TDR publishes assessment of its research fairness

TDR news item
27 February 2018

TDR has published a report assessing its fairness in research contracting and processes according to new measures developed by the Council on Health Research for Development (COHRED). The Research Fairness Initiative (RFI) is designed to promote and validate responsible and fair practices in international collaborative research and innovation for health.

TDR Director John Reeder says, “We are very pleased to be one of the early adopters of this new Initiative. It provides a framework that allows an organization to take a step back and challenge itself to think about how its processes and approaches affect its partners. How do we select research priorities so they are in line with the needs of the country? Does our application process favour male applicants over women? How should benefits be shared and are contributions properly acknowledged? It is vital that we all continually ask ourselves questions like these.”

The report outlines TDR’s assessment of programme performance in 3 main domains, which are each further divided into subtopics and indicators. For each indicator, COHRED asks organizations to describe their current organizational practices, reference relevant standard operating procedures, policy directives or other written guidelines through an attachment or link, and report on future steps to improve that particular indicator within the next one to two years.

Fairness of opportunity

The Fairness of Opportunity domain looks at improving the participation of all stakeholders at relevant stages of research development. The domain encourages organizations to be reflective of the relevance of their research to the communities they are working with, and whether they are using appropriate corrective measures for recognizing unequal research management capacities between partners.

Overall, TDR ranked “good” on 13 out of 15 of the indicators. Throughout its history, the Special Programme has been clear in affirming its role within the global health landscape. Efforts building a critical mass of researchers locally through grants and fellowships have led to many of the projects TDR supported are now led by low- and middle-income country communities, institutions and investigators.

Fair process

The second domain, Fair Process, analyses how research is conducted and how research partnerships and programmes are being implemented. The domain encourages minimizing negative impacts of the research programmes and engaging in local training, hiring and sourcing.

TDR scored fairly well, with a “good” rating level on 10 of the 15 indicators. Some of these may not directly correlate to the work or structure of TDR, while others require more attention in the future. This was the Programme’s lowest score across the domains, with room for improvement on five of the indicators.

Fair sharing of benefits, costs and outcomes

The final domain, Fair Sharing of Benefits, Costs and Outcomes, seeks to improve fairness in these areas of research. To assess this, topics have been put forth to determine research system capacities and the expectations of all partners to adhere to best practice standards in research collaborations.

“We are very pleased to be one of the early adopters of this new Initiative. It provides a framework that allows an organization to take a step back and challenge itself to think about how its processes and approaches affect its partners.”

TDR Director John Reeder

With a self-score of 4 indicators “under review”, this domain was the one with which TDR considered itself to be least aligned. Overall our assessment shows TDR is conscientious in fair sharing of benefits, costs and outcomes at the completion of its research projects and undertakings. However, the development of good practice is at an early stage and the fair sharing of benefits, costs and outcomes is the domain that will benefit the greatest from the development of good practice that the wider adoption of the RFI framework will facilitate.

Rob Terry, who coordinated the review at TDR, says, “We found the process of completing the RFI rewarding and are ready to share our experiences with others. As more agencies undertake the RFI, we look forward to working with COHRED and others to develop new and improved practice that strengthens fairness in the research system.”

For more information, contact: Robert Terry.

Related links

Attend this Geneva Health Forum session:
Increasing fairness and impact of research partnerships
Wednesday 11 April 16:00 – 17:30