Statement from The George Institute on UKRI funding cuts
The George Institute in the UK and India have signed a letter calling for the UK Government to reconsider swingeing cuts to research funding, outlining how devastating the newly announced cuts will be to the health and wellbeing of the world’s most vulnerable people, as well as to the UK’s position as a global leader in global health research.
The letter, which was drafted by leading global health experts, was signed by over 3,300 academics and members of the global health community in just four days. It comes in response to an announcement by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) on 11th March 2021 that it would this year have a ‘significantly’ reduced budget. The reduction follows the UK government’s decision in November 2020 to suspend its commitment to invest 0.7% of Gross National Income (GNI) in Official Development Assistance (ODA).
As the body that controls all publicly funded development and research grants in England, UKRI oversees major international funds such as the Global Challenges Research Fund, which supports cutting-edge research to address the challenges faced by low- and middle-income countries, and international collaboration in research and innovation.
Director of the Trauma, Injuries and Disability Programme at the Makerere School of Public Health, Board Chair, Road Traffic Injuries Research Network, and Distinguished Fellow at The George Institute, Dr Olive Kobusingye said:
“We work with collaborators from The George Institute in the UK to conduct crucial research that aims to better understand the burden of childhood injuries in Uganda, and to prevent them to save lives. The impact of these cuts on research and research capacity building in low- and middle-income countries not only puts such work at risk now but will likely impede research progress even beyond the actual period of the cuts. This will compound the damage to research capacity caused by the pandemic.”
Professor Kent Buse, co-author of the letter and Director of The George Institute’s Healthier Societies programme, said:
“We require an urgent and direct response from the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, the Rt Hon Dominic Raab, outlining the evidence the UK Government received on the impact and implications of such cuts; both the immediate impact on current and planned research and the longer-term implications for the credibility of the UK as a partner in this space.”
Signatories call on the UK government to reverse the decision taken last November to suspend the commitment to invest 0.7% of GNI on ODA, and the knock-on cuts to UKRI funding this year.
Professor Vivekanand Jha, Executive Director of The George Institute India, said:
“This decision has long-term implications for young researchers in countries such as India, who face losing the opportunity to work with collaborators in the UK and elsewhere to jointly develop new skills and solutions, and produce the evidence needed to address the global challenges we all face. The uncertainty this announcement has created for these researchers is untenable.”
The George Institute’s Principal Director, Professor Robyn Norton, said:
“As Principal Director of a global institute working to improve the health of people the world over, particularly in low- and middle-income contexts, I can’t over-emphasise how many people will lose out as a result of the UKRI funding cuts. We recognise that UK Government budgets are being reviewed across the board, but this decision risks leaving the most disadvantaged behind.”