Scientists from New Zealand (NZ) and China will share in a $1 million pool of funding aimed at partnering researchers from each country to collaborate on projects aimed at advancing knowledge and technologies to prevent, diagnose, and manage COVID-19.
The New Zealand Health Research Council (HRC) announced the 2020 NZ and China COVID-19 Collaboration Fund (NSFC) (pdf) in September last year. It offers scientists grants of up to $350,000 from a $1 million dollar funding pool, for the chance to work on two-year projects with Chinese scientists.
“The Health Research Council of New Zealand (HRC) and the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC) have established this funding initiative to address the global threat of COVID-19 and to support the development of collaborative research relationships between the two countries,” the HRC said.
According to the Health and Research Council assessment criteria (pdf), each collaboration should be designed to enhance the “transfer of new knowledge and/or technologies” and build NZ’s research capacity to address global health research priorities.
“The research team will require demonstrated expertise in undertaking health research. New Zealand applicants should have Chinese research partners eligible for the matching NSFC funding,” HRC said.
“The collaboration will extend the impact and reach of New Zealand research and provide opportunities to advance to higher levels of research excellence,” they said.
The HRC currently collaborates with two Chinese government organisations.
The news of the collaboration between NZ and China comes as the NZ government has said they would not join their Five Eyes allies in criticising Beijing over its lack of cooperation with the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) COVID-19 inquiry.
A spokesperson for NZ Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta said that the Ardern government wanted to take their time to examine the 319-page document by the WHO.
“New Zealand is pleased that the report has been released,” the spokeswoman said. “As this is a scientific report, we want to make sure we understand the science before making any comment.”
Thirteen other nations, including Australia, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Canada criticised the WHO report for its lack of “access, transparency, and timeliness” after a member of the WHO team confirmed that the Chinese regime had delayed and interfered with the team accessing “complete, original data and samples” needed to complete the inquiry.
WHO Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus also criticised China over the report.
“In my discussions with the team, they expressed the difficulties they encountered in accessing raw data,” Tedros said. “I expect future collaborative studies to include more timely and comprehensive data sharing.”
Other governments that have signed the statement include the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Israel, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, the Republic of Korea, and Slovenia.