Social sciences research in neglected tropical diseases 3: Investment in social science research in neglected diseases of poverty: a case study of Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
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Pokhrel, S., Reidpath, D. and Allotey, P. (2011) ‘Social sciences research in neglected tropical diseases 3: Investment in social science research in neglected diseases of poverty: a case study of Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’, Health Research Policy and Systems, 9(1). Available at: https://doi.org/10.1186/1478-4505-9-2.
Background The level of funding provides a good proxy for the level of commitment or prioritisation given to a particular issue. While the need for research relevant to social, economic, cultural and behavioural aspects of neglected tropical diseases (NTD) control has been acknowledged, there is limited data on the level of funding that supports NTD social science research. Method A case study was carried out in which the spending of a major independent funder, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) - was analysed. A total of 67 projects funded between October 1998 and November 2008 were identified from the BMGF database. With the help of keywords within the titles of 67 grantees, they were categorised as social science or non-social science research based on available definition of social science. A descriptive analysis was conducted. Results Of 67 projects analysed, 26 projects (39%) were social science related while 41 projects (61%) were basic science or other translational research including drug development. A total of US$ 697 million was spent to fund the projects, of which 35% ((US$ 241 million) went to social science research. Although the level of funding for social science research has generally been lower than that for non-social science research over 10 year period, social science research attracted more funding in 2004 and 2008. Conclusion The evidence presented in this case study indicates that funding on NTD social science research compared to basic and translational research is not as low as it is perceived to be. However, as there is the acute need for improved delivery and utilisation of current NTD drugs/technologies, informed by research from social science approaches, funding priorities need to reflect the need to invest significantly more in NTD social science research.