The University of Aberdeen is one of only two Scottish institutions selected to drive research into the challenges presented by the global COVID-19 pandemic as part of an extensive UK-Japanese collaboration.
The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) have jointly awarded grants to 10 social science and humanities research projects.
These projects will focus on supporting global efforts to manage the effects of the pandemic, including its impact on the labour market, the mental health implications for children and parents, the impact on the future sustainability of culture; and how the pandemic is affecting public trust in institutions.
Each project team will involve teams from both countries who have chosen to collaborate in areas of mutual strength and joint interest.
Researchers from the University of Aberdeen’s School of Law will work with partners at Kobe University in Japan to conduct an interdisciplinary study on medical research and development, focused on rescuing intellectual property rights in pandemic emergencies.
The coordinated grants will deliver £620,000 in total to support new research, with the University of Aberdeen receiving approximately £425,000 and Kobe University ¥30,000,000.
Roy Partain, Chair Professor at the University of Aberdeen’s School of Law and project lead for the UK team, said: “To solve new medical problems such as viral outbreaks, many patents, copyrights and other trade secrets need to be accessible to a variety of research labs in many countries. This requires coordinating a host of legal issues, from the creation of IP rights and regulatory approvals over the use of those rights, to the contracting and licensing of those rights and many other aspects of commercial law across a modern global marketplace.
“However, coordination problems in the markets surrounding medical and pharmaceutical intellectual property (IP) rights could prevent the rapid development of treatments, cures and vaccines during the tightly packed timeframes of a moving pandemic.
“This project seeks to find solutions to the ‘IP crisis’ to enable the continued functional trust of the market and of property rights during pandemics. Our research looks to solve hidden mathematical structures in law to enable effective legal reforms that will prevent future IP crises from occurring.”
The programme is being funded by the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Fund for International Collaboration, which is intended to enhance the UK’s ability to build and strengthen partnerships with global research and innovation leaders.
It is the second UKRI initiative run in collaboration with JSPS following a successful previous opportunity focused on the life and environmental sciences. UKRI, through AHRC and ESRC, is contributing £3.5 million and JSPS is contributing ¥300 million towards these projects.
Professor Alison Park, Interim Executive Chair of ESRC, said: “We are delighted to collaborate with the Japanese Society for the Promotion of Science to fund these projects. Together they demonstrate the breadth and relevance of the social sciences and humanities in tackling global issues arising from the pandemic.
“These awards will strengthen partnerships between the UK and Japanese research communities and encourage interdisciplinary working and capacity building. Most importantly, the projects will bring fresh perspectives to bear on many issues of major public and policy interest, providing valuable research evidence that can be used in decision making to bring about positive change.”
Professor Christopher Smith, Executive Chair of AHRC, said: “These projects bring together the humanities and social sciences to help capture the complexity of our experiences during the pandemic.
“This collaboration demonstrates the value and enduring strength of UK-Japan research partnerships across the humanities and social sciences. They demonstrate how committed AHRC, ESRC and JSPS are to understanding the challenges and opportunities facing policymakers and practitioners as we emerge from the pandemic and their insights will play a vital role in driving our post-pandemic recovery towards more equitable cultures and societies.”
Doctor Susumu Satomi, President of JSPS, said: “JSPS is happy to have this platform to work with ESRC and AHRC in supporting joint research projects that seek to bolster the sustainability of societies.
“Amidst this unprecedented global pandemic, researchers from the UK and Japan are drawing upon the multifaceted knowledge and wisdom rooted in the humanities and social sciences as they strive to tackle and solve prevailing issues.
“These joint projects are not only important in terms of spawning future research advances and boosting research capacities but moreover can be pivotal in fostering excellent young researchers who will play active roles in the global arena and in strengthening further research networks between the UK and Japan.”