The 9th GRC Annual Meeting, originally scheduled to take place in Durban, South Africa, was held from 24-28 May 2021 in a virtual format in response to the global COVID-19 pandemic. The Meeting was jointly hosted by the National Research Foundation (NRF) of South Africa, and UK Research and Innovation (UKRI). In total, 265 delegates from 71 countries attended the Annual Meeting, with 70 Heads of Research Councils participating to share best practices and discuss common research funding policy priorities and issues.
The two timely and interlinked topics for this year's Annual Meeting were Mission-oriented Research and Public Engagement, with Statements of Principles (SoPs) having been endorsed by GRC participant organisations in September 2020, following extensive consultation with GRC participants and the GRC’s Governing Board.
Over the course of the Annual Meeting, GRC participants discussed potential strategies towards action around these topics, acknowledging the ongoing need for international collaboration and the promotion of knowledge co-creation in the face of global grand challenges. In this context, the hosts of the Annual Meeting launched the book ‘21st Century Public Engagement and Mission-orientated Research: Advancing Sustainable Futures for All’. The book draws together 70 case studies submitted by GRC participant organisations and highlights the diversity and cultural nuance of GRC participants’ approaches to and experiences of these topics, as well as the interplay of the mission-orientated research and public engagement topics.
Following the GRC 2020 regional seminar series discussing the COVID-19 pandemic, participants also discussed how the world will be different following the crisis. Specifically, the role of science - and research funding agencies in particular - in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic was discussed, including what lessons can be learnt in our collective approach to future crises, which would require a global response informed by a robust global science ecosystem.
Responsible Research Assessment was also discussed as part of the Meeting, to build on the discussions of the GRC virtual conference held in November 2020. A Call to Action was endorsed by the GRC’s participants, as well as the approval of the establishment of a GRC Working Group, to direct the delivery of the proposed actions and way forward.
The Annual Meeting participants advanced discussions on the GRC’s Working Groups, with the publication and launch of the GRC knowledge products ‘Gender-Disaggregated Data: Results of a Global Survey’ and ‘Exploring Partnered Research Programmes: A Guide for Funders’.
The Annual Meeting included reporting and discussion sessions on a range of GRC activities held over the past year, including a workshop on Science Diplomacy hosted by the USA’s National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine in March 2021. Furthering deliberations on the GRC’s Vision and Roadmap was included, looking ahead towards the 10th Annual Meeting of the GRC, due to be co-hosted in Panama City by SENACYT (Panama) and the NSF (USA) in 2022.
UKRI Chief Executive Professor Dame Ottoline Leyser said:
“Research and innovation enrich lives, inspire respect for our world and offer powerful tools for addressing the many challenges we are facing, from COVID19 to climate change. Research and innovation thrive by bringing together new combinations of diverse people, ideas and infrastructures in a culture of openness and mutual respect. The principles formally agreed at this year’s GRC annual meeting show us how we, as funding agencies, can embody diversity, creativity, openness and connectivity in all that we do.”
The NRF CEO Dr Fulufhelo Nelwamondo stated that:
“We should use our strong positions in science systems to strengthen collective efforts to re-centre science as a key pillar for modern civilisation, anchored on the core values of openness and accountability. Let us continuously be led by the belief that science is a public good, and from which we can derive disruptive solutions to the multifaceted challenges we face. Let us embolden our collective commitment to supporting and enhancing the borderless nature of scientific enquiry and its impact.”
Further information is available at: www.globalresearchcouncil.org/news/2021-annual-meeting.