- Which organization(s) are significant sources of research funding?
- What does the normal science funding/policy decision-making process look like?
- Which patient advocacy groups, if any, are active in the area?
- Are there existing national/regional organizations that work towards improving research funding/policy?
- How do scientists currently contribute to the existing funding/policy-making/advocacy process, if at all?
- When are science funding/policy decisions made?
- What kinds of opportunities exist for scientists to interact with funders and policymakers?
1. Which organization(s) are significant sources of research funding?
In the Netherlands there are various sources of research funding open to all researchers:
- The Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (in Dutch: NWO): Governmental funding for science-wide and cross-boundary programs is available. Scientists and research institutions can submit an application for funding for their research projects, large equipment and databases as soon as a call for proposals is published. The call for proposals describes the aim of the research, who may apply, the amount of money available and which criteria will be applied during the assessment and selection.
- EU funding: The current framework of EU funding is called Horizon2020 and allows both individual research projects and larger, multi-center and multi-disciplinary projects. Also programs that stimulate public-private partnerships are available. More information: https://ec.europa.eu/programmes/horizon2020/
- Charity funding: Depending on the topic of your research, various patient organizations provide funding for research. In the Netherlands, eye-oriented foundations collaborate in the umbrella organization Uitzicht (www.uitzicht.nl), which organizes a yearly call for research proposals and handles the complete procedure involved in the calls.
- Pharmaceutical companies/industry: Depending on the research questions, companies may provide funding for research (e.g. funding of trials, providing equipment for research, providing analyses of samples, prizes and awards, direct financial support).
2. What does the normal science funding/policy decision-making process look like?
For NWO, EU funding, and Charity funding, international and national reviewers judge the proposals and researches are allowed to write a rebuttal. For NWO and EU funding, researchers have to give an interview explaining their research to the committee that makes the final decision for funding. Renowned scientists within the Netherlands (NWO) or Europe (EU funding) are members of the committees. For Charity funding, the charities themselves make the decision which proposals they would like to support, guided by the scientific reviewers and their own interests. For Pharmaceutical companies/industry, the procedure differs for each company.
3. Which patient advocacy groups, if any, are active in the area?
Charity funding groups in the Netherlands are very active in communicating with patients and give feedback to researchers about the topics that patients would like to see addressed in future research projects.
4. Are there existing national/regional organizations that work towards improving research funding/policy?
Following an initiative from the Dutch ARVO Chapter ARVO-NED, Dutch vision scientists started an advocacy group to lobby for private and government money. The group is known as Scientists against Blindness.
The Netherlands has a national bureau for stimulating public private partnership and supports small enterprises (Netherlands Enterprise Agency). They are in close contact with EU officers that decide on EU policy for research. Each university has policy makers that are in close contact with EU officers to communicate on the research topics that should be on the agenda for funding in the coming 10 years.
5. How do scientists currently contribute to the existing funding/policy-making/advocacy process, if at all?
See above. There is communication between patients groups, researchers and funding agencies.
- For NWO: by the government. Policies are made for longer timespans.
- For EU funding: by EU officers, but with input of various representatives of universities, governments and industry.
- For Charity funding: by the funding agencies themselves.
For NWO and EU funding: this might be difficult, but there probably is a possibility to for researchers to present their work during interviews.
For Charity funding: During patient-oriented meetings, scientists provide insight into their research through presentations. These meetings provide good opportunities for interaction between scientists and patients.
M. Meester (Dept. of Ophthalmology, Erasmus MC, Rotterdam)
Martine Jager (Leiden University).