Doing Transdisciplinary Research on the Topic of Global Health

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The Berlin University Alliance funds cross-institutional research projects on global health

No 069/2021 from Apr 27, 2021

In view of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, air pollution, climate change, and social inequality, it becomes evident that global health is and will continue to be a key issue for society, politics, and research worldwide. The second Grand Challenge Initiative of the Berlin University Alliance (BUA) is also dedicated to this topic. As part of this objective, the BUA is funding cross-institutional research projects through a call for proposals entitled "Determinants of Global Health: Exploring Biological, Human-made & Environmental Factors."Over a period of three years, projects involving at least two partner institutions will be funded with a total of around 6.8 million euros. The deadline for applications is July 19, 2021. The earliest funding start date is February 1, 2022. The call for proposals is open to researchers from all disciplines.

Within the framework of the Grand Challenge Initiatives (GCI) of the Berlin University Alliance, interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research alliances are to be established in Berlin to develop and work on answers to urgent societal questions of the future. The exploration projects are intended to contribute to this: the funding line enables the projects to sustainably shape research on global health in Berlin and to develop a Berlin approach to global health. This is because in Berlin, the collective expertise of the four institutions of the Berlin University Alliance - Freie Universität Berlin, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Technische Universität Berlin, Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin - converges with a high concentration of research institutions not affiliated with academia and state research institutions, offering ideal conditions for innovative ideas, collaborations, and research approaches.

Viewing Health in a Global Context

"Global health combines aspects of health that have mostly been studied separately. The multinational, multidisciplinary collaboration helps to explore the links between social, biological, cultural, political and other aspects of health," explains Christian Drosten, Director of the Institute of Virology at Charité and spokesperson for the GCI on Global Health. The GCI on Global Health is not only concerned with the global spread of infectious diseases and dealing with the threat of future pandemics. It also aims at researching other factors that influence global health. These include, for example, dealing with increasing urbanization and its impact on people’s mental health, as well as declining biodiversity and the effects of climate change on our health.

Conducting Joint and Sustainable Research

In the area of global health, the expertise of actors from non-scientific areas plays a special role. In the exploration projects, research teams work in partnership with interested representatives of civil society, politics, economy, and culture to compile knowledge on specific issues, learn from each other, and jointly develop viable solutions. "In order to develop suitable and better solutions for major challenges of our time, research should not only be interdisciplinary but also transdisciplinary. Transdisciplinary research means not remaining thematically and methodologically confined to an academic world but formulating and working on research questions in critical reflection with partners not affiliated with academia," says Christine Ahrend, first vice president of Technische Universität Berlin and member of the steering committee Fostering Knowledge Exchange. This multidirectional collaboration is especially indispensable for global health research. The GCI on Global Health is therefore being supported by the Grand Challenge Forum Global Health. Within the framework of the forum, exchange and discussion formats between research and society are developed and implemented. By integrating different areas of knowledge resources and perspectives, the aim is to jointly develop more sustainable solutions to the major challenges facing society while at the same time conducting excellent research.

Participation of the Strategic Partners

A special opportunity to involve international partners is to apply for a jointly funded exploration project with one of BUA’s strategic partner universities in Singapore and in Melbourne. The call for proposals for a joint exploration project in global health with the National University of Singapore is due to start in September 2021. Application information will be made available on the BUA website.