Report identifies challenges of tracking funding on research for implementation

TDR news item
16 April 2018

A study on funding for malaria research and development (R&D) has identified the tracking of support for research for implementation as a particular challenge. Developed by a consortium of research and development organizations, the report highlights gaps in financial reporting and monitoring tools to document funding in this area.

TDR Director John Reeder says, “Research for implementation is an essential part of achieving the malaria elimination targets in the sustainable development goals. This report highlights the importance of tracking the support for that research and the training necessary to strengthen the capacity at the country level where it is needed most.”

Excerpts of the new report, Investigating a Second Valley of Death in Malaria R&D: How is research for implementation funded?, draw on a longer analysis developed by Malaria No More UK, PATH and TDR, together with the Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics, Innovative Vector Control Consortium, Medicines for Malaria Venture, Policy Cures Research, and WHO’s Global Malaria Programme. The full report will be published in June 2018.

Public reports have documented funding into basic research and product development for the last ten years, but there is little information available on funding of research focused on the systems to implement products and services into health care practices.

As global leaders meet in April to discuss malaria at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting 2018, Global Malaria Summit, and 7th Multilateral Initiative on Malaria (MIM) Pan African Malaria Conference in Dakar, one of the biggest questions being asked is, “Why is malaria control stalling in key countries?”

Challenges to malaria control

After more than a decade of progress in reducing the burden of malaria disease and death, the total number of malaria cases rose in 2016 by more than five million over the previous year. Increases in malaria burden were reported from countries in all regions of the World Health Organization (WHO) between 2014 and 2016.

As new tools have become available, health care systems are challenged to ensure that the drugs, diagnostics, vaccines, and vector control products are designed for the conditions in which they are used, reach the right place, at the right time, in the right quantities—and are delivered appropriately.

Previously, there was more funding in basic research and insufficient investment into product development. Publicly reported funding data helped to illuminate the gaps and prompt commitments to overcome what was called the valley of death.

The new report has been developed to provide data that could help address the question of whether there is enough investment in research for implementation, and how well this research is aligned with the product pipeline and health system needs—to help answer the question: Is there a second valley of death in malaria R&D?

Early findings point to need for better financial tracking tools

Policy Cures Research, a partner in the new study, queried 26 organizations on their funding in the following three areas: implementation research, operational research, and health systems research. These data were then combined with what has already been reported for basic research and product development, and the funding levels for each compared.

About half of the 26 organizations surveyed completed the survey. The final report, with more data from funders, will be published in June 2018; in the meantime, the initial findings highlight key challenges and the changes that may be required to have a more complete picture.

One obstacle to more complete data is that donors and recipients need to improve their monitoring systems to better track the funding flows. To do this effectively, however, will require a clearer consensus around categories and definitions of research for implementation, as well as more comprehensive and regular monitoring of funding flows.


An initial set of recommendations for policymakers and malaria research organizations emphasize the need to:

  • Agree on research for implementation definitions.
  • Improve tracking of research for implementation funding at the institutional, national, and subnational levels, including in low- and middle-income countries.
  • Track funding for training and capacity building for research for implementation.
  • Continue to build the database on funding of research for implementation.

The preview publication provides examples of research for implementation in four brief case studies—three that document the impact of past research on usability and uptake of insecticide-treated bednets, artemisinin-combination treatments, and rapid diagnostic tests, and a fourth on a future study related to the pilot implementation of the first malaria vaccine.

For more information, contact Robert Terry.