Should the Gates Foundation fund Policy Research?

May 9th, 2007

Posted by: Roger Pielke, Jr.

Well, according Hannah Brown writing in BMJ the answer is “yes” (h/t It turns out that simply investing money in scientific research or technology development is not sufficient to realize benefits on the ground. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has already changed he world for the better, and has much future potential, so it is good that it is learning the limitations of the so-called “linear model” of science and society sooner rather than later. Here is an excerpt from Brown’s commentary:

Ask anyone with a passing interest in global health what the Gates Foundation means to them and you’ll likely get just one answer: money. In a field long fatigued by the perpetual struggle for cash, the foundation’s eagerness to finance projects neglected by many other donors raised high hopes among campaigners that its impact on health would be swift and great. And with the commitment last June by America’s second richest man, Warren Buffet, to effectively double the foundation’s $30bn (£15bn; {euro}22bn) endowment,1 hopes of substantial health achievements grew higher still.

But despite Bill Gates’s prediction at a press conference to mark Buffet’s pledge that there was now “No reason why we can’t cure the top 20 diseases”2 observers are starting to question whether all this money is reaping sufficient rewards. For although the foundation has given a huge boost to research and development into technologies against some of the world’s most devastating and neglected diseases, critics suggest that its reluctance to embrace research, demonstration, and capacity building in health delivery systems is worsening the gap between what technology can do and what is actually happening to health in poor communities. This situation, critics charge, is preventing the Gates’s grants from achieving their full potential.

Read the whole thing.

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