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Qualitative study to develop processes and tools for the assessment and tracking of African institutions’ capacity for operational health research

Wallis, Selina, Cole, Donald. C, Gaye, Oumar, Mmbaga, Blandina T, Mwapasa, Victor, Tagbor, Harry and Bates, Imelda ORCID: (2017) 'Qualitative study to develop processes and tools for the assessment and tracking of African institutions’ capacity for operational health research'. British Medical Journal (BMJ), Vol 7, Issue 9, e016660.

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Research is key to achieving global development goals. Our objectives were to develop and test an evidence-informed process for assessing health research management and support systems (RMSS) in four African universities and for tracking interventions to address capacity gaps.

Four African universities.

83 university staff and students from 11 cadres.

A literature-informed ‘benchmark’ was developed and used to itemise all components of a university’s health RMSS. Data on all components were collected during site visits to four African universities using interview guides, document reviews and facilities observation guides. Gaps in RMSS capacity were identified against the benchmark and institutional action plans developed to remedy gaps. Progress against indicators was tracked over 15 months and common challenges and successes identified.

Common gaps in operational health research capacity included no accessible research strategy, a lack of research e-tracking capability and inadequate quality checks for proposal submissions and contracts. Feedback indicated that the capacity assessment was comprehensive and generated practical actions, several of which were no-cost. Regular follow-up helped to maintain focus on activities to strengthen health research capacity in the face of challenges.

Identification of each institutions’ strengths and weaknesses against an evidence-informed benchmark enabled them to identify gaps in in their operational health research systems, to develop prioritised action plans, to justify resource requests to fulfil the plans and to track progress in strengthening RMSS. Use of a standard benchmark, approach and tools enabled comparisons across institutions which has accelerated production of evidence about the science of research capacity strengthening. The tools could be used by institutions seeking to understand their strengths and to address gaps in research capacity. Research capacity gaps that were common to several institutions could be a ‘smart’ investment for governments and health research funders.

Item Type: Article
Subjects: W General Medicine. Health Professions > W 74 Medical economics. Health care costs
W General Medicine. Health Professions > W 82 Biomedical technology (General)
W General Medicine. Health Professions > W 26.5 Informatics. Health informatics
WA Public Health > Statistics. Surveys > WA 950 Theory or methods of medical statistics. Epidemiologic methods
WX Hospitals and Other Health Facilities > WX 20 Research (General)
Faculty: Department: Clinical Sciences & International Health > International Public Health Department
Digital Object Identifer (DOI):
Depositing User: Stacy Murtagh
Date Deposited: 20 Sep 2017 11:32
Last Modified: 22 Oct 2019 08:23


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