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GCRF: Networks in vector borne disease research call for expressions of interest

Please note this opportunity is now CLOSED.
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  • Status: Closed
  • Open date: 14 Sep 2016
  • Closing date: 3 Nov 2016 16:00 GMT
  • Type: Grants, MRC strategic



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Call information
How to apply
Assessment criteria 
Key dates


The Medical Research Council (MRC) and Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) are pleased to announce a call for community building Networks in Vector Borne Disease (VBD) Research. The funders have earmarked up to a total of £9 million for this call and aim to support a number of multidisciplinary Networks addressing challenges relating to VBD of plants, animals and humans

This call forms part of MRC’s and BBSRC’s activities under the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) and therefore requires Networks to address VBD challenges primarily relevant to the health or prosperity of Countries on the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) DAC List (the list of ODA recipient countries is available at List of ODA Recipients 2014 final.pdf (PDF).  The Networks supported through this call will contribute to the UK Government’s commitment to Official Development Assistance (ODA).

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VBD of plants, animals and humans reduce agricultural productivity, affect human health and disrupt ecosystems throughout the world. These diseases profoundly restrict socioeconomic status and development in countries with the highest rate of infection, many of which are located in the tropics and subtropics.  

Outbreaks of African casava mosaic virus in East and Central Africa are estimated to be responsible for losses of between US$ 1.9 – 2.7 billion and the economic impact of Rift.

Outbreaks of African casava mosaic virus in East and Central Africa are estimated to be responsible for losses of between US$ 1.9 – 2.7 billion and the economic impact of Rift Valley fever outbreaks has been estimated to be between US$5-$470 million. VBD accounts for more than 17% of all human infectious diseases, causing more than 1 million deaths annually. More than 2.5 billion people in over 100 countries are at risk of contracting dengue fever and malaria causes more than 600,000 deaths every year. Distribution of these diseases is determined by a complex dynamic of biological, environmental and social factors. Global changes in livestock production practices, increased urbanisation, deforestation and globalisation, have resulted in a global re-emergence of epidemic VBD affecting plants, animals and humans over the last 30 years and spread of VBD from their traditional geographic range, as recently exemplified by the Zika outbreak.

While much research has focussed on the pathogen there has been less attention focussed on the vectors of disease. With increasing resistance of vectors to chemical insecticides new methods of vector control are urgently required.

This call for Networks in VBD Research has been informed by a recent BBSRC-led survey of the UK VBD Research, Training and Infrastructure landscape, which identified the following five key research priorities for the next 5 – 10 years:

  • Development of new control strategies for VBD in particular non-chemical vector control methods such as genetic control;
  • Increased understanding of fundamental vector biology and vector ecology;
  • Understanding what is driving the emergence and expansion of VBDs;
  • Increased understanding of vector pathogen interactions;
  • Improved diagnostics, surveillance and forecasting.

In addition, the survey highlighted a number of important capability gaps in areas such as vector biology, entomology and taxonomy.

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Call information

The aims of the call for Networks in VBD Research are:

  • To support a number of complementary community Networks focused on VBD challenges of relevance to countries on the OECD DAC list.
  • To encourage interdisciplinary working and to strengthen research capacity, capabilities and methodologies particularly focused on the vectors of disease.
  • To provide resources to support pump-priming funding for a range of innovative projects identified by the Networks ultimately leading to more competitive, collaborative, cross-disciplinary and integrative research proposals.
  • To support collaboration between researchers in the UK and in developing countries and engagement with end-users, stakeholders and policy makers.

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The funders aim to support multidisciplinary community Networks which will foster collaboration, facilitate wider cross-disciplinary integrative participation (including where appropriate environmental and social science research) and build capability which together will contribute to and underpin the development of novel strategies to control VBD of plants, animals and humans.

The primary focus of each Network must fall within the remit of at least one of the funders and should be addressing a challenge(s) relevant to VBD of plants, animals or humans where the disease vectors are either arthropods (including but not limited to mosquitoes, tsetse flies, sand flies, ticks, midges, aphids and whiteflies) or snails, other disease vectors are not within the scope of this call.

The Networks are a unique opportunity to draw together individuals from a broad range of scientific disciplines to foster knowledge exchange, methodological/technological sharing and facilitate learning. Network applications that seek funding to support business as usual activities/partnerships are unlikely to fair well at the assessment stage.

To facilitate networking and open discussion of Network ideas, the funders have created an extranet site which will provide access to details of individuals interested in leading, or joining, potential Networks and a discussion board on which ideas for potential Networks can be posted and receive input from the community. The extranet site will also host the launch meeting presentations. To register you interest in joining the extranet please email

While the funders do not wish to be prescriptive and are encouraging applicants to take a creative approach to building community Networks the following activities are not within the scope of the call:

  • Closed Networks – the purpose of the call is to support the development of ‘open’ community Networks. Networks which are composed of a small fixed number of individuals which do not articulate a clear plan for encouraging and building wider membership as the community matures will not be considered under this call.
  • Standard research proposals – this call is not intended to support standard research proposals these should be submitted to Responsive Mode or other appropriate schemes.

Network Management, Membership and Activities

Each Network will be led by a Network Director (Principal Investigator [PI]) who can be assisted by ONE Network Co-Director (Co-Investigator [CoI]). It is expected that the day-to-day management of each Network will be undertaken by a suitably qualified Network Manager. Further details are available in the ‘call guidance’ document.

Each Network will be expected to include members from countries on the OECD DAC list and have membership from a range of relevant academic disciplines including biological, medical, mathematical, chemical, environmental, economic and social sciences. Networks should also seek to engage stakeholders, end-users and policy makers.

Networks should include a range of activities and mechanisms to deliver the aims of the call. Detailed plans for the governance structure, including the development, assessment and monitoring of pump-priming funding will be an essential component of the Expression of Interest and full proposal. Further details are available in the ‘call guidance’ document

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BBSRC and MRC have earmarked up to a total of £9 million for this call and expect to support, dependent on scale and quality, ~6 multidisciplinary Networks for up to 3 years in duration focusing on clearly articulated challenges relevant to VBD of plants, animal and humans.

Applications should not exceed £2 million (100% Full Economic Costing [FEC]).

Applicants should apply for a ‘core’ component to cover appropriate salary and Network activities/event costs and a ‘pump-priming’ component to cover the cost of pump-priming innovative research which addresses the VBD challenge identified by the Network. Applicants are not required to provide a detailed justification of resources in the Expression of Interest. However, applicants should describe why a Network of the proposed scale is justified. Further information about eligible costs is available in the ‘call guidance’ document.

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The GCRF is a new 5-year, £1.5Bn resource funding stream, announced as part of the 2015 spending review, to ensure that UK research takes a leading role in addressing the problems faced by developing countries. The GCRF will deploy the UK’s world-class research capability to address the challenges faced by the developing world. The GCRF forms part of the UK’s ODA activities which are monitored by the OECD. Further information about the GCRF is available from the RCUK website.

All activities funded through the GCRF Networks in VBD Research will form part of the UK’s ODA activities. Therefore, Network proposals should clearly demonstrate how the primary purpose of the proposed Network will be to promote the economic development and welfare of a country or countries on the OECD’s DAC list of ODA recipients (the list of ODA recipient countries is available). Information about ODA compliance for GCRF applications is available in the RCUK guidance document. 

Please note that it is anticipated that Antigua & Barbuda, Chile, Uruguay, Argentina and Venezuela will graduate from the DAC list in 2017. Please refer to the ‘frequently asked questions’ document for further information about how this change may impact applications.

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BBSRC is the lead Research Council for this call. As such, standard BBSRC eligibility criteria apply for PIs and CoIs. For detailed guidance, please see section three of the BBSRC grants guide.

If you have any queries about eligibility please contact

Applications must be submitted by UK Research Organisations that are eligible to receive funding from BBSRC. Information about eligible organisations is available on the RCUK website

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How to apply

There is a two stage application and assessment process: Expressions of Interest and full proposals.

BBSRC is leading on the administration of this call, on behalf the funders. Applicants should refer to the BBSRC grants guide and Je-S help text for further information.

Applications which include multiple institutions must be submitted on a single Je-S proforma. Applications submitted on multiple forms will not be accepted.

Further information about completing the Expression of Interest including eligible costs is available in the ‘Call guidance’ document. Answers to a number of frequently asked questions are available in the ‘frequently asked questions’ document.

Expressions of Interest:

An Expression of Interest is a prerequisite for submission of a full application.

Applicants intending to submit an Expression of Interest are encouraged to join the GCRF Networks in Vector Borne Disease Research extranet site and to post their ideas on the discussion board so that they can receive input from the community and also identify whether others are considering similar Network ideas. Where duplication exists the funders would strongly encourage potential applicants to come together to submit a single cohesive application. To register your interest in joining the extranet please email

Expressions of Interests must be submitted via Je-S by 16:00 GMT on 3 November 2016. No late submissions will be accepted.

The call for proposals opens in Je-S on 14 September 2016. Applicants should:

  1. Log in the Joint Electronic System (Je-S)
  2. Select Council:                      BBSRC
  3. Select Document Type:       Outline
  4. Select Scheme:                     Standard Outline
  5. Select Call/Type/Mode:        Networks in Vector Borne Disease Research – Expression of Interest
  6. Click Create Document

When completing the Je-S submission, applicants should include:

  • A Case for Support, maximum of 4 pages.
  • CVs for PI and CoI only. CVs should be no longer than 2 pages per person.
  • Other attachments:

No other attachments should be included.

More information about what to include in the ‘case for support’ and ‘ODA statement’ are available in the call guidance document.

We recommend that you use typefaces Arial, Helvetica or Verdana and a strict minimum font size of 11 must be used for the entire Case for Support, ODA statement and CVs (excluding text on diagrams and the use of mathematical symbols). A minimum of single line spacing and standard character spacing must be used. Margins must not be less than 2cm.

The Je-S proforma should include a summary of the resources requested. Detailed justification of this request is not required at the Expression of Interest stage. However, it is expected that the resources requested in a full application, if invited, reflect those in the Expression of Interest.

Full proposals

The full proposal stage will be by invitation only. Applications to the full stage submitted without prior approval following the Expression of Interest stage, will not be allowed. Full details on how to apply will be provided to applicants invited to make a full submission.

It is anticipated that a meeting between the funders and the leaders of the proposed Networks invited to submit full proposals will be held in early December 2016 (to be confirmed).

Applicants invited to proceed to the full proposal stage should draw on any feedback and generic guidance provided to them. Note that the funders will work iteratively with applicants proposing similar Networks in order to bring together the strongest proposal.

All proposals must indicate a start date no later than 1 July 2017 and will be required to start by this date.

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Assessment criteria for Expression of Interest phase

The purpose of the Expression of Interest phase is to:

  • Provide constructive strategic and practical feedback to assist applicants with building a compelling full proposal
  • Ensure alignment with ODA requirements
  • Identify the number, scope, scale and ambition of the proposals
  • Provide the funders with an opportunity to work iteratively with applicants to ensure that complementary rather than duplicative proposals are submitted. Where duplication exists the funders are likely to recommend that communities work together rather than separately.
  • Provide the funders with an opportunity to manage their portfolios

The proposed research quality will not be assessed.

The Expressions of Interests will be assessed against the following criteria:

  • Fit to the remit of the funders – the funders encourage the inclusion of elements of broader cross disciplinary research (e.g. drawing in elements of social, economic or physical/engineering science) but the majority of the proposed activity must fall within the remit of at least one of the funders
  • Fit to the aims and scope of the call
  • ODA relevance
  • Demonstration of a clear Network management structure
  • Demonstration of a clear governance structure for managing pump-priming funds including how projects will be developed, assessed and monitored
  • Demonstration of a coherent plan for building an interdisciplinary community
  • Added value of the proposed Network above and beyond existing activities.

Expressions of Interest that fail to adequately address these criteria will not be invited to make a full submission. Further details are available in the ‘Assessment Criteria’ document.

Feedback and guidance on the level of funding requested will be provided after the Expression of Interest phase.

Applications from ineligible Research Organisations or applications that name an ineligible PI or CoI will not be invited to the full proposal stage.

It is anticipated that a meeting between the funders and the leaders of the proposed Networks invited to submit full proposals will be held in early December 2016.

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Key dates

Activity Date
Call for written Expressions of Interest opens  14 September 2016
Expression of Interest deadline 3 November 2016, 16:00 (GMT)
Call for full proposals opens (invite only) Mid December 2016
Full proposal deadline (invite only) Late Feb 2017
Start date Networks will have a latest start of 01 July 2017

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Enquiries should be submitted to:

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