CMB’s Open Competition: Supporting Research and Developing Leaders


CMB launched its annual Open Competition (OC) grants program in 2011 to help build the research capacity of early- and mid-career health professionals in China. The OC has served as a leadership development program, with these grants providing investigators funds to develop and implement their own research projects. Initially focused on health policy sciences, the OC has expanded to include other areas that are essential to healthy societies, such as quality of care, health technology assessment, and primary health care. CMB no longer limits the number of concept notes a collaborating institution may submit. As a result of these two changes, interest in this merit-based competition has greatly increased in the past several years. To date, the program has awarded more than 140 grants, totally over $13 million in funding.

 The 2021 theme of reproductive, maternal, newborn, child, and adolescent health (RMNCAH) complements global efforts to improve the health and well-being of women and children. This area of focus is consistent with the vision of Healthy China 2030, the Chinese government’s agenda for health and development. Over 550 concept notes were received, reflecting strong interest in the program overall as well as this area of research focus. After peer review in China, 39 concept notes were selected for full proposal submission. Full proposals were reviewed by international content experts and grants totaling $1.4 million were awarded to 22 projects. The range of topic areas selected was broad, including perinatal depression, adolescent tobacco use, prevention of gestational diabetes, and breast cancer risk prediction, among others (click here for the full list of grants awarded). 

The OC encourages multidisciplinary projects and international collaboration. A 2021 project led by Dr. Yuanyuan Wang, Associate Research Fellow and Assistant Professor at Peking University Third Hospital, provides a constructive example of these goals. Dr. Wang’s project, “Developing a screening tool for domestic violence against infertile women in China,” represents a collaboration between clinical medicine and public health, conducted with international collaborators. Dr. Wang and her team recently published an article in the Lancet Global Health based on this research. Their paper, Prevalence of intimate partner violence against infertile women in low-income and middle-income countries: a systematic review and meta-analysis,” indicated that, on average, at least one in three infertile women in low-income and middle-income countries experienced intimate partner violence (IPV) over a 12-month period and about half suffered violence over the course of a lifetime. The researchers noted that, “infertile women are often reluctant to disclose their experiences of IPV due to shame or guilt about their infertility.” 

Part of the value of the OC is exposing young researchers to a competitive process that demands academic rigor. CMB is grateful to the Chinese experts who review the concept notes for practical value, feasibility, and relevance to China’s needs, and to the international reviewers who conduct detailed reviews of the full proposals, ensuring appropriate research design and methodologic rigor of the projects. CMB encourages young researchers to pursue projects that have the potential for meaningful impact and practical significance for Chinese society. We are optimistic that these young Chinese investigators will contribute to international discussions on topics of importance to science and medicine.