Netherlands organization for health research and development (ZonMw)
ZonMw rapidly launched its COVID-19 programme in 2020 and sought possibilities for financing research into the coronavirus and COVID-19. Since April 2020, ZonMw has funded 235 research projects with a total value of approximately €55M from the Ministry of Health (MoH) and the Dutch Research Council (NWO).
105 large projects, each worth more than €40,000, were launched, covering three main themes:
- Predictive diagnostics and treatment
- Care and prevention, including transmission
- Societal dynamics
A further 130 small projects of between €7,500 and €25,000 were implemented in 2 rounds:
- Creative solutions
- Science for practice
These 235 projects are being monitored and the results shared regularly with the MoH and other relevant stakeholders to support and develop COVID-19 related policies.
“The results of these projects have already led to many policy changes and guidelines, such as those related to source and contact tracing, treatment protocols, and social distancing measures” confirms Suzanne Verver, programme manager COVID-19, “Further, we organise networking meetings for related projects that have resulted in more collaboration between researchers.”
In 2021, ZonMw is developing a follow-up COVID-19 funding programme. Two parts (subprogrammes) have already been approved by the MoH: one on COVID-19 vaccination and one on COVID-19 treatment.
As part of the vaccination programme, ZonMw has recently funded 6 projects on vaccination for various categories of immunocompromised persons. ZonMw is also developing a sub programme on Long COVID.
ZonMw has also invested in various projects to improve the reusability of resources that are generated in COVID-19 projects (i.e., databases, biobanks, recordings, software, protocols, etc.), taking the FAIR principles as a guidance:
- Contribution to VODAN, the Viral Outbreak Data Access Network. One of the deliverables is a semantic data model based on the case report form (CRF) following the WHO standards. With the VODAN-in-a-box toolset it is, for example, possible to install the software to capture the data, and to interoperate with other related datasets.
- Webinars and support and community building to involve data stewards (and researchers) in FAIRifying data (and other resources).
- M4M (Metadata for machines) workshops to establish community specific metadata templates. With these templates it is possible to describe datasets (and other resources) in a standardised way, including COVID-19 specific features. The resulting metadata from each project are machine readable, and therefore ready for artificial intelligence. The templates will become available in spring 2021 for the entire research community, also outside ZonMw’s programmes.
- The metadata will also be exposed in a national health data portal, thereby making research outputs findable, and allowing data requests. It is also possible to answer research questions on metadata level.