IFGH 2012: Contextuality of Relationships Between Researchers and Decision Makers In Strengthening Health Research Capacity

January 27, 2012



Posted by Irish Forum for Global Health | Conference Abstracts

Authors: Brugha R.1, Byrne E.1, Thomas S.2, Connecting health Research in Africa and Ireland Consortium (ChRAIC)3

Author Affiliations:1Dept of Epidemiology and Public Health Medicine, Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, RCSI,2Centre for Global Health, Trinity College Dublin, 3ChRAIC is a partnership of: College of Medicine, Malawi;Makerere University School of Public health (MUSPH), Uganda; Malaria Consortium, South Sudan and Uganda; Medical Research Centre (MRC), Sierra Leone; Ministry of Health, Republic of South Sudan; National University of Ireland, Galway (NUIG), Ireland; National University of Lesotho; Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI); Trinity College Dublin (TCD), Centre for Global Health, Ireland; University of Medical Sciences and Technology, Khartoum, Sudan. Additional support to the partnership is provided by two organizations based at the World Health Organization in Geneva, the Alliance for Health Policy and Systems Research (AHPSR) and the Council on Health Research for Development (COHRED)

Option 1– Scientific / Empirical Research Findings

Presented as – Oral Presentation


This paper examines the processes whereby health systems researchers, members of the Connecting health Research in Africa and Ireland Consortium (ChRAIC), worked with national policy makers and knowledge users in seven African countries


(i) proceedings from a ChRAIC partner workshop in Kampala in April 2009 in which country policy-makers participated; (ii) a half day ChRAIC partner workshop in November 2010 to analyse the involvement of policy makers; and (iii) telephone interviews with the ChRAIC country team investigators (8 interviews)


Policy makers and researchers agreed that research was more likely to be relevant to their contexts and research outputs more likely to be used if policy makers were involved in the research process.

Different approaches to researcher-policy maker collaborations were adopted in different countries, which depended on the broader political and environmental contexts and pre-existing personal relationships. Challenges to achieving sustained and productive involvement of policy makers in research processes included:

  • Given the uncertain time-frames and high turnover of policy-makers there is the need to go beyond the individual contacts and relationships – depersonalising the relationship;
  • Recognition that developing and maintaining the partnership is a time-consuming process;
  • Alignment and harmonisation of research processes with the activities and cycles of policy makers causes delays, which can impinge on research donor expectations

Discussion/conclusions/ implications:

No single approach or blueprint suited these different national contexts. However four themes emerged:

  • Developing a strong institutional link and track record with the relevant government departments is necessary for trust to be established;
  • Expectations and motivations of the team members (researchers and policy makers alike) needs to be negotiated and reviewed periodically;
  • Clarity is needed on the activities, roles and responsibilities for each team member, and;
  • Recognition by all parties, including research funders, that building partnerships is a time-consuming process, which may delay outputs



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