Minister Harris announces new research programme that will explore solutions to public health crises

Posted: 6 July, 2021

  • EU-backed programme will fund 25 prestigious international research fellowships

Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Simon Harris TD, has today (06.07.21) announced funding for a new research programme aimed at creating solutions to public health crises.

The DOROTHY programme, led by the Irish Research Council in collaboration with the Health Research Board (HRB) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and co-funded by the European Union, will break down barriers between different academic disciplines by driving collaboration between researchers.

The programme is named after Dorothy Stopford-Price, an Irish doctor who was a pioneer in eradicating tuberculosis in Ireland, and who is to be credited with being the key figure in promoting the merits and use of the BCG vaccine here.

Under the scheme, 25 researchers will be awarded a three-year postdoctoral fellowship, with a total value of €5.5 million, which will allow them to work in both Irish and overseas research institutions.

The programme will promote effective international cooperation across multiple disciplines and will create innovative research networks, with a potential focus on the impact of Covid-19 from differing perspectives including the arts, humanities, education, political economy, environmental studies, engineering and immunology.


Speaking today, Minister Harris said: “It is fitting that the programme is named after Dorothy Stopford-Price, who played a monumental role in helping to prevent the spread of tuberculosis in Ireland.

“The DOROTHY programme will support the next generation of researchers in Ireland who can help inform public health policy on a national and international stage.

“As we strive to recover globally from the pandemic, I am looking forward to the roll-out of this programme and the opportunities it will present to examine public health from a variety of different perspectives.

“At the heart of the programme is the opportunity for researchers to break down barriers between different disciplines and collaborate with peers, and ultimately deliver results that will benefit every facet of Irish society.”

Also commenting today, Irish Research Council Programme Manager, Dr Chiara Loda, said: “The Covid-19 pandemic has reminded us of the value of investing in research, and of the need to adopt a multidisciplinary approach when responding to public health crises. We hope to create a collaborative research initiative where scientists, policymakers and the population in general can learn from each other, bringing about creative and inclusive solutions to public health crises. These are significant, complex and multi-faceted phenomena that require approaches of the same type and magnitude.

“The Irish Research Council is delighted to be partnering with the Health Research Board and the Environmental Protection Agency on the DOROTHY programme. We encourage researchers from all disciplines with an interest in public health to apply to this new fund when the first call opens later this year.”

Following a highly competitive process, the programme was successful under the European Commission’s Marie Sklodowska Curie Actions (MSCA) pillar and will be co-funded by the Commission for a period of 5 years. The application to the Commission for funding was ranked as the second-highest programme of its kind in Europe.


DOROTHY: solutions through synergies

The DOROTHY programme represents a unique partnership between national funders – led by the Irish Research Council, collaborating with the Health Research Board, and the Environmental Protection Agency – and the European Commission.

Welcoming this partnership, Dr Annalisa Montesanti, Programme Manager at the Health Research Board, noted that: “Health emergencies demand rapid responses based on best practice. The DOROTHY programme will drive interdisciplinary research to inform and to strengthen Ireland’s preparedness for emerging health emergencies. It is designed to bring together the best minds in research, industry, public health, and policy, to work together to ensure that research and evidence are available in advance to help inform decision making and practice in relation to events like the Covid-19 pandemic.”

Laura Burke, Environmental Protection Agency Director General, added: “A good-quality, well-protected environment has significant health and wellbeing benefits. Research has shown that access to clean green and blue spaces in our environment is good for both our physical and mental health. However, there are risks to our environment and our health from climate disruption, emerging pollutants of concern, and degraded ecosystems. The Environmental Protection Agency welcomes this collaborative partnership that will facilitate multi-disciplinary, integrated and timely research to support knowledge to action on these pressing environmental challenges.”

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No 101034345.






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