Research policy

World Report on Knowledge for Better Health

Glossary Of Terms

Applied research

Original investigation undertaken in order to acquire new knowledge but directed primarily towards a specific practical aim or objective.

Basic research

Experimental or theoretical work undertaken primarily to acquire new knowledge of the underlying foundation of phenomena and observable facts, with no particular application or use in view.


A process of measuring another organization’s product or service according to specified standards in order to compare it with and improve one’s own product or service.

Burden of disease

Days lost through sickness and disability and years of life lost through the same.


Principle by which all persons or things under consideration are treated in the same way.


Principle of being fair to all persons, with reference to a defined and recognized set of values.

Grey literature

A range of published and unpublished material that is not normally identifiable through conventional methods of bibliographic control.

Health research system

The people, institutions, and activities that act together to generate high-quality knowledge that can be used to promote, restore, and/or maintain the health status of populations. It should include mechanisms to encourage the use of research.

Health system

The people, institutions, and resources that operate as a whole to provide health care and improve the health of the population it serves.

Health systems research

The production of new knowledge and applications to improve the way societies organize themselves to achieve health goals. It includes how societies plan, manage, and finance activities to improve health and takes into consideration the roles, perspectives, and interests of different actors. The health system’s functions of regulation, organization, financing, and delivery of services are the focal subjects. It is often understood to include health policy research.

Inequality in health

Differences in health status across individuals in the population.

Inequity in health

The systematic and potentially remediable differences in one or more aspects of health across socially, economically, demographically, or geographically defined population groups or subgroups.

Knowledge management

A set of principles and tools to optimize and integrate the processes of creating, sharing and using knowledge. The overall aim is to solve problems and improve organizational effectiveness in the field of public health.

Knowledge translation

The exchange, synthesis, and effective communication of reliable and relevant research results. The focus is on promoting interaction among the producers and users of research, removing the barriers to research use, and tailoring information to different target audiences so that effective interventions are used more widely.

National health accounts

Information, usually in the form of indicators, a country may collect on its health expenditures. Indicators may include total health expenditure, public expenditure, private expenditure, out-of-pocket expenditure, taxfunded and other public expenditure, social security expenditure, and public expenditure on health.

Open access publication

When a peer reviewed research article is made universally and freely accessible via the Internet and deposited immediately upon publication, without embargo, in at least one widely and internationally recognized open access repository. Any third party has the right to reproduce the research article in its entirety or in part provided there is proper attribution of authorship and no substantive errors are introduced in the process.

Out-of-pocket payment

Fee paid by the consumer of health services directly to the provider.

Public health

The science and art of promoting health, preventing disease, and prolonging life through the organized efforts of society.

Research synthesis

The process through which two or more research studies are assessed with the objective of summarizing the evidence relating to a particular question. It is based on the principle that science is cumulative.

Strategic research

Research that has been identified at the time of funding to be of evident interest to a wide range of users.


A group of elements operating together to achieve a common goal.

Systematic reviews

A rigorous method of identifying, appraising, and synthesizing original research using strategies that limit bias and random error.

Translational research

The process of applying ideas, insights, and discoveries generated through basic scientific inquiry to the treatment or prevention of human disease.