RNAS + had celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2018 in Shanghai, China. When tracing back to 2000, when the RNAS + convened the annual workshop in the Philippines for the first time. So far, a total of 19 annual workshops had been organized in the China, Philippines, Cambodia, Laos, Indonesia, South Korea, Vietnam, Thailand and Myanmar by turns. The number of professionals and medical and health administrative staff participating in RNAS + annual workshops or training courses have reached a total of 1099 person-time from 2000 to 2016 . Statistically, over 90% of research institutions and control organizations on schistosomiasis in Asia have participated in RNAS + activities .
In this survey, most participants gave a higher score on the China’s contribution played in the development of RNAS+, that means China had made great contribution and played an important role in RNAS+. Combined with this survey and the literatures review, we concluded that China has contributed to the RNAS + development in several ways as (i) promoting the fundraising, capacity building, and coordination affairs of the annual workshops and training courses organized by RNAS+ ; (ii) sharing important experiences on China’s achievements of schistosomiasis and other parasitic diseases control [16–17]; (iii) actively promoting the routines running of RNAS + activities, including agenda setting and workshops’ reports ; (iv) directly participating in the training courses on instruction of schistosomiasis diagnosis, spatial informatics and others ; (v) establishing and updating the RNAS + website ; and (iv) playing a leading role in project cooperative studies, such as China-led IDRC projects [19–20], ultrasound diagnosis of schistosomiasis japonica , epidemiological study on control strategy of schistosomiasis and live fluke [22–23], etc.
More challenges to RNAS + have been identified in the survey, majorly reflected in the sustained funding as well as research grants. There is no sustainable funding for RNAS + by itself, as well as no fixed support from a large-scale transnational cooperation program, showing severe deficiency of financial support, and most respondents mentioned that should increase the financial support. The expenditure for a RNAS + annual workshop is about 25,000 USD (individual communication), which barely supports member countries with low incoming levels in Southeast Asia to participate in the workshop, and limited the scale of transnational communication. Moreover, RNAS + inspired research and cooperation projects are limited, continuous skills and programs are needed to combat the NTDs and parasitic emerging diseases in this region. Additionally, how to improve the impact of the network and how to deep the cooperation is also the challenges .
In order to lift the impact of RNAS+, as a platform for exchange and dissemination of information on schistosomiasis and other zoonotic helminthiasis control, which breaks the geographic borders to encouraging the collaboration and communication among scientists and decision-makers , several ways to enhance China’s contribution to RNAS + development in future were suggested. First, China has made great progress in Schistosomiasis control in the past 70 years [25–26], continuing seeking out professional integrating points to share China’s experiences and enhance the cooperation within member countries is still the significant issue [27–28]. Second, capacity building is needed by RNAS + members, China can continue to support the annual workshops and technical trainings as well as collaboration research [29–30]. Third, RNAS + build a stronger link especially for the Asian countries to eliminate schistosomiasis and other zoonoses diseases. China can motivate more institutions and international organizations to join in, and enlarge the institutional coverage of RNAS+. In addition, the practice of the RNAS + suggests that establishing a network-type organization is a good mode, therefore, in addition to schistosomiasis and NTDs, other diseases requiring particular control with joint efforts can also refer to this mode of networking for regional cooperation .
However, there are some limitations to this survey. Most of all, the number of participants is limited, and no responses from Japan and South Korea, which are two member countries in RNAS+, so the results will not represent all experts from all member countries. Besides, this assessment is not carried out by an independent third party, that may affected the results’ explanation to some extent. However, this survey has valuable reference on the role of China in development of regional cooperation networking.