How funding structures for HIV/AIDS research shape outputs and utilization: a Swiss case study

Frey, Kathrin; K├╝bler, Daniel
January 2011
Journal of the International AIDS Society;2011 Supplement 2, Vol. 14 Issue Supp 2, p1
Academic Journal
Case Study
Background Research policy in the field of HIV has changed substantially in recent decades in Switzerland. Until 2004, social science research on HIV/AIDS was funded by specialized funding agencies. After 2004, funding of such research was "normalized" and integrated into the Swiss National Science Foundation as the main funding agency for scientific research in Switzerland. This paper offers a longitudinal analysis of the relationship between the changing nature of funding structures on the one hand and the production and communication of policy-relevant scientific knowledge in the field of HIV on the other hand. Methods The analysis relies on an inventory of all social sciences research projects on HIV in Switzerland that were funded between 1987 and 2010, including topics covered and disciplines involved, as well as financial data. In addition, in-depth interviews were conducted with 18 stakeholders. Results The analysis highlights that the pre-2004 funding policy ensured good coverage of important social science research themes. Specific incentives and explicit promotion of social science research related to HIV gave rise to a multidisciplinary, integrative and health-oriented approach. The abolition of a specific funding policy in 2004 was paralleled by a drastic reduction in the number of social science research projects submitted for funding, and a decline of public money dedicated to such research. Although the public administration in charge of HIV policy still acknowledges the relevance of findings from social sciences for the development of prevention, treatment and care, HIV-related social science research does not flourish under current funding conditions. Conclusions The Swiss experience sheds light on the difficulties of sustaining social science research and multidisciplinary approaches related to HIV without specialized funding agencies. Future funding policy might not necessarily require specialized agencies, but should better take into account research dynamics and motivations in the field of social sciences.


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