Hub Fiocruz The Global Health Network / Fiocruz News Agency
The partnership between Fiocruz and the University of Oxford has been expanding since 2019, when a Memorandum of Understanding was signed to formalize concrete collaboration lines. Beginning with the creation of an institutional hub on The Global Health Network (TGHN) platform, now the Foundation has taken up the task of articulating a Latin-American network to strengthen research in health. The launch took place during the TGHN Conference, on 24 and 25 November, in Cape Town, South Africa, and was attended by Fiocruz’s vice-president of Education, Information and Communication (VPEIC), Cristiani Machado, in addition to researchers and coordinators of the Foundation’s Hub.
The event was attended by the Vice President of Education, Information and Communication at Fiocruz, Cristiani Machado (photo: Disclosure)
Shifting the leadership center to the Global South was an old desire of TGHN’s director, Trudie Lang. In the mainstay of this collaboration, Fiocruz was invited to articulate the regional network, working with six other institutions to shape and expand the work of this alliance. Argentina, Colombia, Peru, Honduras and the Dominican Republic, in addition to the TGHN itself, make up this cooperation network that aims to establish equity between those who produce and those who benefit from the results of studies, strengthening capacities for research and data science. This work will be sponsored by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and by the Wellcome Trust.
In addition to Fiocruz, representing Brazil, the other members of the network are the Institute of Clinical and Sanitary Effectiveness (Iecs), from Argentina; Vale University, Colombia; the Antonio Vidal Institute of Infectious Diseases and Parasitology, from Honduras; Etikos, a Dominican NGO; and the Caetano Heredia University, from Peru. Two other networks were formed, side by side with the Latin American one: the Asian network, led by ICDDR, from Bangladesh, and the African network, led by the African Center for Disease Control, with headquarters in Ethiopia.
“It is important to strengthen the capacity for research and data management in the context of the Global South”, explained Cristiani Machado. “Within the project, we will be organizing courses, workshops, data reuse pilot projects, and we’ll also be sharing research tools and protocols”, she added.
Regional Open Science
In the issue of teaching, emphasis is given to the education of young researchers, in terms of qualification as well as of work with the communities, which has been a constant in many projects developed by Fiocruz. “The idea is to structure a horizontal governance in this regional network, with the creation of a committee whose leader circulates amongst the other members”, explains Flávia Bueno, Projects Executive Coordinator at the Fiocruz TGHN Hub.
The regional network project has two important components: strengthening capacities in terms of health research and in data science. The idea is that once the research paths have been mapped and the data have been stored in safe platforms with controlled access, they may be accessed to respond to new research questions or even to inspire other researchers, who will be able to adapt these models to their own needs.
The establishment of a regional network is coming at a moment in which Fiocruz is implementing its policy of management, sharing and opening of data, approved by the Deliberative Council of 2020. “Today Fiocruz has an Open Science Forum with different instances of its various units represented. And the debate has been expanding”, says Vanessa Jorge, VPEIC coordinator of Information and Communication. “This possibility to exchange, learn and support, sharing our knowledge with our partners, will be very enriching when it comes to thinking of a regional Open Science, based on a Southern perspective”, she adds.
The Foundation at the Conference
The event included several pre-conference meetings and boasted the active presence and participation of the Fiocruz community. “Enabling health research in every healthcare setting” was the theme of the conference, which celebrated more than 10 years of TGHN - its first physical event, which should have taken place in 2020 but was postponed due to the pandemic.
Researcher Gustavo Matta (Cidacs) was invited to participate in the Connectors symposium that was held from 21 to 23 November and addressed the subject of community participation in research. At the Conference, he talked about the role of the community’s participation during the zika epidemic and underscored the particular relevance of women in this process.
Valentina Martufi (Cidacs) presented her project using real-world data to measure primary healthcare and its effects on maternal-infant health in Brazil. Fernando Bozza (INI) spoke about his work on multidimensional intervention in the Maré community. His group worked in the COVID-19 response in the implementation of testing, vaccination and a survey that has been following two cohorts, to study vaccination and long covid. This work relied on a crucial articulation with the community and employed local workers, which contributed to its success. They are both part of a larger Fiocruz team that was part of an event for researchers financed by the Grand Challenges program of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
In addition, Cristiani Machado led the debates on the panel called “Prevention of Pandemics with Responsive Research Systems”. Other participants of the panel were John Amuasi, leader of the Global Health and Infectious Diseases Research Group, KCCR-KNUST, Ghana, on why we need research capacities installed in all healthcare environments as a way to prevent new pandemics: “Research is the key to our collective survival”, he stressed.
The vice president also participated in the final panel of the conference that discussed the role of women in science. Next to leaders in health research in the world, such as Aliya Naheed, Yewande Alimi and Lyda Osorio, the panel addressed themes such as gender inequality, the role of maternity, and what needs to be done for an impactful change in society in order to revert this picture. The conference was broadcast online and can be watched on Youtube. It is also possible to visit the sites of the new Latin American hub and of Fiocruz and participate in these communities of practice.