Francois van Loggerenberg (2006 Commonwealth Scholar from South Africa, PhD in Infectious and Tropical Diseases, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine) is currently the Scientific Lead for The Global Health Network.
The network aims to improve opportunities for collaboration and information sharing amongst health researchers. It recognises that researchers face lengthy processes and increasing costs, negatively affecting health outcomes in low and middle countries where the need is often greatest. Lack of awareness can lead to duplication in the process and design of health research studies. This can also prevent researchers from acting quickly during disease outbreaks like SARS, or the novel coronavirus.
Francois, who spent the decade prior to his Commonwealth Scholarship working on HIV prevention, pathogenesis and treatment trials in South Africa, understands the challenges facing such researchers. ‘I have direct experience of the barriers to research in low and middle income countries, which helps me address our priorities and activities on The Global Health Network, as well as giving me direct experience in what is needed to move research along in these contexts.’
The Global Health Network is a collection of varied member areas connected on a shared digital hub. These member areas are each established professional communities, built and led by researchers or research groups from these fields for other researchers – each setting out to create a space online to build collaborations and open forums for sharing knowledge. More information can be found on The Global Health Network website, or by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Francois believes that the skills gained during his Commonwealth Scholarship have enabled him to tackle his role at the network. ‘The quality PhD training I received helped me develop competence and confidence in research methods, as well as acquiring research and study management skills that directly inform the content of materials and training support that we host on the network.’
The newest application added to the network is the Site-Finder application. The tool provides a free online facility for research sites to promote themselves to potential sponsors and collaborators. Sponsors with trials can make highly detailed searches for trial sites that are tailored to their specific needs. Site-Finder automatically links the parties, and an automated messaging system informs sites of new studies relevant to them.
The objective of Site-Finder is to allow sites to make themselves known within their region, and indeed globally. ‘We are sure that our new Site-Finder application will be integral in helping new and small research sites being able to equitably access new research studies and funding.’
Francois says that future developments include an effort to obtain grant funding to further develop the integration between on-the-ground research skills training and the online eLearning and Professional Development Scheme on the network. ‘Ultimately we hope that The Global Health Network will become the ‘go to place’ for researchers in low and middle income countries to collaborate, obtain additional skills training and professional development support, thereby creating greater equity in access to research studies in these regions.’