Annual technical review highlights key progress on equity

TDR news item
7 April 2017

TDR is making significant progress in supporting researchers in disease endemic countries to both conduct research and get the results published. Increasing the number of women on committees and research teams was also noted at the annual independent review of TDR’s technical work.

At TDR’s March meeting of the Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee (STAC), members endorsed numerous reports covering technical progress and the budget structure for the upcoming biennium. STAC also endorsed the annual Results Report that tracks progress of TDR’s key performance indicators, which reflect technical achievements, the application of TDR core values, and management performance.

Technical results

One target for the six-year period ending in 2017 was already reached last year -- the number and proportion of new knowledge and solutions produced in response to requests from disease endemic countries or from World Health Organization (WHO) control programmes. Sixteen innovations were identified last year, pushing the total to 36, one more than the target. Some of the tools and solutions are now being used by countries. These include:

  • A new web platform to share data on tuberculosis clinical trials has been established in partnership with other organizations and is in use.
  • Research evidence has been used towards the elimination of visceral leishmaniasis in the Indian sub-continent.
  • Numerous SORT IT programmes – the Structured Operational Research and Training Initiative – have impacted on policy and practice at the country level.
  • The 6 TDR-supported Regional Training Centres are now in full operation and providing essential training in good practices for research.

Other indicators also showed strong progress. For example, TDR has always tracked the number of peer-reviewed publications, and since 2013 has also monitored the percentage published in open access journals, which was 80% last year, up from 75% in 2015. TDR has a policy that requires all publications coming out of current or future TDR-supported research to be published in a manner that allows free access to anyone.

Increasing equity

TDR also tracks progress on the proportion and amounts of grants to low- and middle-income disease endemic countries. This was at an all-time high in 2016, with 82% of funding going to these countries. The proportion of first authors of research publications coming from these countries was also high – 73%, compared to 62% the previous year. This is a good indicator of the quality and experience of investigators, since first authors are usually the lead investigators of the research project.

Yearly progress in grant/contract amounts awarded to disease endemic countries (DECs)

Increasing opportunities for women scientists

TDR has been working to increase the number of women who enter and stay in science careers. Those efforts are paying off, such as in the proportion of contracts and those who are selected to serve on TDR committees. An initiative in 2015-16 explored ways to address roadblocks in the careers of African women scientists, and learn how to support those careers. This is a broad issue in the general scientific community, but TDR is doing what it can to find more options for women interested in research on infectious diseases of poverty. The target is to provide equal contract funding to women, which is increasing, but has not met the goal yet.

Proportion of contracts awarded to women (% count)

Of particular note is the proportion of women who are first authors of research publications. This has proved more difficult to increase because of the many cultural and social factors that challenge women to get to this level of achievement. TDR is committed to improving the gender balance and continues to examine ways to increase these numbers.

The STAC endorsements and recommendations will be presented at the June annual meeting of TDR’s Joint Coordinating Board, which provides the final endorsement.

For more information, contact:
Jamie Guth
TDR Communications Manager
Telephone: +41 79 441 2289