COVID Sandpit – 2020

We are now recruiting for a special HORN COVID Sandpit that will take place between the 1st and 5th June.

Unlike previous sandpits, this call is for a virtual event that will take place online. We seek applications from individuals and teams, and we strongly encourage applications that consider multi-disciplinary approaches to addressing COVID-19 with a link into One Health.

Although we are still in the process of developing an online sandpit approach, we envisage it will involve time spent online with the HORN project each day, time spent online with your team developing your research proposal, and time spent working alone. We will provide more information in the near future.

Closing Date for Applications: Friday 8th May (7pm EAT). Applicants will be notified whether they have been awarded a place by the 20th May.

What is a sandpit?

The purpose of a sandpit is to generate and develop high quality research proposals, through a 5 day event that encourages networking, collaborative working and interdisciplinarity. Research ideas generated through a sandpit should have impact within the Horn of Africa region by responding to national (and regional) priorities using a One Health approach.

Sandpits provide an opportunity for participants to develop, refine and present research ideas. As part of the event, you will be provided with lectures and guided learning around One Health, ethics, grantsmanship, and how to present research proposals.

The following table details what a normal Sandpit event would look like. This may differ to the virtual, online event.

Day 1
Monday 1st June
Informal opportunity to meet mentors and peers
Day 2
Tuesday 2nd June
‘Clarify & Conceive’
Consider initial research ideas and learn more about One Health
Day 3
Wednesday 3rd June
‘Collaborate & Create’
Develop project ideas collectively in groups with peers and mentors
Day 4
Thursday 4th June
‘Develop & Prepare’
Grow ideas into projects, and learn how to pitch proposals in groups
Day 5
Friday 5th June
Project teams to present their proposals to the funding panel.

Alongside participants who attend the sandpit, there is a team to support you to develop research projects:








About HORN
The One Health Regional Network for the Horn of Africa (HORN) project is an interdisciplinary, collaborative partnership of the University of Liverpool (UK), Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (UK), International Livestock Research Institute (Kenya & Ethiopia), the University of Nairobi (UoN), Addis Ababa University (AAU), Hamelmalo Agricultural College (Eritrea), IGAD Sheikh Technical Veterinary School (Somaliland) and Amoud University (Somaliland).

One Health is the concept that the health and well-being of people is linked to the health of their animals and the environment. It is nowhere more true than in the Horn of Africa where many people’s livelihoods are highly, or in some cases entirely, dependent on livestock. Animals are culturally, socially and economically vital in the region. Livestock provide, for example, over 60% of agricultural GDP in the Horn, but can also be a source of human disease. Outbreaks of disease in animals thereby directly affect people’s health, but also their wealth and nutrition.

Livestock production and human health and wellbeing in the Horn of Africa can be increased through research, leading to improved agricultural systems; more food and less malnutrition; more financial resilience; and better detection, diagnosis, prevention and control of disease.

HORN’s mission is to improve the health and wealth of the people of the Horn of Africa by increasing the local capacity to undertake high quality research in the interactions between people and animals – One Health.

The first project sandpit was held in 2018 (21 attendees), and the second sandpit in 2019 (22 attendees). Participants from previous sandpits commented:

‘The sandpit event was amazing….I want to thank all HORN team and their partners. This event really motivates me to do more problem solving research and contributed to my knowledge’

‘The support was overwhelming. The mentors were really devoted to help us all around’

‘It is a learning experience, a bed of new ideas and views around varied subjects. It is very innovative’

‘I learnt how to work with people with multi-disciplinary background. I will use in the future to development One Health integrated project’

‘I enjoyed the collaborative and networking aspect, and the relaxed interaction with delegates, mentors and organisers’

Research Projects
Research projects will be fully developed & defined at the sandpit event; however, we are asking for applications with a proposed research area/topic that bring a One Health approach to the study of COVID-19. You should be aware of the following conditions when preparing your application:

  • The cost of each project will vary, however we do expect projects to be achievable within a maximum budget of £50,000.
  • Costs are permitted to cover consumables, travel, field costs, subsistence and salary replacement (where necessary). Please note that equipment cannot be covered, except under exceptional circumstances. Further information on budget conditions will be provided at the sandpit event.
  • Research ideas proposed must respond to the challenge of COVID-19.
  • HORN is a One Health project. We strongly encourage multi-disciplinary projects taking a One Health approach.
  • Research teams should include both women and men. Across all projects, we will be aiming for 50:50 gender representation at the event.
  • All research projects (if funded) will have to apply for full local and international ethical approval before commencing, and the time taken to obtain approval should be taken into consideration. You will be supported throughout this process by your mentor/s if your project is funded.
  • You must apply for local in-country ethics unless there is a specific directive that means you can proceed without it, or proceed with a reduced need for ethical approval. Please provide a publicly available weblink that confirms this directive for your country.
  • Research projects must be achievable in a maximum period of 12 months (to include data collection, analysis and ideally, submission of publication).
  • When applying, please consider the skills and expertise that you would like from mentors for your project.


  1. Researchers at all levels are eligible to participate in a HORN sandpit, but we especially welcome applications from early career/junior researchers.
  2. We encourage applications from individuals, new teams and new research projects.
  3. Applications are open to researchers from Kenya, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somaliland and Somalia.
  4. Applicants from a wide range of backgrounds are welcome to apply, including (but not limited to): microbiology, economics, data scientists, public health, medicine, veterinary medicine, epidemiology, diagnostic, therapeutics & vaccines, anthropology and social science.
  5. Online attendance for the full five days is required – please ensure you are able to attend all five days before you apply. We are able to support attendance through the provision of internet credit.
  6. Important: applications that include teams from different research institutes is allowed, however, given time restrictions, there can only be one national institutional ethical review (in the country of your research). Please consider this when applying, and if you have any questions related to the ethics process, please email [email protected]

Further Information for Applicants
Attendance at the sandpit is not a guarantee that your project will be funded, as you will pitch your idea at the end of the sandpit event to a funding panel. All participants who successfully obtain funding for research projects will become HORN Research Fellows, and those who attend but are unsuccessful in obtaining research funding will be invited to become HORN Training Fellows. All fellows will be able to access HORN e-learning materials, and HORN research fellows will be invited to training events, including summer schools and One Health masterclasses. You will also be supported throughout your research projects by expert mentors.

To Apply

You must register as a member of HORN in order to access the Sandpit application form. Member registration allows you to access e-learning materials and connect with the wider HORN community. Please register here.

Once your membership registration is approved, you can access the application form here.

Please note only one application needs to be submitted per team or individual.

The application form requires you to complete a number of questions, as well as uploading copies of:

  • CVs of team members 1-5 only (CV’s are not required for additional team members)
  • A letter of recommendation for team members 1-5 only. This letter should be from your employer to show your suitability for the research, and to confirm your availability to attend the full duration of this online event (1st to 5th June)

Application Deadline: Friday 8th May (5pm GMT/ 7pm EAT)

Applicants will be notified whether they have been awarded a place by the 20th May.