Outside the biomedical box of integrated care research. Meet some of our new RESPOND-AFRICA staff

The RESPOND-AFRICA consortium is made up of a range of diverse professionals from Europe and Africa. They are working on several different projects all aimed at improving health outcomes for people living with chronic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, and HIV in Africa. They are experts in unique activities that range from infectious disease care, non-communicable diseases care, project management, implementation, social science, or health economics. Have you ever wondered what it takes to be involved in a large global health program including multi-country randomised control trials? We have interviewed some of our new RESPOND-AFRICA members who are both on the ground and behind the scenes to give you an idea. Follow along in our series documenting some of our RESPOND-AFRICA consortium members!


John RobertsInterviewee name: John Roberts

Role in RESPOND-AFRICA: Financial Grant Management

Projects involved within RESPOND-AFRICA: All of them

Where they are based: LSTM; Liverpool, UK

Past role/job: Research Finance & Governance Manager



Who are you?

I am a Finance Faculty Manager within the central Research Management Services team at LSTM, managing a team of 6 excellent financial grant management specialists who support principal investigators, their teams and partners to deliver research grants. I have worked in UK Higher Education research support roles for over 15 years covering all elements at some point. However, my primary focus has been post-award financial grant management.

As with most people who end up in a career within research support, I fell into it by mistake. I saw a job at the University of Liverpool that I thought sounded interesting.

How has your journey helped you lead to this point in your career?

By covering such a large portion of the research support lifecycle over many years I have experienced most things involved with research support so can draw on my career to provide high-level support to projects. I have also been fortunate enough to forge long-lasting working relationships with colleagues around the globe, which in turn improves my ability to deliver global research grant management.

How did you initially get involved in research?

As with most people who end up in a career within research support, I fell into it by mistake. I saw a job at the University of Liverpool that I thought sounded interesting without really knowing what it was (Research Finance Administrator), was successful, enjoyed my role, moved to LSTM and the rest is history…

What areas of HIV and NCD research and/or project management do you think are being neglected?

I feel the non-scientific aspect of capacity strengthening is lagging behind its academic counterpart. In order to allow academics to successfully deliver research projects, the institutional infrastructure supporting them needs to be robust; more focus needs to be placed on areas such as accounting, financial grant management, contracts and governance. I am very lucky to have been involved in this through the RESPOND-Africa partnership, working with consortium members on the Good Financial Grants Practice (GFGP) accreditation.

What do you hope to do in your role and as a member of the RESPOND-AFRICA consortium?

To continue to support the partners, in conjunction with my counterparts in those organisations, to deliver successful projects which improve health outcomes.

Besides research and randomised control trials, what do you enjoy doing?

Travelling and sport, I will watch any competitive sport; however, I am more often than not found watching rugby as a proud Welshman (even better if I can combine it with some travel)! I also like spending time in the gym, listening to a huge variety of music and taking my children on days out to the zoo or exploring forests/mountains.