As an annex, letters of commitment from the leading and collaborating institutions interested in participating and a description on how the different partners, key stakeholders and institutions will collaborate in the initiative.
  • The CVs (in an annex) of the principal investigator and proposed team members.
  • Letters of other institutions willing to collaborate or supporting the study should be attached.
  • IDRC’s institutional profile questionnaire must be completed, signed and submitted along with the proposal. 

Applicants whose proposals are selected to recommend for funding will be required to provide additional documentation prior to confirmation of funding of their projects, as outlined in Annex 2.

IDRC reserves the right to rescind its selection of a project if it is deemed that the information provided in the application is false or misleading.

Evaluation Criteria

Proposals will be evaluated by AI4GH Review Committee based on the following criteria:

Review criteria

Weight

I. Network objectives and design

  • Well-thought-out objectives that are relevant in the local/regional context and can make lasting contributions to the field. 
  • Logical plan to establish, support and manage the innovation research network on responsible AI for Health innovations.
  • Approach ensures gender equality and inclusion with special attention to intersectionality. A clear knowledge translation strategy.

25% 

II.  Knowledge and expertise on research and innovations for SRMH

  • Demonstrated experience engaging in SRHM rights and services, health systems strengthening, and AI innovations (expertise can be shared among different consortium members), or strong experience in one with proven track record of collaborations in the other domains.
  • Experience and learning about scaling pathways in AI innovations for SRMH innovations.
  • Connections with local, regional and global research and policy communities relating to SRMH and AI.

25% 

III.  Knowledge and expertise in supporting research and/or innovation networks.

  • Demonstrated experience running collaborative research activities and/or networks.
  • Experience managing calls for proposals.
  • Proven ability to support and guide researchers and innovators.
  • Ability to facilitate cross-grantee learning and knowledge exchange through participatory mechanisms both virtually and face-to-face.
  • Evidence that the organization has the basic systems, resources and management capacities to set up and run a pan-regional innovation research network

25%

IV.  Expertise in synthesis and knowledge mobilization.

  • Proven processes to harvest outcomes and results.
  • Ability to design and conduct high-impact research syntheses.
  • Experience in designing and developing products that support knowledge sharing and use such as high -quality practitioner or policy-maker oriented outputs, toolkits and rapid knowledge syntheses.
  • Experience in knowledge mobilization for policy and practice improvement.

15% 

IV. Budget 

  • Clear and coherent plans for the use of available funding, appropriate for the proposed activities

10% 

Selection process

Responding to this Call is the first step in the application process for potentially securing funding for your proposal.

Applications will first be screened for eligibility using the eligibility criteria outlined above.

Eligible proposals will then be assessed by the AI4GH Review Committee. This committee is comprised of IDRC program staff and external reviewers from different related disciplines, including with expertise in SRMH, gender, diversity, and inclusion, public health, health systems strengthening, AI, knowledge translation and/or knowledge users, who will assess the applications according to the evaluation criteria outlined above.

The AI4GH Review Committee will then make a recommendation to IDRC Management to fund the selected application.

Following the selection by IDRC Management, successful and non-successful applicants will receive notification of the results by September 16, 2022

Successful proposals may receive specific comments from the reviewers to be addressed, including suggested budgetary adjustments.

The technical selection of a proposal does not constitute a formal commitment by IDRC to fund the project. Applicants whose proposals are selected for a recommendation for funding will undergo an institutional assessment. This step assesses the potential risk of material loss of IDRC funds due to weaknesses in the capacity of an applicant’s institution to manage or report on the financial aspects of project activities, or because of economic and political conditions relating to the institution's operating environment. IDRC needs to review three broad areas in its assessment of what measures should be applied to minimize such risk: the materiality of the investment, the management capacity of the applicant’s institution and the wider environment within which the organization operates.

IDRC will have no obligation to issue any funds prior to the applicant returning an executed Grant Agreement issued to them by IDRC.

The process for finalizing the project proposal, budget and administrative documentation is expected to take place between August and October 2022.

Outline of the selection process for proposals:

Proposals

  1. The Call is launched.
  2. Proposals are submitted by the deadline.
  3. Late applications are eliminated.
  4. Incomplete and ineligible applications are eliminated.
  5. The AI4GH Review Committee will read and score the proposals based on the evaluation criteria (see below). The Program Divisions may need to consider regional and geographic balance, thematic balance of the proposals, including network strategies, as well as a strong focus on gender.
  6. A slate of applicants is prepared, based on the proposal scores, and those selected are asked to finalize their proposal in response to the feedback from the AI4GH Review Committee. (Please note that the technical selection of a proposal at this stage does not guarantee that it will be funded by IDRC.)
  7. IDRC conducts an institutional assessment of each applicant invited to finalize a proposal.
  8. For Calls for Proposals, senior management at IDRC makes the final decision based on the recommendations of the Review Committee, the evaluation criteria and a consideration of the institutional assessment.
  9. Successful applicants are asked to make necessary amendments to their proposals, including budgets and administrative documentation.
  10. Applicant completes any applicable country approval procedures.
  11. IDRC and the applicant enter into a Grant Agreement.

Post-selection requirements

Proposal and budget finalization

Prior to finalizing a Grant Agreement, IDRC reserves the right to request any revisions to the submitted proposal and budget. A revised proposal with the necessary revisions must be returned to IDRC in a timely manner.

Country clearance requirements

In some cases, IDRC has scientific and technical cooperation agreements with the governments of the countries where we support projects. Where such agreements exist, IDRC may require additional or alternative approval processes to be followed to comply with such agreements. Otherwise, grantees must follow the prevailing approval procedure as required by the government authority. This is often administered by a coordinating or nodal agency of the government and varies by jurisdiction.

An IDRC grant administration representative will advise the selected applicant if any country procedures need to be followed. A grant agreement will only be issued if and once country clearance(s) is/are obtained. IDRC reserves the right to not pursue the funding of a selected project if the country approval is not secured within six (6) months after IDRC officially announces approval of the project, as this would jeopardize the timely completion of the initiative.

After an institutional assessment of an applicant’s organization is performed, IDRC may identify operational or financial weaknesses that could pose some administrative risks to the proposed project. In such cases, IDRC reserves the right to request that the applicant’s organization partner with another institution as a condition of receiving the grant.   

Sub-grantees

Country requirements that apply to sub-grantees are also documented in the grant agreement. It is the responsibility of the grantee to ensure that sub-grantees meet these requirements.

Country risk

IDRC funds research in locations that respond to the corporate and programmatic plans and objectives approved by IDRC’s Board of Governors. Project proposals and risk mitigation measures may need to be revised where:

  • project activities may be affected by legal restrictions on transferring funds or other resources to specific entities;
  • due to physical remoteness, physical risks to IDRC employees in particular regions or other inaccessibility factors prevent IDRC from properly monitoring and supporting the project; or
  • applicable laws and regulations prevent institutions from accessing funds. 

Grant Agreement

Any selected proponents must sign IDRC’s standard Grant Agreement to receive funds. Please refer to the Grant Agreement. The grant agreement will provide a schedule for submitting interim and final technical and financial reports. Although there is no limit on the number of co-applicants in one application, IDRC will only negotiate Grant Agreements with the organization of the lead applicant.

Timeline and communication of results

Please note the deadline has been extended until August 16th, and the selection process will be delayed by one week.

Submission process (approximately six weeks)

Call launch: June 30, 2022

Information session/webinars:

Deadline for submitting proposals; receipt of proposals acknowledged: August 16, 2022

Selection process (approximately five weeks)

Initial eligibility screening by IDRC: August 15, 2022

Ineligible applicants informed: August 19, 2022

Review by AI4GH Review Committee: September 5–9, 2022

Successful proposals informed they have been selected for potential funding contingent on meeting any specific conditions: September 16, 2022

Unsuccessful applicants notified, with a brief rationale of why: September 16, 2022

Applicants resubmit amended final proposals: September 23, 2022

Award

Approval of proposals: September 30, 2022

Information session, inquiries and FAQs

Following the launch of the Call for Proposals, IDRC will organize two information sessions to address any queries from potential applicants. These will take place on:

Any additional inquiries related to the Call and application process should be sent by e-mail to AI4GH@idrc.ca. All inquiries should be received before August 10, 2022, at 11:59 pm EDT to receive a response prior to the deadline date.

Any inquiries which affect all applicants received on or before the above-mentioned deadline will be added to the FAQs with IDRC’s responses to those inquiries without revealing the source of the inquiries.

Permission for use and disclosure of information

As a Canadian Crown corporation, IDRC is subject to Canada’s Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act. Consequently, any submissions in response to this Call for Proposals will be managed by IDRC in a manner consistent with applicable legislation and IDRC’s Privacy Policy, including IDRC's obligations to disclose documents requested by members of the public or requests for personal information. More information on how IDRC manages information in accordance with this legislation can be accessed here: https://www.idrc.ca/en/about-idrc/transparency/access-information-and-privacy.

Note that IDRC’s Privacy Statement for Competitive Calls must be submitted with the application (see required documents above).

Annex 1: Ensuring research ideas address gender equality and inclusion[1]

Annex 1 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 of the different regions where IDRC works. Equally, inequalities are not static and can vary and change over time.

To promote gender equality and inclusion, 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.

IDRC recognizes the importance of striking a balance between ambition and pragmatism. Actions to address gender and other inequalities require doing the groundwork to interrogate and surface the ultimate root causes of inequality; 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 addresses social and gender equality and inclusion, and how you can strengthen these dimensions in your proposal.

  1. Does your proposal intend to understand and address social and gender inequalities and their underlying causes?
  2. 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?
  3. In the context of your research problem, how is this affected by identities or experiences such as race, ethnicity, socio-economic class, income levels and where individuals live (e.g., rural, urban settings)?
  4. Is there a logical theory of change of how your research objectives will promote or lead to greater gender equality and/or inclusion? What impact will your research proposal have on these aspects?
  5. Do you have a stand-alone objective on addressing gender equality and inclusion? How are other objectives framed in relation to addressing gender equality and inclusion?
  6. How will the proposed conceptual framework(s), research design, and related research methods address, and analyze the root causes and context-specific factors contributing to intersectional forms of gender inequality? Which individuals and groups should be engaged in co-creating this research design and its implementation – to what extent and how will they be engaged?
  7. Has your project identified clear outcomes and indicators with respect to gender equality and inclusion? Are these integrated into project measurement tools? For example, do you plan to collect and analyze sex-disaggregated data? What about gender-disaggregated data? Have you planned to undertake a pre- and post-project gender analysis?
  8. Does the proposal’s knowledge translation plan integrate sex and gender considerations (including intersectionality) in how the iterative processes of engagement, analysis, synthesis, product development and knowledge facilitation are designed and operationalized?
  9. Do the members of your research team understand contextual gender equality and inclusion issues? Do you have the right skills and experience within your team? 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?
  10. Does your research team have a good balance between male and female scientists or scientists of other identities?
  11. Have you clearly budgeted for gender equality and inclusion 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?

Please note that these are some myths or assumptions that will be important to avoid in your proposal:

  • Assuming that women, or certain groups, do a task so that they will benefit is not adequate. Instead, it will be important for your project to identify any gender inequalities and outline steps by which your research will help re-define power dynamics.
  • 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.
  • The women on your team will not always qualify as the gender expert. Get real gender expertise and partnerships that bring in the necessary skills.
  • Equally, addressing gender in the project is not only the responsibility of these gender experts — rather the entire team must understand the gender dynamics at play in your research.
  • Addressing gender takes real resources. Saying gender cannot be integrated because you do not have sufficient resources is not acceptable. Budget resources for gender at the outset.

Annex 2: Institutional Assessment Documentation

Annex 2Successful applicants will be required to provide the following documents to allow IDRC to undertake an institutional assessment prior to confirmation of funding:

  1.  Most recent audited financial statements, including but not limited to:
    1. Balance Sheet, Statement of Income and Expenses or Profit and Loss, and Statement of Cash Flow;
    2. Notes to the Financial Statements;
    3. Audit Report;
    4. Any Management or Internal Control Letters, and related follow-up response.

*The latest financial statements duly authorized by a financial officer if an audited statement is not available.

  1. Current organizational chart.
  2. Human resources manuals.
  3. Finance and administration manuals.
  4. Policy/procedure for procurement.
  5. List of active external donors and their current contributions.
  6. Latest annual report.

Annex 3: List of eligible countries

Annex3 The lead organization must be headquartered in a low and lower-middle, and upper-middle income countries in MENA, LAC and Asia, as per the country classification of the World Bank. Eligible countries include the following:

Asia

Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC)

Middle East and North Africa (MENA)

American Samoa

Bangladesh 

Bhutan

Cambodia

China

Fiji

Indonesia

Kiribati

Lao PDR

Malaysia

Maldives

Marshall Islands

Mongolia

Nepal

Pakistan

Papua New Guinea

Philippines

Samoa

Solomon Islands

Sri Lanka

Thailand

Timor-Leste

Tonga

Tuvalu

Vanuatu

Vietnam

Argentina

Belize

Bolivia

Brazil

Chile

Colombia

Costa Rica

Cuba

Dominica

Dominican Republic

Ecuador

El Salvador

Grenada

Guatemala

Guyana

Haiti

Honduras

Jamaica

Mexico

Nicaragua

Panama

Paraguay

Peru

St. Lucia

St. Vincent and the Grenadines

Suriname

Algeria

Egypt, Arab Rep.

Jordan

Lebanon

Libya

Morocco

Tunisia

 

Closing the justice gap with research on legal empowerment

May 9, 2022

More than half of the world’s population is excluded from opportunities the rule of law provides, and 1.5 billion people cannot access support to resolve justice problems. IDRC supports research on legal empowerment strategies to address this growing justice gap and to promote vibrant civic spaces.

These strategies generally shift away from traditional models that involve lawyers, judges and courts to focus instead on community paralegals who help people understand and claim their rights. Many community-based justice strategies originated during earlier struggles to establish and strengthen democracy, for instance in South Africa, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Indonesia and the Philippines. IDRC-supported research assesses how such strategies can promote the respect for rights that is central to flourishing civic space and accountable governance despite challenges such as weakening political institutions and inequitable responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Following an open and competitive call for proposals, IDRC has invested CAD $5.8 million in eight research teams that are leading a people-centred examination of community-based justice approaches in 12 countries to strengthen democracy and protect human rights. Three of these teams will also serve as regional hubs (in West Africa, East and southern Africa and Southeast Asia) to link the research findings to broader learning and collective action in the legal empowerment community of practice.  

This research will contribute knowledge and evidence to a larger learning agenda on legal empowerment that is supported by IDRC partners Namati and the Legal Empowerment Network. The learning agenda focuses the efforts of hundreds of organizations on a set of common questions and comparative learning to address collective knowledge gaps. They seek to learn how grassroots legal empowerment strategies such as transforming institutions, achieving progressive policy reforms and addressing the structural causes of inequality and exclusion can change systems.   

Read about the projects in the Closing the Justice Gap initiative:

Namati and the Legal Empowerment Network will act as the global knowledge hub for this initiative. In collaboration with the regional hubs, they will coordinate shared learning efforts across the projects and organize joint activities at key points in the research process. 

Selected projects must complete IDRC’s grant approval process. 

Call for Concept Notes: Climate Adaptation and Resilience (CLARE)

Closed
Call for
Expressions of interest
Deadline
Programs
Climate-Resilient Food Systems
Climate Adaptation and Resilience
Duration
Up to 42 months
Topic(s)
Development
Environment
Countries
South Africa
Central African Republic
North Africa
South Asia
Far East Asia
Algeria
Angola
Bangladesh
Benin
Bhutan
Botswana
Burkina Faso
Burundi
Cambodia
Cameroon
Chad
Republic of Congo
Ivory Coast
Djibouti
Democratic Republic of the Congo
Egypt
Equatorial Guinea
Eritrea
Ethiopia
Gabon
Gambia
Ghana
Guinea
Guinea-Bissau
India
Indonesia
Kenya
Laos
Lesotho
Liberia
Madagascar
Malawi
Mali
Mauritania
Morocco
Mozambique
Myanmar
Namibia
Nepal
Niger
Nigeria
Pakistan
Papua New Guinea
Philippines
Rwanda
Senegal
Sierra Leone
Somalia
South Sudan
Sri Lanka
Sudan
Tanzania
Thailand
Togo
Tunisia
Uganda
Viet Nam
Zambia
Zimbabwe
Funded by
IDRC and the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO)
Budget
Smaller grants of up to CAD $1.5 million Larger grants between CAD $6–8 million
Point of contact
CLAREcalls@idrc.ca
Type
Grant
Status
Closed
Scope

IDRC and the United Kingdom’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office are pleased to announce a call for concept notes under the Climate Adaptation and Resilience (CLARE) initiative.  

The newly released Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Sixth Assessment Report on Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability underscores how climate change is increasingly and disproportionately affecting the world’s most vulnerable. It emphasizes the urgent need for adaptation and the critical need for solutions that cut across sectors and systems and address social inequities to enable a more climate-resilient future for everyone.    

CLARE aims to respond to this challenge. It is an ambitious initiative supporting research to enable socially inclusive and sustainable action to build resilience to climate change and natural hazards across Africa and Asia-Pacific. Given the scale and urgency required, in addition to generating research, CLARE will place significant emphasis on putting  knowledge and evidence into use. CLARE will deliver strengthened agency in the Global South to do and use research for adaptation action, as well as actionable adaptation solutions to support the most vulnerable. 

This call for concept notes seeks to identify transdisciplinary teams motivated to conduct action-oriented research related to one or more of CLARE’s three research themes:  

  • Understanding climate risk: Research to improve our understanding of the risks associated with climate and natural hazards, by addressing gaps in the underpinning science.   

  • Risk-informed early action: Research to improve risk-informed anticipatory action to reduce humanitarian and extreme impacts of weather, climate variability and the compounding and cascading interaction of natural hazards.  

  • Developing in a changing climate: Research to inform development in a changing climate; action that builds resilience in the present climate and adapts to future climate.   

Eligibility

This funding opportunity is open to transdisciplinary research teams working in eligible countries in Africa and Asia-Pacific. Please consult the detailed call document for more specific eligibility requirements.

More details

View the recording of the informational webinar on the CLARE call for concept notes.

For more information, please read the detailed call document for concept notes, and the related frequently asked questions

Read more about the CLARE initiative  

Smaller grants: https://idrc-crdi.smapply.io/prog/clare_smaller_grants  

Larger grants: https://idrc-crdi.smapply.io/prog/clare_larger_grants 

Upcoming funding opportunity: Climate Adaptation and Resilience (CLARE)

March 11, 2022
The Climate Adaptation and Resilience (CLARE) initiative is pleased to announce that its first public call for concept notes will be launched in April 2022. CLARE supports research to enable socially inclusive and sustainable action to build resilience to climate change and natural hazards across Africa and Asia-Pacific.
Women farming near the water
Panos pictures / Justin Jin

Announced during the 26th session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP26), CLARE is a partnership between IDRC and the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office. 

The recently released Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Sixth Assessment Report on Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability emphasizes the urgent need for adaptation, and the critical need for solutions that cut across sectors and systems to address social inequities and enable a more climate-resilient future for everyone.    

CLARE aims to respond to this challenge by maximizing the uptake of existing knowledge, driving development of new knowledge, strengthening capacities from research to action and supporting socially inclusive, practical action. 

Upcoming CLARE call for concept notes 

The first step will be a forthcoming call for concept notes aimed at identifying a short list of transdisciplinary teams motivated to conduct action-oriented research related to one (or more) of CLARE’s three research themes: 

  • Understanding climate risk: research to improve our understanding of the risks associated with climate and natural hazards, by addressing gaps in the underpinning science.  

  • Risk-informed early action: research to improve risk-informed anticipatory action to reduce humanitarian and extreme impacts of weather, climate variability and the compounding and cascading interaction of natural hazards.  

  • Developing in a changing climate: research to inform development in a changing climate; action that builds resilience in the present climate and adapts to future climate.  

CLARE seeks concept notes from teams that convene novel coalitions of actors — partnerships that include organizations that link research to action and may include universities, research institutions, non-governmental organizations, civil society groups, the private sector and knowledge-brokering organizations. Projects will also be expected to contribute to and participate in program-wide exchange and learning. 

The CLARE portfolio of projects 

CLARE aims to support a diverse portfolio of projects spanning the research themes mentioned above, and among eligible climate-vulnerable countries in Africa and Asia-Pacific. Selected projects will strengthen capacity to do and use research to respond to the climate-change challenge, and display strong southern leadership. Collectively, the portfolio will bridge the communities of humanitarian assistance, climate science and adaptation practice.  

As research for impact (R4I) is a core element of CLARE, it is anticipated that selected projects will have a strong focus on achieving impact. This should include a needs-oriented, solutions-focussed, transdisciplinary approach to co-producing knowledge, as well as the inclusion of knowledge-brokering expertise and strategy.  

Applications will need to outline how the proposed research will advance and inform socially inclusive action for adaptation and resilience to climate change and/or climate-related risks. Proposals must also consider gender equality and inclusion as integral to just and sustainable climate action. 

Funding available through this upcoming call 

There will be two sizes of funding available through this call, recognizing that opportunities to contribute to knowledge and action exist in different contexts, at different scales, and could involve various combinations of actors: 

  1. Smaller projects - for grants of up to CAD1.5 million for up to 42 months.  

  1. Larger projects - for grants of between CAD6 million and CAD8 million for up to 42 months. 

From this two-stage call (first for concept notes, followed by an invitation to short-listed teams to submit full proposals), we expect to fund roughly eight smaller projects and eight larger projects for a total of up to CAD56 million.   

The launch of the CLARE call for concept notes is anticipated in April 2022, with concept notes due eight weeks later. Full proposals will be due in September 2022.  

More information will be available when the call for concept notes is launched. If you have any questions about this upcoming funding opportunity, please contact us at CLAREcalls@idrc.ca

Further details on CLARE are available here

This upcoming call is anticipatory, and pending available funds.

IDRC and ICARS seek proposals for project on gender and antimicrobial resistance

February 25, 2022
IDRC is pleased to announce the release of a new request for proposals (RFP) in partnership with the International Centre for Antimicrobial Resistance Solutions (ICARS) for a research project on gender and antimicrobial resistance (AMR).
Profile of a bearded person with glasses holding up a cell culture dish in a laboratory setting with gloved hands.
IDRC/Bartay
A postgraduate student subcultures bacteria at the Institute of Bioscience, Universiti Putra Malaysia.

The organization whose proposal is successful will be commissioned for a year-long project to: 

  • synthesize current evidence and identify priority linkages related to gender and AMR research 

  • develop guidance on how to strengthen the gender inclusiveness of AMR intervention and implementation research projects in low- and middle-income countries, with a focus on sub-Saharan Africa and, ideally, Southeast Asia. 

The deadline for proposals is March 9 2022. The project has a maximum budget of USD150,000 (CAD190,000) and must be led by a research institution in sub-Saharan Africa. Projects are highly encouraged to partner with institutions in Southeast Asia.  

This RFP was informed by a series of roundtables with gender and AMR experts, which aimed to identify priority research areas relating to gender and the prevention and containment of AMR in humans, animals and the environment. 

Those interested in submitting a proposal are encouraged to consult the ICARS website for additional information, along with the full RFP document and submission instructions.   

ICARS and IDRC launch joint project on gender and antimicrobial resistance

Closed
Call for
Proposals
Deadline
Programs
Agriculture and Environment
Duration
12 months
Topic(s)
Health
Science and Technology
Food and Agriculture
Countries
South Africa
Central African Republic
South Asia
Far East Asia
Funded by
The International Centre for Antimicrobial Resistance Solutions (ICARS) and IDRC
Budget
Up to CAD190,000
Point of contact
IDRC-ICARS-AMRGender@icars-global.org
Type
Grant
Status
Closed
Scope

The goal of this request for proposals (RFP) is to commission a research project to explore the interconnections between antimicrobial resistance (AMR) and gender as well as interconnected socio-behavioural characteristics. The scope of this project should consider at minimum human health (including healthcare and community settings) and animal health, including food animal production, focusing primarily on small- and medium-scale farming.  

The organization whose proposal is successful will be commissioned for a year-long project to: 

  • synthesize current evidence and identify priority linkages related to gender and AMR research 

  • develop guidance on how to strengthen the gender inclusiveness of AMR intervention and implementation research projects in LMICs, with a focus on sub-Saharan Africa and, ideally, Southeast Asia.

Eligibility

Eligible institutions include universities or other research institutions and non-profit organizations based in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). The lead organization must be based in sub-Saharan Africa, and partnerships with Southeast Asian institutions are preferred. 

More details

Additional information, along with the full RFP document and instructions for submitting a proposal, can be found on the ICARS website.   

This RFP was informed by a series of roundtable discussions with AMR and gender experts to identify priority research areas relating to gender and the prevention and containment of AMR in humans, animals and the environment.  

If you are eligible for this opportunity we welcome you to submit an application.

Application Guide for SurveyMonkey Apply

Women in science

February 10, 2022

The under-representation of women persists in fields traditionally dominated by men, and despite many and varied efforts to eradicate it, the “glass ceiling” for women in science is among the hardest to break. Progress has been made towards gender parity in higher education, yet the gap is much wider in science fields. For example, UNESCO in 2021 estimated that 45-55% of students worldwide at the master’s and bachelor’s levels of study were women. However, in science fields such as engineering and computer science, women on average make up a much smaller percentage of graduates in higher education. This gap widens when moving up the ladder in academic careers: Today, women represent 30% of the world’s researchers and just 12% of members of national science academies, with even smaller proportions in lower-income countries. This is also the case in high-tech fields such as artificial intelligence (AI), where a Strathmore University study indicated women represent 29% of the workforce and just 10% of leadership positions in the AI industry across the African continent.

This is not only a problem of representation, nor one borne by women alone – it is a problem for all members of society. Those who work in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) have a major role to play in finding creative and sustainable solutions to the world’s complex problems. Without the inputs of women scientists and the unique perspectives they bring, scientific opportunities will remain limited, and so will our collective abilities to address such challenges  ̶  from diseases to food insecurity to climate change.

Today, the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated existing structural barriers to women advancing in science, presenting an even greater threat to inclusivity and innovation. Women have taken on disproportionately more household and childcare duties due to the pandemic, with female scientists in the developed and developing world alike citing many negative impacts on their ability to conduct research and publish, relative to their male counterparts. This has the potential to create even greater downstream challenges to the inclusion of women in STEM fields.

IDRC is committed to understanding and addressing these problems, by supporting the production of evidence that can help advance the inclusion and leadership of women in stronger and more equitable science systems in the Global South. Our programming is helping to push the needle on improving equality, diversity and inclusion in science. 

Improving representation and participation

Research from UNESCO has shown that the gender gap in STEM begins at the primary-school level, perpetuated by societal stereotypes and biases, and continues to worsen at each progressive academic stage. By the time women enter higher education and then the world of work, they face even greater barriers, with female scientists tending to have shorter and less well-paid careers than their male counterparts.

Media
Sherley Dominique,left,and Malvoisin Stephanie Martine,right,take class at ISETAH in Port-au-Prince Haiti,March 29,2016.
IDRC/Shiho Fukada

The Organization for Women in Science for the Developing World (OWSD) works to redress these challenges by supporting women to enter and advance in scientific careers through individual research funding and training as well as networking opportunities. Since 2017, IDRC has partnered with the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency to support more than 200 women doctoral students and scientists in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) through OWSD. This early-career fellowships program enables promising women scientists to further progress in their own careers and assume greater leadership responsibilities. In this way, science systems will evolve to better support the next generation of women scientists. Equally important is the opportunity for these scientists to access funding and pursue lines of research that can help solve the types of problems faced by developing countries and global society at large. For example, a veterinarian from the first cohort of OWSD fellows is now recognized as a leading researcher in Rwanda and is running her own research lab as a direct result of the support OWSD provided to her research. In 2020, early-career fellows involved in this program were undertaking important work in a range of subjects  ̶  from the study of genetic risk factors for breast cancer in Ghanaian women to the development of drought-resistant rice varieties in Sri Lanka.

We also know that gender is not the only factor that prevents women from entering and progressing in science. Intersectionality, taking into account race, socio-economic status and multiple overlapping aspects of a person’s social and political identities, is also an important factor. For example, IDRC’s post-doctoral program for Indigenous women in STEM supports the career advancement of fellows in Mexico and Guatemala. To date, women representing various Indigenous groups have been supported to pursue their leading work in different disciplines, from chemistry to food science, and many have successfully applied to become part of the national system of researchers, in large part thanks to their individual fellowships. This project also includes a research component that is contributing to greater understanding of the barriers faced by Indigenous women in STEM in the Latin American region.

Advancing gender considerations in STEM

While we continue to gather evidence on the importance of increasing women’s active participation in science, IDRC is also supporting research into developing more inclusive scientific norms and practices, with the aim of improving the overall quality of research. Although many disciplines now recognize the imperative of gender analysis for high-quality research, this remains underdeveloped in STEM fields. Integrating sex and gender analysis into the design of research, for example, has been shown to improve research methodology and help to foster scientific discoveries. Yet there are still significant knowledge gaps about the challenges of integrating gender analysis in STEM, particularly in the developing world.

Accounting for sex and gender in research design has been highlighted as an increasingly important area to advance inclusivity of STEM. Historically, women have been excluded from scientific research trials, particularly in the field of health. This has been to the detriment of applicability, as revealed in  studies that have found some pain therapies and cancer immunotherapies to be less effective in women. IDRC is funding several projects to help change these norms. One example is the Gendered Design in Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Math project, which aims to build capacity in gendered innovations through the development of new or improved products designed using sex and gender analysis, with a focus on LMICs.

Media
Researchers from ATREE
Atul Loke/IDRC

In the AI field, there have been documented examples of alarming bias and exclusion in AI systems and datasets. This problem is particularly pronounced for populations in the Global South, women and marginalized communities. If left uncorrected, these biases can lead to greater social inequalities and may end up causing more harm than the good promised by AI. The Feminist AI project, launched by IDRC in 2021, aims to improve how AI can better address social problems, strengthen the capacities of researchers in the developing world to undertake inclusive AI research and advance gender equality. Some projects are addressing the use of AI for social good, such as the diagnosis of malaria and tuberculosis with a mobile phone using mobile microscopy. We are also building on the promising work of the Artificial Intelligence for Development (AI4D) program, with a new hub for gender equality and inclusion in Africa through responsible AI innovations. This includes novel research by and for women in AI, which is helping to advance knowledge on the systemic and cultural gender disparities in the AI industry in Africa.

Understanding and breaking barriers

Although the systemic barriers to women scientists’ participation is under increasing study, such data and case studies have historically been based on countries in the Global North. To address this research gap, IDRC in 2020 funded new projects to research the unique obstacles facing women and other marginalized groups in STEM in low-income countries. These projects are researching the gender gaps and barriers for women’s advancement in a range of fields and sectors in Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa. Building on this pilot initiative, funding was expanded in 2021 for Gender in STEM projects that aim to both increase gender analysis in STEM research as well as advance women’s leadership based on the greater understanding of context-specific barriers to advancement in the countries of study. The research activities range from gender analysis in water and climate science in South Asia to testing institutional efforts for gender mainstreaming in sub-Saharan Africa. These new research projects will increase localized evidence on the key factors that constrain or support women scientists, while identifying innovative approaches to strengthen higher-education and related institutions’ measures to be more inclusive of women and gender analysis in STEM.

Collectively, our efforts are helping to understand and improve women’s leadership in science, integrate gender analysis as a standard in scientific research and slowly break down the barriers that prevent women from progressing in STEM fields. By providing evidence on what works, contextually grounded in the realities of women in LMICs, we can create more equitable science systems that improve the lives of all.

Find out more about our work by visiting: Education and Science | IDRC - International Development Research Centre 

Research highlights

The Education and Science program is committed to supporting the production of evidence that can help advance the inclusion and leadership of women in stronger and more equitable science systems in the Global South. This includes:

  • improving the representation and participation of women scientists
  • advancing gender analysis and considerations in STEM fields including AI
  • understanding and breaking down barriers faced by women and other marginalized groups in science
Subscribe to Far East Asia