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Developing digital tools for climate-sensitive infectious disease research | News

1. Science must be led by the communities most affected

Most of the tools identified in landscaping were developed for geographic areas where the infectious disease of interest was endemic. However, the developers were often not from these regions.

Instead, North American and European institutions were overrepresented, and a third of the tools came from the United States and the United Kingdom alone.

Capacity building and mentoring are key to achieving greater developer representation from communities most impacted by CSID issues.

Wellcome has made a strategic shift towards an active search for diversity.

This will be reflected in how decisions are made for this call in accordance with our anti-racism active principles and how we believe they apply to technological development in all fields of science.

2. We need to look beyond vector-borne diseases

More than 80% of the tools identified in the review focused on vector-borne disease systems. Half of them were specific to malaria.

Tools for respiratory, food and waterborne diseases were scarce, and there were no tools for soil-borne diseases.

There is a clear opportunity to expand the scope of what is available.

We would especially like to support work that addresses underinvested modes of transmission, neglected (tropical) diseases, or even modeling that moves from pathogen-specific work to tools with multi-hazard relevance.

3. Technology alone is not enough

Stakeholder interviews revealed that a lack of effective communication between modellers and decision-makers was often a barrier to implementing new technologies.

Software development is wasted without investment in the enabling environment.

This includes everything from creating adequate reports, to facilitating replication and reuse, to ensuring that model results are clearly presented and relevant. These are questions that can only be answered through meaningful engagement with end users, and is something that we hope applicants will consider carefully when preparing their proposals.