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FAQs for the Global South Data and AI Innovation Program

1. Does my organization need to be based in a low- or middle-income country to apply?

No, but there is a strong preference for organizations based in low- and middle-income countries and selection will be weighted accordingly. In this regard, please note that more than 50% of organizations in a research consortium must be from low- and middle-income countries. Research consortia, including global collaborations, are also encouraged to build multi-disciplinary collaborations.

2. Can my organization submit more than one proposal?

Organizations may only be the primary applicant for one proposal.

3. Can my organization apply with more than one consortium? 

Yes, but your organization may only be the primary applicant for one consortium. Preference will be given to multidisciplinary consortia that have demonstrated their ability to work across varying contexts and with governments.  

4. In what language should my application be submitted? 

Applications may be submitted in either English or French. Spanish-language proposals will be considered in specific circumstances (please contact

5. Will unsuccessful proposals receive feedback?

Yes, but please note that given the rapid nature of the call, IDRC may only provide limited feedback to unsuccessful applicants. 

6. What is the expected duration of successful proposals? 

Project proposals for this call should be two years in length (2020–2022) and be valued up to CA$1.25 million.

7. Can my proposed research address multiple thematic areas?

Yes. We encourage applicants to consider research collaborations and multidisciplinary approaches that address the complexity of implementing technology solutions and planned responses.

8. Can my proposed research fall outside of the thematic areas?

No, research proposals must address at least one of the following thematic outcome areas:

  • Forecasting transmissions and reducing spread through policy and public health interventions;
  • Mobilizing artificial intelligence and data science to understand and support gender inclusive COVID-19 action;
  • Optimizing public health system responses for patient diagnosis, care, and management;
  • Building trust and combatting mis- and dis-information around COVID-19;
  • Strengthening data systems and information sharing about COVID-19;
  • Supporting transparent and responsible artificial intelligence, data, and digital rights governance around COVID-19 and pandemic responses.

The fund is designed for rapid research support, therefore the six thematic outcome areas are intended to be broad in scope so that research may respond to identified priorities in various contexts — they are not meant to be prescriptive in nature. Proposals should ultimately respond to the priorities, capacities, needs, and contexts of the countries of planned impact.

9. My organization is already involved in a relevant COVID-19 emergency project. May I apply to this call to supplement this project?

Yes, your proposed project may build on existing research and/or learning, so long as it has immediate applicability or usefulness to governments and other knowledge users in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic and it has a focus on leveraging artificial intelligence and data science for this purpose. 

Note that all research should be gender responsive and inclusive in design, questions, and planned outcomes and impacts.

10. What do you mean by “designing research for scale”?

The research process and approach should be designed in such a way that positive impacts can be scaled to benefit society. Specifically, the research should ask how, why, and under what conditions the impact was achieved. The Scaling Playbook: A practical guide for researchers aims to support practical uptake.

11. How do I address gender and other inclusion considerations in my research design?

The COVID-19 Gender Research Working group led by researchers at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health has published an exhaustive resource guide that highlights emerging research about gender and COVID-19 responses across a number of research dimensions. Please also refer to the call document for more information.

12. In which countries may research be conducted?

The purpose of this call is to fund research in low- and middle-income countries. IDRC uses the OECD-DAC and World Bank definitions of low- and middle-income countries to determine eligible countries.

Please note that we cannot accept applications for research in eastern Europe, India, Iran, Iraq, North Korea (Democratic People’s Republic of), and Yemen.

13. From which countries may institutions apply?

This global call for proposals will accept applications from consortia leaders based in a legally registered institution from almost any country or territory. Individual organizations must apply from a low- or middle-income country.

Please note that we cannot accept applications from institutions based in India, Iran, Iraq, North Korea (Democratic People’s Republic of), and Yemen.

Applications from lead applicant institutions based in the following countries and territories may be subject to a further stage of approval within IDRC. Country clearance and legal requirements may cause extensive delays: Afghanistan, Congo (Democratic Republic of), Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Egypt, Gabon, Guinea-Bissau, India, Maldives, Micronesia, Monserrat, Myanmar, Sudan, Suriname, Venezuela, West Bank and Gaza, Zimbabwe, some small island states (including Comoros, São Tomé and Principe, Saint Helena, Timor-Leste), and the Pacific Islands (Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu, Wallis & Futuna).

14. How should my consortium be configured?

Consortia are the preferred approach for this call because they can support multidisciplinary approaches to complex topics. Collaborations may be South-South and South-North and may include multiple organizations in one country or organizations that span a region or the world. Consortia may be collaborations between universities or between different type of organizations. Configurations should ultimately respond to achieving the proposed objectives of the research.

The proposal must detail the roles and responsibilities for all partners. Each partner organization should aim to support research, learning, and the rapid deployment of approaches for pandemic response.

The criteria for leadership from, or participation of, more than 50% of partners from LMICs is related to the call objectives. The aim is to ensure that research organizations in the Global South are taking leadership roles and to enable sustainability for using AI and machine learning in health systems in the future.

15. Please explain the eligibility criteria that a consortium be made up of more than 50% of institutions based in a LMIC.

The criteria will be interpreted during pre-screening as such:

  • more than 50% of the consortium’s organizations are based in a LMIC; and/or 
  • more than 50% of the research and dissemination budget is destined for the consortium partner(s) based in a LMIC. 

Country offices and locally registered entities of international organizations or multilateral institutions may be included as part of the 50% eligibility criteria. Applications that do not meet this eligibility requirement will be deemed ineligible for further review during pre-screening. Your proposal should articulate how your consortium meets the criteria.

16. For a consortium to be considered LMIC-led, the lead applicant must be a registered legal entity with its main operations conducted in that LMIC.

Lead applicants, including country offices and locally registered entities of international organizations or multilateral institutions, will not be considered LMIC-led unless they can demonstrate that the institution’s strategy, executive management, and core research priorities are based from that country or region.

17. I’m applying as an individual organization but want to be a part of a consortium. Can you find one for me/my organization to join?

We cannot facilitate the creation of consortia. However, if you apply as an individual organization and your application is well-suited to an already existing consortia (or in combination with other individual applications), we may ask both parties if they are interested in forming a new consortium.

18. Is there an offline template of application questions?

You may access a template of the application questions here for reference only. Please note that all applications must be submitted through Survey Monkey.

19. Is there a word limit on the proposal?

There is no word limit on Section 3 of the Survey Monkey application (which contains the research problem and justification, methodology, and impact questions). We anticipate the research problem and methodology sections will be from 300-2,000 words in length. The outcomes and impacts may be presented as shorter bullet point lists (if preferred).

20. May universities, or faculties within universities, submit more than one application?

There may be multiple applications within a larger institution, such as a university. The principal investigator (PI) may only be a PI on one application. If there are multiple applications within a faculty, it should be clear they are separate and have different PIs.

21. Do I need to partner with an institution from the Global North?


22. The call is for applied research of AI and data science that responds to COVID-19. Is there an expectation that  the institution not only researches but also implements some form of AI or data science technology?­

Yes, the expectation is that the research is applied through the deployment or implementation of a technology (including piloting or testing a novel approach or adapting an existing methodology to scale in a new context). The expectation is to implement relevant policy research that considers the legal, ethical, social, and economic impacts of AI technologies/data science, which should ultimately aim to inform policy or practice. Please see the approach section in the call for proposals.

23. Is the budget per project linked to the number of organizations in the consortium? May smaller consortia or individual applicants apply for $1.25 million grants?

The budget should fit the objectives and needs of your planned proposal. We would expect individual organizations to apply for the lower limit, and consortia to be dependent on the overall numbers.

24. Should the CV be presented in a particular format?

No, but the CV should be condensed (two  pages maximum). CVs should be written in English, French, or Spanish.