Singapore

International Advocacy Toolkit
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Organizing Questions

  1. Which organization/s are significant sources of research funding? 

  2. What does the normal science funding/policy decision-making process look like?

  3. Which patient advocacy groups, if any, are active in the area?

  4. Are there existing national/regional organizations that work towards improving research funding/policy?

  5. How do scientists currently contribute to the existing funding/policy-making/advocacy process, if at all? 

  6. When are science funding/policy decisions made? 

  7. What kinds of opportunities exist for scientists to interact with funders and policymakers?

Which organization/s are significant sources of research funding? 

The National Research Foundation (NRF) is a department within the Prime Minister's Office. The NRF sets the national direction for research and development (R&D) by developing policies, plans and strategies for research, innovation and enterprise.  Its website describes funding mechanisms open to academic research institutes/public healthcare institutes in Singapore: www.nrf.gov.sg/rie2020/health-and-biomedical-sciences

 What does the normal science funding/policy decision-making process look like?

  • What are the criteria the funding/policy organization/s use to make their decisions?

The Research, Innovation and Enterprise (RIE) ecosystem in Singapore comprises various ministries, R&D funding bodies and R&D performers. At the top of this hierarchy is the Research, Innovation and Enterprise Council (RIEC), chaired by the Prime Minister, which oversees the long term research strategy to transform Singapore into a knowledge-based society, with strong capabilities in research and technology. The RIEC is supported by the National Research Foundation (NRF) Board, which is responsible for the formulation of 5-year plans and policies to grow Singapore’s research capability, support economic growth and meet Singapore’s future national challenges.

In the latest five-year Research, Innovation and Enterprise (RIE) Plan 2020, the Singapore government plans to invest $19 billion. The intent is to build on the investments made to-date, sharpen focus on growing private-sector R&D capabilities and nurturing high growth innovative enterprises that leverage technology, with the ultimate aim to turn these investments into products, services and solutions that create better economic and societal outcomes for Singaporeans.
www.nrf.gov.sg/rie2020

  • Is peer/scientific review involved in the funding-decision process?

The review framework of most grants involves a two-stage process: International Review and Local Review Panel review. Both processes comprise of independent reviewers, where the scientific merits and track record of applicants are evaluated.

i. International Review Panel
International reviewers are invited based on their field expertise. Reviewers with an academic designations of Associate Professors and above are typically engaged (except for rare cases where Conflict of Interest is declared). All international reviewers are required to submit a COI & NDA declaration prior to accessing the research proposal(s). In general, 3 international reviewers are assigned to review each grant proposal. In rare cases, due to a lack of response within the 8 weeks’ review period, some proposals may have less than 3 reviewers. More often though, the invitation goes out to 5 or more reviewers at one instance, and hence, some proposals may have more than 3 reviewers.


ii. Local Review Panel (LRP)
The LRP is generally co-chaired and comprises 25 to 35 members. LRP members are rotated based on the completion of their terms. New members are invited to the panel, while existing members may be invited to remain on the current panel (for consistency and score calibration) or rotated to another LRP.

Which patient advocacy groups, if any, are active in the area?

In Singapore, the patient advocacy movement remains largely in its infancy, and this is especially so when it comes to patient advocacy groups advocating for research funding and/or policy changes. 

Are there existing national/regional organizations that work towards improving research funding/policy?

The Research, Innovation and Enterprise (RIE) ecosystem in Singapore comprises various ministries, R&D funding bodies and R&D performers. At the top of this hierarchy is the Research, Innovation and Enterprise Council (RIEC), chaired by the Prime Minister, which oversees the long term research strategy to transform Singapore into a knowledge-based society, with strong capabilities in research and technology. The RIEC is supported by the National Research Foundation (NRF) Board, which is responsible for the formulation of 5-year plans and policies to grow Singapore’s research capability, support economic growth and meet Singapore’s future national challenges.

How do scientists currently contribute to the existing funding/policy-making/advocacy process, if at all? 

Funding bodies typically consult thought-leaders and key researchers within the research community through workgroups. Consultative session and roadshows are also held to provide overview of new and existing grants, as well as to solicit feedback from the research community, especially preceding major grant calls.

Funding bodies further make references to the established overseas funding agencies such as the United States NIH, Australian NHMRC, Canadian CIHR, United Kingdom MRC, NIHR, and CRC, etc. International agencies best practices are reviewed as part of grant development e.g. the revamped Centre Grant (CG) scheme was adopted from practices in NIHR and NIH, and reviewed by a CG workgroup.

Simulation exercises are also conducted with eligible institutions to understand the gaps and how the framework can be structured to cater to the research community.

When are science funding/policy decisions made? 

As mentioned above, the Research, Innovation and Enterprise Council (RIEC), chaired by the Prime Minister, and supported by the National Research Foundation (NRF) Board, is responsible for the formulation of 5-year research and innovation plans and policies to grow Singapore’s research capability, support economic growth and meet Singapore’s future national challenges.

What kinds of opportunities exist for scientists to interact with funders and policymakers?

Funding bodies typically consult thought-leaders and key researchers within the research community through workgroups. Consultative session and roadshows are also held to provide overview of new and existing grants, as well as to solicit feedback from the research community, especially preceding major grant calls.

Contributors

Tien Y Wong, M.D., Ph.D. (Singapore National Eye Center, National University of Singapore)
Sharmila Kannan (Singapore Eye Research Institute, Singapore National Eye Centre)