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Tuesday, September 14, 2021 News

Funders Group Hires New Fellow to Craft Best Practices for Equity in Grantmaking Process

photo of Eunice Mercado-LaraSPARC welcomes Eunice Mercado-Lara as the new Open & Equitable Civic Science Fellow for the Open Research Funders Group (ORFG). In this new role, she will work with traditionally marginalized researchers, philanthropies, and other stakeholders to develop and pilot a model funding program to make both the process of grantmaking and the resulting research outputs more transparent, equitable, and inclusive.

The two-year fellowship is supported by the Burroughs Wellcome Fund, the Gordon & Betty Moore Foundation, and the Rita Allen Foundation. In addition to the ORFG, the Health Research Alliance will serve as a key enabler of this project. Mercado-Lara will be part of an incoming cohort of Civic Science Fellows across 21 host organizations. 

Recognizing that the potential for closed practices, bias, and inequity exists across the entire grantmaking life cycle, the Open & Equitable Model Funding Program will pilot interventions across key steps of program development, review, selection, results dissemination, and evaluation and assessment. This work will be managed by Mercado-Lara in close collaboration with funders, subject matter experts, and traditionally marginalized scholars. 

Mercado-Lara comes to the work with a range of experience with all aspects of the research spectrum. She holds a master’s degree in public policy from McGill University in Montreal, a bachelor’s degree in international relations from El Colegio de San Luis in Mexico, and master’s studies in international development cooperation from Instituto Mora Mexico City.

As a Research Associate at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, Mercado-Lara worked to improve transparency and collaboration with projects funded by USAID and the World Bank in Latin America. She then became an Open Government Researcher for the Center for Teaching and Research in Economics in Mexico City and the Center for Technology in Government at SUNY Albany, engaging with provincial governments to develop platforms to make government processes more open.

In 2015, Mercado-Lara became the Deputy Director for Science and Technology Policy with the Ministry of Science and Technology in Mexico with the charge of establishing a national open access repository. The position expanded to include building and implementing Mexico’s first open science policy general guidelines, as well as overseeing projects to raise open science capacities. As community manager of the first open science policy, she worked to encourage researchers in the country to engage open practices. She has more than eight years of experience in the public sector in science and technology policymaking. Most recently, she has been with a U.S. based startup connecting potential investors with technology collaborators in North America and advising on the responsible use and implementation of new technologies and their regulations. She has several peer-reviewed publications regarding Digital Government, Open Government Data, Open Science, and Open Innovation.

Mercado-Lara has been active in SPARC’s OpenCon community and says she is looking forward to working with ORFG. “As a graduate student, a researcher, a policymaker, and in the commercial part of innovation, I’ve had the privilege of wearing many hats in the research funding cycle. It helps me understand a wide range of incentives needed and puts me in a position to speak to stakeholders at different levels,” Mercado-Lara says. “I want to be a catalyst to make this work happen — and have it last long after the two years of fellowship.”

Maryrose Franko, Executive Director of the Health Research Alliance, explains why equity and openness considerations are core to the missions of many funders. “The goal of our members is to improve human health. It does us no good if we cut off entire communities and populations by virtue of the way we disburse our grants, or by the way we keep the results of the work we fund behind paywalls,” she says.

Adds Erin McKiernan, Community Manager for the ORFG: “Eunice is a passionate advocate and very driven person. A huge part of this job will be to build relationships in the community and get feedback. Her ability to show her passion for this issue will be critical to the success of the program and be a real asset.”

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