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A Global Social Sciences Network for Infectious Threats and Antimicrobial Resistance

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - SoNAR-Global (A Global Social Sciences Network for Infectious Threats and Antimicrobial Resistance)

Reporting period: 2019-01-01 to 2020-06-30

SoNAR-Global is a global consortium led by social scientists specializing in emerging infectious diseases (EID) and antimicrobial resistance (AMR). Until SoNAR-Global’s creation in 2019, no coherent international network organized and fostered interactions among social scientists working on topics related to EID and AMR preparedness and response in Europe and around the world. The existence of this network is important: social scientists are uniquely positioned to evaluate linkages between infectious events, political economic and ecological conditions, local communities and marginalized people. Such insights are crucial when instability (caused by infectious disease outbreaks, conflicts, or other stresses) exaggerates local inequalities, hampering effective preparedness and response efforts. SoNAR-Global has therefore developed a social science network to engage the active participation of social sciences and promote complementarity and synergy in the governance of prevention and response to epidemics and AMR. Partnering with major international and regional institutions, it leads activities through a program that builds governance from the ground up. Its objectives are to:
• Establish and coordinate the SoNAR-Global network and develop an open-access platform to support the SoNAR-Global activities and to share them broadly;
• Adapt, test, and evaluate vulnerability assessment tools on the ground and engagement models to facilitate collaboration across multiple stakeholders.
• Create, pilot, and evaluate curricula for training social scientists in preparedness and response to infectious threats and through curricular development and piloting social science knowledge of infectious threats among non-social
SoNAR-Global has made considerable progress in achieving its objectives in its first 18 months. We have created a dynamic network of 526 individual members and 15 networks. Our platform includes a searchable directory accessible by inscription and information concerning our development and implementation of our tools and models, social sciences resources (publications and policy reports, blogs, social sciences operational research mapping for epidemics). We have organized three webinars on COVID-19 in English and French and have produced two podcasts (one on AMR and the other on the social consequences of COVID-19). We have established three active regional hubs: a southeast Asian hub based in Bangkok and focusing on AMR; an eastern Europe hub based in Kiev and addressing vaccine hesitancy; and a West African hub that concentrates on social sciences training and preparedness and response to epidemics. We have set the foundations for an East African hub for vulnerability assessment training, as well as for a thematic hub focusing on the social sciences of viral hepatitis.

SoNAR-Global has not only established its presence and activities on local, national and regional levels, but is also visible and active on a global level. We have interacted with GloPID-R and JPIAMR through high-level meetings and presentations at their meetings. We communicate frequently and collaborate with the World Health Organization: six SoNAR-Global members participate in the Social Sciences Research Roadmap for COVID, two now lead a social sciences methodologies group for this WHO Roadmap, and one is a lead social scientist in the WHO West and Central Africa COVID-19 Platform. Through multiple meetings with UNICEF representatives, we are working towards the development of multiple collaborations. We secured funding to conduct our vulnerability assessment for epidemics in the Central African Republic and will integrate C4D’s Minimum Standards for Community Engagement into our engagement activities. We also collaborated with GOARN-Research to map social sciences research during the DRC Ebola epidemic. We have cultivated frequent interactions with, and in some cases, collaborations with multiple networks in Europe, North America, West Africa, and the UK. Several partners have developed new research collaborations in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
SoNAR-Global has made important progress in offering concrete and useful resources to social scientists around the world. We have completed an extensive evaluation of the governance of epidemics and AMR. We have conducted a scoping analysis Vulnerability Assessment (VA) tools. On the basis of this evaluation, we have now developed two tools, one for infectious diseases (ID-VA) and one for AMR. Following the training of the Makerere University team, we implemented the ID-VA in Kampala (Uganda) and are now analyzing the results of what may be the only systematic social sciences data in real time of local vulnerability to infectious disease on the eve of the COVID-19 pandemic.

SoNAR-Global also undertook a mapping and evaluation of existing community engagement structures in Ukraine, Uganda and Bangladesh, collecting information on any kind of intervention, program or project on AMR or infectious diseases that involves communities and seeks community feedback for program interventions.

SoNAR-Global has also made considerable progress in strengthening social sciences capacity. In preparation for our curriculum development, we mapped all existing, available teaching materials and surveyed perceived needs for social sciences training related to epidemics and AMR. We have now developed two specialized trainings for confirmed social scientists: SPECIAL SOC-EPIDEMICS, addressing the anthropology of epidemic preparedness and response, and SPECIAL SOC-AMR, focusing on the anthropology of AMR.

To date we have published four peer-reviewed articles and eighteen pieces destined for a broad public.
SoNAR-Global reflects a major departure from other social sciences projects and networks, and thus already has achieved progress beyond the state of the art. Specifically, although the network has a well-organised central coordinating structure and active partners, its dynamism also results from its regional (and thematic) hub structure. What this governance structure means is that these hubs are catalyzing EID governance, preparedness and response actions, and new collaborations.

Over the next 18 months, we will achieve additional results. We plan to increase SoNAR-Global membership. Following the analysis of our vulnerability assessment in Uganda and the implementation and analysis of this tool in Bangladesh, we will integrate our findings into appropriate models of engagement in these two locations. Our evaluated vulnerability assessment-community engagement approach in these two locations will provide evidence and concrete policy recommendations for responding to locally-meaningful vulnerabilities and for achieving more effective distribution of resources to enhance community resilience. Scale up of our achievements will include staging of our trainings; we have EC or external funding to stage the OPERATE SOC-EPIDEMICS and OPERATE SOC-AMR trainings for non-social scientists.

These achievements will permit SoNAR-Global not only to catalyze new regional, interdisciplinary social sciences collaborations and to strengthen social sciences capacity in LMICs, but it stands to have an important broader socio-economic impact, by demonstrating the effectiveness of its vulnerability assessment-community engagement approach, particularly in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Community engagement during the 2018 Ebola epidemic, Equateur Province, Democratic Republic of Congo