The SUNI-SEA project has reached the three years’ landmark of implementation. Officially, there is one year left in the project. However, we will apply to the European Commission for a six-months’ no-cost extension, to compensate for the delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. That will give the consortium more time to complete the planned interventions and to collect data for research.
The extra time is also needed to prepare the research publications. Teams in the consortium have submitted plans for a total of 39 publications, partly based on the retrospective phase (when we analysed the health systems) and partly based on the prospective phase (when we implement interventions). So far, we have only realised three publications in peer-reviewed journals. Three other publications have been submitted to journals and are in an advanced stage of review. Three more publications are in preparation after data analysis and formulation of conclusions and recommendations. This means that we have another 30 publications to work on. All publications so far are reviews or country specific. For the research project, which is a multi-country study, it is important to produce results that elaborate on international comparisons, and draw lessons learned that are valid for regional or global actions to reduce non-communicable diseases.
Especially for the international data analysis, UMCG has introduced for the research partners the virtual research workspace, which allows joint analysis of databases using software that is made available through this workspace. Researchers can work together in the same database and share findings. This will enhance further collaboration within the consortium to produce papers beyond the interests of specific countries.
In addition, in SUNI-SEA we have a publication committee with representatives from all consortium partners, that advises on publications and gives feedback to the writing teams, especially for international papers. This will ensure optimal use of resources available in the consortium. The publication committee also organises regular meetings where researchers present their data analysis and preliminary analysis. In the first publication exchange meeting two PhD candidates, Zinzi Pardoel and Manuela Fritz presented progress towards their research publications. The reflections provided by other researchers help young researchers to improve the quality of the publications. We are looking forward to participating in the presentations by other research teams during 2022.
In the 18 months left in the project we hope to achieve our ambitions of producing publications and sharing our lessons learned in SUNI-SEA. We hope this will contribute to improved prevention and control of non-communicable diseases at community and primary health care level.