Worldwide Cancer Research:
The Practicalities of Partnership

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Worldwide Cancer Research, originally founded in 1979 as the Association of International Cancer Research by chemistry professor Colin Thompson, has been at the forefront of funding cancer research globally. In 2014, Worldwide Cancer Research transitioned to its current name and relocated from St Andrews to Edinburgh, aiming to expand its funding reach. Over the years, Worldwide Cancer Research has dedicated itself to financing discovery research across all types of cancer, emphasising innovation and global collaboration.

Worldwide Cancer Research: The Practicalities of Partnership

Worldwide Cancer Research was the first Grant Tracker client, and has used the platform since 2011 to manage its full grants lifecycle. During the 2023 User Day in London, we heard from Peter Fisher, Research Funding Manager at Worldwide Cancer Research, on the practicalities of partnership and how Grant Tracker can be used to identify, manage and track joint funding initiatives.

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Partnerships Background

Since its inception, Worldwide Cancer Research has funded over 2,000 research projects in 30 countries, investing approximately £200 million in the fight against cancer. The organisation maintains its commitment to funding discovery research, with a focus on thinking outside the box and exploring new ideas to prevent, diagnose, and treat cancer.

Worldwide Cancer Research’s approach encompasses funding research around the world, without restrictions on geography or cancer type. In its annual grants round, the charity receives over 400 applications from researchers across approximately 45 countries and spanning various cancer specialties. Despite budgetary constraints, Worldwide Cancer Research strives to fund as many high-quality projects as possible. Each year, it awards grants to a select number of projects that align with its mission, with 30 projects funded from 14 different countries in the previous year.

This global approach gives Worldwide Cancer Research the opportunity to collaborate with a huge range of cancer funders, including those specialising in specific cancer types as well as national cancer funding bodies. Since 2017, these partnerships have led to the funding of 19 projects, totalling nearly £4 million in cancer research support. Notable partners include the Brain Tumour Charity, Guts UK, Leukaemia UK, as well as prominent national funders like ACC in Spain, Foundation ARC in France, and Cancer Australia.

During the course of 2023, Worldwide Cancer Research has co-badged its funding call with partners such as Cancer Australia, Fondation ARC, FC AECC, Irish Cancer Society, and the Brain Tumour Charity, with the ultimate goal of attracting high-quality research projects that meet the strategic needs of all involved parties.


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While different organisations partner for different reasons, Worldwide Cancer Research’s primary motivation for forging partnerships is to bolster discovery research, particularly at the initial stages of the research pipeline. Recent studies have shown that public and third-sector organisations worldwide have experienced a 25% decline in discovery research funding since 2006, missing out on research that could potentially save lives.

These partnerships also enable Worldwide Cancer Research to provide insights into the global cancer research landscape and facilitate joint external communications. Collaborative efforts have led to media coverage of joint-funded projects, raising awareness of the critical work being done in the field, as well as decreasing the duplication of research in review and avoiding burdening the research community with unnecessary review processes. 



While partnerships offer numerous benefits, they also present certain challenges:

  1. Identifying suitable projects: Selecting projects that align with partners’ strategic priorities can be a challenge, and even then a project still needs to be selected for funding by both committees
  2. Internal approval processes: Processes can be protracted and fall foul of reasons outside of Worldwide Cancer Research’s control. It can also lead to different types of arrangements with different funders, which can be a challenge to manage holistically.
  3. Alignment and expectations: What you do and what you’re expecting can be quite different from what the partner does and expects. Communication and flexibility are key to managing partnerships effectively, ensuring that both parties’ expectations are met.
  4. Acknowledgment in Communications: Worldwide Cancer Research strives to ensure that its wider organisation acknowledges partners in all communications, using a checklist approach to maintain consistency.
  5. Building and Maintaining Relationships: Nurturing partnerships takes time and resources, but the investment is critical for long-term collaboration and success.

Leveraging Grant Tracker for Partnership Engagement 


Identifying suitable projects for partnerships 

All of Worldwide Cancer Research’s projects that go out for peer review are assigned classifications using Grant Tracker’s Classification section, which has a host of benefits. The Classification system not only serves the purpose of peer review but also aids in identifying projects that align with potential partners’ strategic priorities. The system includes classifications related to research focus, tumour type, stage of research pipeline, and risk assessment. Worldwide Cancer Research can use the websites and strategic priorities of potential partners and map these against their own priorities to identify suitable partner projects.


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Contracting with Different Partners

Worldwide Cancer Research collaborates with a diverse range of partners, who may have different processes in place; for example, an ongoing agreement with a partner that needs a deed of change or a memorandum of understanding (MOU) for each project partner, or even a completely separate award agreement. Worldwide Cancer Research uses the Contracts section in Grant Tracker to generate and manage the standard award agreements but also to store, track and monitor the process of the legal arrangements with the partner and their responsibilities as well.  Flexibility is key here, especially when partnering internationally; different countries means different laws and different requirements for reporting.

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Worldwide Cancer Research doesn’t limit its partnership opportunities to projects that come through its annual grant round, but also allows for the inclusion of partner-initiated applications. By using Grant Tracker’s Ad-hoc Grant Section, they can accommodate partner-initiated applications within their grant system and ensure that these too can be recorded and managed effectively. By using Grant Tracker for partner-initiated applications, Worldwide Cancer Research ensures that all projects, regardless of their origin, are stored and managed within the same system. This unified record-keeping approach simplifies administrative tasks and ensures consistency in tracking and reporting.


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Monitoring Finances 

Worldwide Cancer Research monitors finances related to its partnerships through Grant Tracker’s Co-funding Contributions Section. This tracks financial transactions and commitments, manages tasks such as invoicing and payment follow-ups, and allows for file attachments to maintain a comprehensive record of financial interactions.


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With this partnership, we have the opportunity to position ourselves as
a world leader in the development of the scholarly ecosystem.

Keith Webster, Dean of University Libraries, Carnegie Mellon

I cannot overstate how pleased we have been.
We have to have confidence to work with a partner
for at least 5 years on a project of this size.

Caleb Smith, Senior Strategy Manager for Research Intelligence & Analytics, University of Michigan

“Faculty need only spend perhaps less than an hour a year to prepare and submit their annual reports.”

Associate Dean, Carnegie Mellon University at Qatar

"Leveraging the interoperability between Symplectic Elements and DSpace has increased policy-driven institutional repository deposits by over 350%."

Ellen Phillips, Open Access Specialist, Boston University

Elements elegantly connected our multi-university system providing a
single source of truth throughout OIEx.

Tim Cain, The Ohio Innovation Exchange (OIEx)

The University measures the individual research activity of academic staff. This Measure of Research Activity (MoRA) requires the collection of publication data from faculty. Symplectic Elements supports this beautifully.

Floris van der Leest, Victoria University, Melbourne, Australia

[Elements] will help to bring transparency to the richness of thought showcased within non-traditional publications, providing a more holistic representation of faculties’ scholarly work.

Caleb Smith, University of Michigan

Feedback to date has been extremely positive from all levels across the University, with individual academics and colleagues actively promoting the ease of use of the system.

Rachel Baird, Research Policy Analyst, University of Liverpool