Health Research Priority Setting: Do Grant Review Processes Reflect Ethical Principles?

Global Public Health (forthcoming)
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Most public and non-profit organisations that fund health research provide the majority of their funding in the form of grants. The calls for grant applications are often untargeted, such that a wide variety of applications may compete for the same funding. The grant review process therefore plays a critical role in determining how limited research resources are allocated. Despite this, little attention has been paid to whether grant review criteria align with widely endorsed ethical criteria for allocating health research resources. Here, we analyse the criteria and processes that ten of the largest public and non-profit research funders use to choose between competing grant applications. Our data suggest that research funders rarely instruct reviewers to consider disease burden or to prioritise research for sicker or more disadvantaged populations, and typically only include scientists in the review processes. This is liable to undermine efforts to link research funding to health needs.

Author's Profile

Joseph Millum
University of St. Andrews


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