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South Africa emerges as global hub for (some) health research

South Africa had a larger number of individual research grants from leading global international health funders in 2017 than many leading science nations, new data reveal.

The purpose of the World Report, to which 2017 data was added on 30 October, is to give funders and other stakeholders a global overview of biomedical research funding. This could help spot gaps in funding as well as identify duplication of efforts.

But the report, which identifies grant recipients from 12 biomedical research funders, is not a good gauge for relative research strengths.

For a start, all the funders it tracks are from Europe and North America. And the data tracks only numbers of grants—not the funding amounts associated with them.

Nevertheless, it might come as a surprise that South Africa-based research organisations last year won more grants from the likes of the United States National Institutes of Health, British medical research charity the Wellcome Trust and the European Commission than China, India, Japan or Brazil.

In 2017 South Africa received 911 grants from the 12 funders that contributed data to the report. The majority—67.8 per cent—were from the NIH. The United Kingdom’s Medical Research Council and the Wellcome Trust accounted for 14.2 per cent and 9.11 per cent, respectively.

Africa’s second most prolific country was Kenya, with 497 research grants from the 12 funders in 2017. Its grants also came mainly from the NIH, while 20 per cent were from the Wellcome Trust and 10 per cent from the UKMRC.

Uganda was not far behind with 423 grants in 2017. Nigeria was in the lead in West Africa with 163 projects.

In contrast, China had 444 projects, India 418, Brazil 388 and Japan 336. Only eight countries have more projects than South Africa: the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Spain, the Netherlands, Germany and Italy.

The World Report’s datasets stretch back to 2012. The resource is hosted by the NIH and supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the European Commission, the NIH, the UKMRC and the Wellcome Trust, all of which submit data to the report.

The other funders that submitted data are the European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership, the Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale (INSERM), the Pasteur Institute, the Max Planck Society, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, and the Swedish Research Council.