How to prepare for future outbreaks of emerging infectious diseases, like Covid-19?

Effective responses to outbreaks of infectious diseases, like Covid-19, require sufficient knowledge and expertise to timely recognize outbreaks and to develop effective countermeasures. This knowledge and expertise is not only needed in the global North, but especially also in the global South. Many infectious diseases originate from the South due to reservoirs of unknown viruses in wild animals.

Experts indicate that the key to building this knowledge and expertise lies in inclusive, or equitable, collaboration between the global North and South. Such equity, however, is not self-evident. For instance, researchers in the global South are often asked to lead clinical trials, but don’t always get a say in the design of the study. In turn, authorities in the global South become more and more reluctant in sharing research materials.


In addition, it is important to consider that innovation, especially in the context of infectious diseases, does not take place in isolation. Rather, it is dependent on a complex interplay between different stakeholders, including authorities in the field of public health, like the Dutch RIVM and the WHO. This brings opportunities, but also leads to inherent conflicts.


In this Veni-project assistant professor Linda van de Burgwal studies the interplay between stakeholders in geographic and in multi-stakeholder collaboration. Where and how do these processes reinforce each other, and which conflicts occur? And when does collaboration between parties from the global North and South become truly equitable?


With this project she is offered the opportunity to further expand her own line of research: “As a social scientist within the life sciences, this project fits seamlessly in my line of research in which I aim to gather insight into how the positive societal impact of knowledge can be improved. Combining scientific progress and entrepreneurship to address societal challenges is key for me.”

The project is explicitly co-designed with stakeholders from the field. “With my participative approach, I aim to not only develop theoretical knowledge, but to also achieve a societal impact. To understand how innovation processes can become more effective, efficient and reflective. And to be better prepared for outbreaks of new infectious diseases.”


Every year the Veni is awarded by NWO (Dutch Research Council) to highly promising young scientists. The grant provides the laureates with the opportunity to further elaborate their own ideas during a period of three years.