Research policy

HRSA indicators

In the first phase of pilot testing of the in-depth country studies of the Health Research System Analysis (HRSA), which has started in 2002, around 3 countries from each region have participated in selecting core indicators for testing, developing and testing methods (including sampling strategies, data collection tools, analyses approaches, communication strategies). More importantly, discussion was held on the usefulness of the results as one input to developing strategies and activities to strengthen health research systems. The first Inter-Regional Consultation on Health Research Systems Analysis took place in July 2002 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Pilot countries that participated at this meeting from each of the WHO regions, included: AFRO: Tanzania, Senegal; EMRO: Pakistan, Iran; EURO: Kazakhstan; PAHO: Brazil, Costa Rica; SEARO: Indonesia, Thailand; WPRO: Malaysia, Laos. Additional pilot countries include Chile, Cameroon, Tunisia, Russian Federation, France, Australia and the USA.

During this Inter-Regional Consultation, proposed core indicators and example draft methods were discussed with representatives from these countries as well as our Research Policy and Cooperation Department (RPC/WHO) counterparts from regional offices. Based on the Inter-Regional Consultation, a revised list was sent to all participants and others involved in the initiative in August 2002. A second Inter-Regional Consultation with representatives from Chile, Tunisia and the Russian Federation took place in Geneva in October 2002. Based on these additional comments and peer-review, a revised list of the proposed 14 core indicators and 42 key descriptive variables are to be tested across all pilot countries - in terms of identifying existing data sources and collecting additional data as appropriate, were agreed upon in November 2002. This revised list is found at the end of this document. During the pilot phase of this project, new data collection and analyses strategies are being tested for many of these indicators, particularly ones that are considered new. In addition, national teams will review and conduct an inventory of existing data and documents that address these core indicators and descriptive variables.

Even if the primary focus is to strengthen low and middle income countries' national health research systems, during the pilot phase, we are also working with individuals from Australia, New Zealand, Switzerland, and the USA, as well as the EC Directorate on Research, which is also involved in a similar activity to collectively benchmark national research policies -- however not limited to health research -- for the European Community. Together, we will investigate what data is required for inputs to policies, at different levels, monitoring, and comparison across research sectors and different countries, as appropriate. Any comparisons within or across countries should be based on indicators that are accepted in each national setting and estimated as valid. Interpretation must consider the specific historical and political context found in a country, as well as other knowledge systems concerning health, that the public or specific communities, professionals or sectors, rely on.

The 14 core indicators and 42 key descriptive variables follow. These are not indicators per se, as scales, denominators, or estimation approaches are not listed, and are indeed in the process of development. In an effort to be transparent, this work in progress is made available to interested parties. Any suggestions or comments are more than welcome.

Health Research Systems Analysis Team (WHO, Geneva)
Health Research Systems Pilot Study Group (representatives from 15 low- and middle-income countries and 5 high-income countries involved in this project)

For further information or comments, please contact: Dr Ritu Sadana (

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