GHF2008 – PS13 – Developing In-House Capacity in Applied Research: Lessons Learned

Session Outline

Parallel session PS13, Tuesday, May 27 2008, 16:00-17:30, Room 17
Chair(s): Don de Savigny, Professor and Head, Interventions & Health Systems Research Unit, Department of Public Health and Epidemiology, Swiss Tropical Institute, Switzerland
A Comprehensive Framework for Capacity Strengthening in Research for Health and Development
Sylvia de Haan, Head, Projects and Programmes, COHRED, Switzerland  
EVIPNet (Evidence-Informed Policy Network): Building Capacity for Evidence-Based Policy Development
Ulysses Panisset, Scientist, Research Policy and Cooperation, WHO, Switzerland 
TRREE for Africa (Training and Resources in Research Ethics Evaluation of Ethics in Research): Developing e-Learning Tools to Bring Universal Ethical Review across Cultures and Disciplines
Jérôme Ateudjieu, Faculty of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, Yaounde, Cameroon  
Participatory Research Approaches and Community Empowerment in Health 
Rene Loewenson, Director, Training and Research Support Centre / Equinet, Zimbabwe

Session Documents

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Session Report

Contributors: Alessandra Sauven (ICVolunteers)

Bringing together participants from a range of contexts and backgrounds, the session provoked an exciting and varied discussion on the important role capacity-building plays within research and the ways to achieve common goals. This session highlighted both the challenges and opportunities of working together to rethink research paradigms.

Ms. Sylvia de Haan, Head of Projects and Programs, Council on Health Research for Development (COHRD), Switzerland, considered some of the issues and challenges associated with forming a comprehensive framework for capacity-strengthening in research for health and development. In particular, she highlighted the need for a more structured approach to capacity development. Increasingly, frameworks have shifted away from a purely individual focus towards an emphasis on the wider picture in which country ownership and leadership play an important role in effectively identifying gaps and needs. The idea is that frameworks should include not only individual, institutional and environmental contexts, but also recognition of the importance of capacity-building. Ms. de Haan stressed the importance of both the research system level, in order to set agendas and policies that ensure needs are met; and the socio-economic level, to ensure that civil societies have the capacity to influence research agendas and become equal partners in the process.

Dr. Ulysses Panisset, Scientist in the Research Policy and Cooperation department at WHO, (WHO), re-emphasized the importance of including civil society in capacity-building for evidence-based policy development. He highlighted the strong demand by policy-makers in low income countries for ways and mechanisms to make better use of research evidence in policy-making processes. These countries urgently need to bridge the gaps between decision making and scientific research. Within the context of the Evidence-Informed Policy Network (EVIPNet), an innovative initiative developed to promote the systematic use of health research evidence in policy-making, he stressed the need to promote partnerships between policy-makers, researchers and civil society at the country level. This would facilitate policy development and implementation by utilizing the best scientific evidence available. In particular, Dr. Panisset, emphasized the importance of learning by doing, producing, evaluating and working together.

Dr. Jérôme Ateudjieu, Faculty of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, Yaounde, Cameroon, and Coordinator of the Training and Resources in Research Ethics Evaluation for Africa (TRREE-for Africa) Team, considered similar issues within the context of training and resources in research ethics evaluation. TRREE is a web-based training and capacity-building initiative which uses e-learning and e-resources to bring universal ethics reviews across cultures and disciplines. Dr Ateudjieu noted the need to consider existing resources not to duplicate efforts, and to identify training objectives based on specific local needs. For example, he stressed the importance of working with other existing training programs, among others, to build and strengthen a network of institutions and experts in research ethics and evaluation.

Dr. Rene Loewenson, Director of Training and Research Support Centre, Equinet: The Network on Equity in Health in Southern Africa, Zimbabwe, spoke of Equinet's experiences in carrying out participatory action research, and the importance of recognizing and investing in people as the central pole for health systems. She considered how research can play a role in promoting health equity. Research should consider both the global context as well as the social and political context; thereby identifying different levels of exposure and vulnerability. Participatory action research involves working together with communities and systemizing local experience to link analysis to community voice and action. Social empowerment helps to coordinate health actions, but also aids the recognition and earlier community level detection of health problems by considering the social determinants of health. Power relations within communities and households, for example, significantly impact the uptake of health services. The approach, however, is not without its challenges, as Ms. Loewenson and several participants of the session pointed out. As a people-driven and participatory research method, it is very specific to the locality. Consequently, it is not always easy to generalize findings and make them accessible elsewhere; in journals, for instance. One of the major challenges is therefore to build capacity in order to create networks through which research paradigms can be rethought.

All participants stressed the need to move towards a wider, more holistic approach to research. The session highlighted the importance of involving communities in research agendas and empowering them to become equal partners in the process. Despite a diverse range of approaches and contexts, aims and methodologies often overlapped, yet everyone agreed on the common goal of finding new ways and means of working together.

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