CFPs: WHO Project on Ethical Climate and Health Research

Deadline Date: June 17, 2024

 Donor Name: World Health Organization (WHO)

 Grant Size: $10,000 to $100,000–who-project-on-ethical-climate-and-health-research

The WHO Health Ethics and Governance Unit invites proposals designed to help facilitate the promotion of ethically sound and equitable climate and health research.

They particularly welcome proposals reflecting the priorities and experiences of communities most affected by climate change. They are also aware that there is a serious lack of data regarding the health impacts of climate change for some populations and on some topics: the experiences of local and Indigenous Peoples are particularly under-represented. The impacts of climate change on mental health, and effective policy responses are also under-researched. They therefore also welcome proposals in these and other under-represented areas.

Proposals can address any ethical dimension of research into climate change and health, including both adaptation and mitigation responses, bearing in mind the commitment to global equity and the need for practical ethical guidance for the global health research community.

This call for proposals is the first step in an ambitious three-year project to develop an agenda for conducting ethical research into climate change and health. The call and associated commissioned and desk research will be followed by regional and global convenings to discuss findings and recommendations from the first stage, and the development of normative frameworks and supporting guidance.


  • Themes of particular interest include, but are not limited to:
    • Ethical challenges in conducting research on health impacts of climate change, a well as mitigation and adaptation strategies: What unique or novel ethical issues does research in health and climate change give rise to? What ethical obligations does research in the face of climate uncertainty give rise to? Are there important ethical differences between research into mitigation and research into adaptation? What obligations do researchers have to research participants exposed to dangerous climate risks? What do these obligations entail? How can they be addressed by researchers and funders? What if these risks are extreme and may even involve existential threats? How can they ensure that research is nonextractive – that it does not transfer its benefits away from the populations being involved in the research? What obligations arise when conducting research with no prospect of direct benefit amongst communities facing multiples sources of disadvantage, including what ancillary care or complementary services might be appropriate? How might these questions vary for different kinds of research into health and climate change? Are the criteria and procedures for research ethics oversight adequate to the complex ethical challenges of research in the climate and health field? Given the interdisciplinary nature of research into health and climate change, how can meaningful participation between disciplines be promoted, particularly given the status and power ordinarily conferred on the human life sciences?
    • Setting priorities for research and action: Given the scale and urgency of the impacts of climate change on health, what research topics should be given priority and why? How can they decide what resources should be allocated to research and what to direct response? Do they need to prioritise between mitigation and adaptation? How should various actors in the research and policy ecosystem assess priority areas for research? Substantively how do you balance considerations of urgency, need, opportunity, potential scalability, potential for policy impact, etc. Procedurally, how do you involve different stakeholders in setting the agenda, nationally, regionally, globally – and ensure different voices appropriately feed into priority setting, including scientific expertise, lived experience, representation of groups who may be disproportionately impacted or at greatest risk of health-related impacts?
    • Justice considerations and the distribution of benefits and burdens: How can they identify and address trade-offs across different affected parties, geographically, economically, generationally, including how the positive and negative impacts of different approaches are distributed? What kinds of non-human interests matter morally in decisions about the distribution of benefits and harms in research into health and climate change? On the basis of what criteria can they assess the nature of a benefit or a burden? How can they incorporate benefits and burdens to non-human parts of the environment into obligations to ensure fairness in their distribution? What, if any, moral discounting is defensible in considering possible trade-offs between human and non-human health when assessing the social value of research?
    • Assessing net benefit and trade-offs between different types of health gains and other social, economic, ecological, cultural considerations: What kinds of trade-offs might be required between different types of health gain? How do they assess, factor in and adjudicate between direct human health gains and other benefits such as economic, ecological or broadly cultural benefits? How can they incorporate the value of non-human individuals, species, systems and ecosystems into a plausible account of the social value of research in climate change and health? Who can speak for non-human interests when assessing the social value of research, under what authority and what factors should they take into account?
    • Representation, power, and epistemic justice in shaping the climate and health research agenda and practice: Should some groups have special authority in setting the research agenda because of specific expertise, lived experience or greater exposure to the effects of climate change? How they can address unequal representation, under-represented voices and promote transdisciplinary approaches including via meaningful approaches to power-sharing, co-creation and co-design of research when setting the research agenda in health and climate change? How can power imbalances and inequalities be addressed? These questions are particularly urgent in relation to Indigenous Peoples, local groups and those who have been historically marginalised, and already experience disproportionately poor health. How then can the ongoing effects of epistemic injustice – the systematic devaluing of certain forms of knowledge, knowledge producers and knowledge transmitters – be addressed in the setting of the research agenda in health and climate change?
    • Valuing health, with a climate lens: As they move toward measuring the health impacts, and potential benefits associated with climate change to inform decisions about different strategies, how can they think about measuring what benefits count, over time and across various types of health and broader benefits and potential harms associated with these strategies? Are current approaches to health economic modelling appropriate or adaptable? How do they value statistical future lives versus currently existing lives? 

Funding Information

  • The maximum amount of funding available will be up to US$ 25,000.
  • However, they will consider funding a small number of proposals up to US$ 50,000 for multi-country/multi region studies.
  • The activities will be implemented across a maximum twelve-month period.

Eligibility and Selection Criteria

  • Proposals will be chosen based on the following criteria:
    • The design, focus and proposed outputs of the study, including:
      • Does the proposal address a topic relevant to one of the key areas of interest of the call?
      • Does the proposal offer a clearly stated rationale for the study?
      • Is this a new research area or is it already being explored?
      • Does the proposal clearly outline the aims of the project?
      • Can the project reasonably achieve its aims in the time available to it?
    • The expertise, experience and geographical location of the lead researcher and/or project team.
    • Cost-effectiveness and value for money.
  • In addition to the high-level criteria, they will aim to consider the following sub-categories, in order to achieve a diverse portfolio of funded projects:
    • Geographic distribution – both in terms of where the research is being undertaken (location of the institution) and the focus of the research
    • Gender balance
    • Different populations/groups – e.g. Those directly/most effected by climate change, Indigenous scholars
    • Across research fields/areas e.g. non-interventional observational and epidemiological studies, interventional & sub-topics within research – e.g. research on adaption, mitigation, research concepts such as social benefits, issues of duties owed to participants.
  • Please note that they would particularly welcome collaborative proposals:
    • Collaborative and/or interdisciplinary proposals both between high-income and low and middle-income countries (LMICs) and between LMICs
    • Proposals from under-represented groups, particularly where they are associated with populations at risk from the health burdens of climate change.

For more information, visit WHO.

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