Research costing subject of new ESSENCE document
Research funding can be hard to come by in low- and middle- income countries, but funding for indirect costs of research – often termed “full costing” – can be even harder to find. A new best practice document called Five Keys to improving research costing in low- and middle- income countries offers five recommendations for researchers and funders that aim to make overhead allocation easier and more consistent.
The report is the second published by ESSENCE on Health Initiative a collaborative framework designed to enable a scale-up in global research capacity. Its first good practice document defined and encouraged the use of common indicators to monitor and evaluate research capacity building strengthening efforts which have already been used by groups such as the European-Developing Countries Clinical Trials Programme (EDCTP) to develop monitoring indicators for its funded regional Networks of Excellence, according to EDCTP’s Thomas Nyirenda.
The recent Five keys focuses on indirect costs of research by drawing on discussions with research organizations based mostly in sub-Saharan Africa, as well as international funding organizations.
The challenge of equitable research support came up at a 2009 international meeting held in Berlin to develop a framework to guide the development of research partnerships. Tim Evans, then a WHO Assistant Director General, said that budgets for overhead are typically much tighter for research in low-income countries. “Researchers in low-income countries point to the discrepancy between rates of overhead that are on the order of 10-15%, while institutions in high-income countries get overhead rates between 50-60%.” The ESSENCE document addresses this problem by identifying common indirect costs of research, like general office equipment and building or utility use. According to data from reviews and analysis done as part of the development of this document, these costs – unlike direct costs like project-specific staff, supplies, or travel – not only go unfunded, but sometimes go uncalculated.
The ESSENCE good practice document will help both sides of research, according to Nicole Généreux, Senior Partnership Officer with the Donor Partnerships Division at the International Development Research Center (IDRC) in Ottawa, Canada. “It's going to be useful and will help grantees to see how to better manage their financial resources. And IDRC was pleased to collaborate with NIH, Accordia and TDR in supporting a review of best practices through Research Africa.”
TDR contributed to the Five Keys by bringing together researchers and funders, says Garry Aslanyan of TDR. “It's been clearly in line with our vision and mission to provide a neutral platform for ESSENCE on Health Initiative. The finalization of this good practice document is a testament to the power of dialogue between diverse groups – in what at first seemed a difficult issue to tackle.”
For more information, please contact:
ESSENCE Secretariat staff at TDR