UN Research Roadmap for the COVID-19 Recovery
Project overview

Dr. Steven Hoffman, Scientific Director of the CIHR Institute of Population and Public Health (CIHR-IPPH) has been invited by the United Nations Deputy Secretary-General to lead a participatory process to identify research priorities that will support an equitable global socio-economic recovery frchom COVID-19 and continued progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Building on the work of the UN COVID-19 economic and social recovery plan, the UN Research Roadmap for the COVID-19 Recovery aims to transform COVID-19 recovery into a rapid learning initiative – one where national and international responses can be informed by rigorous social scientific evidence generated in the forthcoming recovery period. By developing a research agenda at the outset of recovery, early response efforts can inform later responses, enabling countries around the world to learn from one another as they aim to build back better.

In developing the UN Research Roadmap, CIHR will lead the effort to engage researchers, implementers, funders and citizens around the world to identify and prioritize knowledge needs and research areas for rebuilding in a post-pandemic era and safeguarding progress towards achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).

Essential to the research roadmap, research priorities will align to the five pillars identified in the UN Framework:

  1. Protecting health services and systems
  2. Ensuring social protection and basic services
  3. Protecting jobs, small- and medium-sized enterprises and informal sector workers
  4. Supporting macroeconomic response and multilateral collaboration
  5. Strengthening social cohesion and community resilience

Additionally, environmental sustainability and gender equity will be considered in each of the pillars in an effort to build a more inclusive, gender-equal and sustainable world, with specific attention to at-risk populations experiencing the highest degree of socio-economic marginalization.

The UN Research Roadmap is intended to complement the WHO Coordinated Global Research Roadmap. While the WHO Roadmap focuses on the immediate health response, the UN Research Roadmap will address longer-term downstream socio-economic consequences of COVID-19. Together they provide important guidance on how the world can learn from our early choices to build back better.

UN Research Roadmap for the COVID-19 Recovery – Updates

  • UN Research Roadmap for the COVID-19 Recovery

    Dear colleagues,

    I am writing to let you know about a new participatory process commissioned by the United Nations (UN) Deputy Secretary-General to develop a UN Research Roadmap for the COVID-19 Recovery. This Roadmap will identify the top research priorities needed to support an equitable global socio-economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and accelerate progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The intention in developing this research agenda at the outset of recovery is to ensure that early response efforts can inform later responses, enabling countries around the world to learn from one another as they aim to build back better.

    I will be sharing regular updates in order to ensure that key partners and stakeholders are kept informed about our progress in developing this research roadmap over the next several weeks. I hope you find this information useful. Please also help us by forwarding this email to anyone who you think might be interested in learning about this UN Research Roadmap effort.

    By way of background, the UN Research Roadmap for the COVID-19 Recovery will build on the work of the UN’s existing COVID-19 socio-economic recovery framework, aiming to transform COVID-19 recovery into a rapid learning initiative – one where national and international responses can be informed by rigorous research evidence generated in the forthcoming recovery period. Research priorities will align to the five pillars identified in the UN socio-economic recovery framework:

    1. Protecting health services and systems
    2. Ensuring social protection and basic services
    3. Protecting jobs, small- and medium-sized enterprises and informal sector workers
    4. Supporting macroeconomic response and multilateral collaboration
    5. Strengthening social cohesion and community resilience

    Additionally, environmental sustainability and gender equity will be considered in each of the five pillars in an effort to build a more inclusive, gender-equal and sustainable world, with specific attention to at-risk populations experiencing the highest degree of socio-economic marginalization.

    Having been asked to lead the development of this UN Research Roadmap, my colleagues and I at the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) aim to engage as many researchers, policymakers, implementers, funders and citizens around the world as our short timeframe allows. We have initiated three parallel streams of activities to inform the Roadmap’s development. First, we have convened five steering groups – one for each of the five pillars in the UN socio-economic recovery framework – composed of senior leaders from 38 different research funding agencies and every UN region. Second, we have commissioned five scoping reviews to identify what is already known about each of the five pillars and where are current knowledge gaps requiring further attention. Third, with the support of the UN Office for Partnerships and Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC), we are undertaking several group consultations with a focus on implementation leaders and young researchers in the Global South.

    We at CIHR are delighted to be leading the development of this Research Roadmap in support of the UN’s efforts to help all countries build back better from the COVID-19 pandemic. In doing so, we have received great support from our partners across the Government of Canada, including the Canada Foundation for Innovation, Global Affairs Canada, Grand Challenges Canada, IDRC, Natural Sciences & Engineering Research Council, Public Health Agency of Canada, and Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council, as well as from across the UN system, from GloPID-R’s Funders’ Forum for Social Science Research, from UK Research & Innovation, from the International Science Council, and from so many of our counterparts and other scientific organizations around the world.

    Thank you in advance for forwarding this email to anyone who you think might be interested in staying updated about this endeavour. I look forward to sharing more with you in the upcoming weeks.

    Best,
    Steven

    Steven J. Hoffman JD PhD LLD
    Lead, UN Research Roadmap for the COVID-19 Recovery
    Scientific Director, CIHR Institute of Population & Public Health

  • UN Research Roadmap for the COVID-19 Recovery – Update #1 on Process and Progress

    Dear colleagues,

    We are continuing to work towards the completion of the UN Research Roadmap for the COVID-19 Recovery and significant progress has already been made. With five steering groups, five scoping reviews, and several consultations all underway, I would like to share a few details about how we are using these inputs in the development of the roadmap.

    When we began working on this initiative, we assembled five steering groups corresponding to each of the five pillars outlined in the UN’s existing COVID-19 socio-economic recovery framework. Members of the steering groups come from six continents across all income economies, representing 37 different research funding agencies with gender parity. We are grateful to the steering group members and co-chairs who are working to identify the most pressing research questions in their mandate areas. Each committee has met at least twice and will continue meeting throughout the rest of the month.

    The five steering groups are chaired by:

    • Pillar 1 - Health Systems - Jeremy Farrar, Director, Wellcome Trust, UK, and Glenda Grey, President, Medical Research Council, South Africa
    • Pillar 2 - Social Protection - Angela Liberatore, Head of Unit on Social Sciences and Humanities, European Research Council, and Bhushan Patwardhan, Chairman, Indian Council of Social Sciences Research
    • Pillar 3 - Economic Recovery - Ted Hewitt, President, Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, and Nísia Trindade Lima, President, FIOCRUZ, Brazil
    • Pillar 4 - Multilateral Collaboration - Thilinakumari Kandanamulla, Scientific Officer, National Science Foundation, Sri Lanka, and John-Arne Røttingen, Chief Executive, Research Council of Norway
    • Pillar 5 - Social Cohesion - Kellina Craig-Henderson, Deputy Assistant Director for Social, Behavioral & Economic Sciences, US National Science Foundation, and Aisen Etcheverry, National Director, Agencia Nacional de Investigación y Desarrollo, Chile

    In addition to the steering committees, we have also commissioned five scoping reviews that will provide thorough background information on existing knowledge in each of the pillars, as well as identify potential knowledge gaps. These reviews are now complete and are now informing discussions in steering groups and other consultations.

    Our final input to the UN Research Roadmap process consists of the many consultations we are undertaking to ensure a comprehensive view of the COVID-19 socio-economic recovery from numerous perspectives. For example, Canada’s International Development Research Centre hosted a virtual consultation with us on August 18, 2020 that focused on gender equity and sustainability and privileged voices from policy leaders and young researchers based in the Global South. Meetings with UN Resident Coordinators and civil society organizations have provided us with on-the-ground insights across diverse contexts, and we have benefited greatly from the support of several UN entities, including the UN Environment Program, UN Women, International Organization for Migration, United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, United Nations Populations Fund, UNICEF, and especially the UN Office for Partnerships and the UN Development Coordination Office.

    With the assistance of the International Science Council (ISC) and the International Network for Government Science Advice (INGSA), we have additionally reached out to the ISC’s member academies and research councils and INGSA’s 5000 members who are based in over 100 countries.

    There is still a lot to accomplish, but over the past few weeks we have seen what is possible when we work collaboratively with research, policy, and implementation experts worldwide. It is exciting to see the UN Research Roadmap start to take shape. I look forward to sharing a bit about our initial learnings in my next update.

    Please feel free to forward this email to anyone who you think might be interested in learning about this initiative.

    Best,
    Steven

    Steven J. Hoffman JD PhD LLD
    Lead, UN Research Roadmap for the COVID-19 Recovery
    Scientific Director, CIHR Institute of Population & Public Health

  • UN Research Roadmap for the COVID-19 Recovery – Update #2 on Early Findings

    Dear colleagues,

    As our work on the UN Research Roadmap for the COVID-19 Recovery continues, we have begun to integrate insights from our steering groups, scoping reviews and consultations. This update will outline a few of the key insights that have emerged thus far as well as some early lessons for research ecosystems.

    With scoping reviews now complete, a clearer understanding has emerged about how much is known and not known across each of the five pillars of the UN’s socio-economic recovery framework, namely health systems, social protection, economic recovery, multilateral collaboration, and social cohesion. This understanding is essential for identifying strengths and gaps within our existing knowledge base upon which we can articulate research priorities needed to build back better from COVID-19.

    Through all of the processes we have undertaken thus far, what has become clear is that COVID-19 has served as a grand revealer for the depth of consequences caused by the structural problems we have long known we need to address. In this way, COVID-19 presents an opportunity to better understand these problems, bring renewed attention to solutions that have long been discussed, develop fundamentally new ways of addressing todays’ challenges, and motivate evidence-informed action and implementation. Indeed, many of the priorities emerging from this UN Research Roadmap process are not actually new; however, COVID-19 makes some priorities newly essential and the pandemic newly emphasizes their importance for accelerating progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals.

    To the extent that a single unifying theme has emerged throughout this process, it is that we live in an interdependent world that requires us to think and act in ways that account for interdependencies across populations, systems and time. With shared risks come shared responsibilities, yet we do not yet have all the knowledge we need to guide our actions going forward. That means we need research that can help us better understand the interdependent world in which we live and how to ensure that our world allows everyone to thrive, even during emergencies like COVID-19, both at the present and in the future.

    Finally, in addition to identifying research priorities, our process has identified numerous building blocks needed to fully harness the power of science for social good across contexts. The fact that an effective response to and recovery from COVID-19 so evidently depends on science highlights the core function that science and scientific ecosystems must play in all societies. This requires everyone to consider how we can best build and enhance our scientific ecosystems while maximally mobilizing the knowledge and innovations they offer for the benefit of all.

    As always, please feel free to forward this email to anyone who you think might be interested in learning about the UN Research Roadmap for the COVID-19 Recovery initiative.

    Best,
    Steven

    Steven J. Hoffman JD PhD LLD
    Lead, UN Research Roadmap for the COVID-19 Recovery
    Scientific Director, CIHR Institute of Population & Public Health

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