Notice of Intent to Publish a Funding Opportunity Announcement for Harnessing Data Science for Health Discovery and Innovation in Africa (DS-I Africa): Ethical, Legal, and Social Implications Research (U01 Clinical Trial Not Allowed)
Notice Number:

Key Dates

Release Date:
May 12, 2020
Estimated Publication Date of Funding Opportunity Announcement:
July 10, 2020
First Estimated Application Due Date:
November 24, 2020
Earliest Estimated Award Date:
July 15, 2021
Earliest Estimated Start Date:
August 01, 2021
Related Announcements

NOT-RM-20-010 Notice of Intent to Publish a Funding Opportunity Announcement for Harnessing Data Science for Health Discovery and Innovation in Africa (DS-I Africa): Research Hubs (U54 Clinical Trial Optional)
NOT-RM-20-011 Notice of Intent to Publish a Funding Opportunity Announcement for Harnessing Data Science for Health Discovery and Innovation in Africa (DS-I Africa): Research Training Program (U2R Clinical Trial Optional)
NOT-RM-20-013 Notice of Intent to Publish a Funding Opportunity Announcement for Harnessing Data Science for Health Discovery and Innovation in Africa (DS-I Africa): Open Data Science Platform and Coordinating Center (U2C Clinical Trial Not Allowed)

Issued by

Office of Strategic Coordination (Common Fund)


The purpose of this Notice is to inform the research community that the NIH Common Fund, along with its partner NIH Institutes, Centers and Offices, is planning to issue a funding opportunity announcement (FOA) to support research on the Ethical, Legal, and Social Implications (ELSI) associated with a new program entitled Harnessing Data Science for Health Discovery and Innovation in Africa (DS-I Africa).

This Notice is being provided to allow potential applicants sufficient time to develop meaningful collaborations and responsive research projects. Additionally, this notice informs the research community of a Virtual Symposium Platform that will launch the program and facilitate networking. The FOA will be open to applications directly from African organizations and is expected to be published in Summer 2020, with an expected application due date by November 2020. This FOA will utilize the U01 Research Project Cooperative Agreements activity code. Details of the planned FOA are provided below.

Research Initiative Details

Data drive scientific discovery. Recent technological advances, in Africa and around the world, have enabled researchers to collect enormous volumes of data. From rural clinics to the most sophisticated genomics laboratories data are central to our ability to improve health, from delivering care to conducting biomedical research. The collection and analysis of data are fundamental activities that underpin successful biomedical research and translation to clinical and public health benefits. The ability to fully extract useful knowledge from these data will lead to accelerated discoveries and innovations that can impact health in Africa and globally.

NIH is launching the DS-I Africa program to explore how advances in data science applied in the African context can spur new health discoveries and catalyze innovation. This program will leverage existing data and technologies to develop solutions to the continent’s most pressing clinical and public health problems through a robust ecosystem of new partners from academic, government, and private sectors. The DS-I Africa ELSI research projects will be a key component of the larger DS-I Africa program, which will also include companion FOAs supporting 1) data science and innovation research hubs; 2) data science research training; and 3) development of an open data science platform and coordinating center. As a group, awardees will constitute a collaborative consortium and will work collectively toward strategic objectives designated by the consortium, beyond the individual research objectives of each award. Representatives from each DS-I Africa award will be expected to participate fully in the DS-I Africa Consortium and cross-consortium working groups?.

Through the DS-I Africa ELSI FOA, it is expected that approximately four U01 awards will be supported. The overarching theme of these projects will be to conduct empirical studies that address ELSI research questions central to data science in Africa. The cooperative agreements will be direct awards to African institutions, although partnership with US and other high-income country institutions will be allowed and encouraged. While the specific area(s) an ELSI application proposes to address will be determined by the applicant, topics that might be considered include, but are not limited to:

  • Policy implications, with consideration of national and regional differences
  • Informed consent considerations, with additional consideration of vulnerable populations
  • Data privacy & sharing of data for additional research purposes
  • Sharing of results with participants
  • Use of geospatial information
  • Unique perspectives about these types of data and their use (views from researchers, participants, the broader public)
  • Consideration of heterogenous cultural topics

Critically, it is incumbent upon the applicant to provide evidence that the proposed ELSI questions are germane to core data science issues being addressed through the DS-I Africa Reseach Hubs and Open Data Science Platform (see Related Announcements). A primary goal is that ELSI efforts, and by definition those investigators conducting such research, will be embedded fully in the Research Hubs so that the ELSI efforts not only inform outcomes and the implications of this research, but also strengthen the research conducted in these Hubs. As such, it is expected these awards will work closely with the Coordinating Center and Research Hubs to advise on policies and in considering implementation strategies for the research findings. It will be important that these ELSI projects also consider how to best address core ethical issues that may arise as the larger research projects uncover additional opportunities. ELSI efforts supported will be expected to propose a flexible framework that enables partnerships with the DS-I Africa Research Hubs to address evolving ethical issues that arise.

In the development of ELSI applications for the DS-I Africa program, it is important to consider how these ELSI topics intersect with, and inform the Research Hubs. Specifically, the multidisciplinary Research Hubs will focus on critical health research areas to be addressed through data science approaches. The Research Hubs will be direct awards to African institutions and will engage African government, industry, and/or other organizations, diverse departments from Hub institutions, and organizations in the United States and/or globally that can partner to provide synergistic expertise, collaborate on research, and support data science linked to new technologies and solutions.

Of importance, Research Hubs may collect and utilize a wide range of data types and sources, including but not limited to clinical, public health, genomic, imaging, geospatial, mobile, and environmental data. These Hubs will have a focus on a specific health area of importance to the country or region of focus, which may be disease-specific, data-specific, or cross-cutting. As such, it is expected that ELSI applications will detail how they will consider the uniqueness of a Hub and how these ELSI projects will consider the different types of data that will be available through the Open Data Science Platform.

Last, each ELSI application should carefully consider how the development of young investigators versed in ELSI topics might play meaningful roles in these projects.

Funding Information
Estimated Total Funding

$1,600,000 in FY2021

Expected Number of Awards
Estimated Award Ceiling

$400,000 total costs per year for five years

Primary CFDA Numbers
Anticipated Eligible Organizations
Non-domestic (non-U.S.) Entity (Foreign Organization)

African institutions of higher education and other non-profit organizations. Applications are not being solicited at this time.

Please direct all inquiries to:

James D. Churchill, Ph.D.

National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)


Weekly TOC for this Announcement
NIH Funding Opportunities and Notices