Research capacity strengthening
The HRP Alliance
Why an alliance?
Over the last 40 years HRP has created a global network of expertise and centres of excellence in sexual and reproductive health research. HRP envisions research capacity strengthening as a process of individual and institutional development which leads to higher levels of skills and greater ability to perform useful research specifically in the context of reproductive health in countries and regions, in particular that is linked to improved operations of reproductive health programmes”. Since the inception of HRP, the grants allocated for institutional capacity strengthening in least developed countries have served as the main instrument for promoting essential national research to address priority needs in sexual and reproductive health (SRH). Since 1972, HRP provided long-term institutional development support to 103 institutions in 55 countries to develop their capacity for research in sexual and reproductive health (11 in the region of Americas, 10 in the European region, 23 in the African and Eastern Mediterranean and 11 in the South-East Asia and Western Pacific Regions).
Nevertheless, there is still insufficient research capacity in SRH in low- and middle-income countries as illustrated when, in response to an international call for proposals, there is a dearth of high quality proposals from these countries. In fact certain areas of sexual and reproductive health, such as contraceptive research, have witnessed a decrease in research capacity globally, not just in developing countries. There is therefore a need to continue to strengthen research capacity in sexual and reproductive health in developing countries, while strengthening sexual and reproductive health global research networks and facilitating collaboration and exchange between centres within and between regions. It is important to note that research capacity strengthening of institutions and individuals is planned and executed in a way to contribute to the strengthening of national research systems.
Capitalizing on the work done in the past 40 years, and responding to changing environments, HRP is developing a collaborative international research and research capacity strengthening platform in sexual and reproductive health. The newly formed HRP Alliance will enhance regional networking while continuing research capacity strengthening with both a thematic and methodological focus and a long-term vision. The Alliance will bring together HRP’s research capacity strengthening work with its research partners − institutions and individuals who have been associated with HRP both in the North and the South.
Research capacity strengthening mechanisms
HRP will continue to use complementary approaches with a long-term perspective to strengthen research capacity of institutions and individuals in low- and middle-income countries. These include long-term institutional grants, individual research training grants and re-entry grants. Proposal writing workshops, data management workshops, ethics iRen reproductive health research, communication skills / scientific writing workshops, will be provided as per country needs. Research centres which previously benefitted from HRP research capacity strengthening will play a pivotal role in providing support to less experienced centres via mentoring.
Most donor/organizations provide short term funding for research capacity strengthening, hence research institutes in Southern countries do not receive the kind of predictable funds that would enable them to do long term planning, establishing their own research priorities and invest in creating strong research programmes. As a result most countries are doing responsive research rather than setting forward–looking research agenda driven by locally determined needs. HRP with its long-term institutional development grants provides the recipient institutions a stable long term source of support. It also helps in building processes and organizations for strengthening health research systems such as the establishment of ethics review committees.
Building a critical mass of academic and research centres in sexual and reproductive health has been an important part of institution-building efforts of HRP. Almost 40 years of HRP research capacity strengthening has led to the development of a substantial number of researchers who are currently at senior levels in prestigious institutions in their countries. Many of these scientists continue to support HRP in different ways in various advisory committees. Bringing scientists together as ‘HRP Alumni’ will further strengthen research capacity strengthening efforts.
A new e-platform to be developed
An e-platform will be developed to connect HRP partners on the internet. The e-platform will serve to share resources such as on-line courses, and information on research tools available from other web sources. It will help to keep the HRP-Alliance partners informed about HRP activities, publications such as guidelines global and regional estimates, knowledge translation activities and meetings HRP is organizing or taking part that is of interest. It will help to promote horizontal communications keeping partners informed of each other’s activities and achievements. Relevant research-related social media tools such as Research Gate, RNS as well as professional social media platforms such as LinkedIn and Twitter accounts are currently being explored for this purpose.