Exploring how to communicate, use and evaluate health research

TDR news item
10 October 2017

The Global Evidence Summit recently held in Cape Town was the first event that brought together experts in research, systematic reviews, and policy development and implementation. More than 1300 people from 75 countries came to discuss the theme of “Using evidence. Improving lives,” with TDR playing an active role.

The methods for communicating, using and evaluating health research impact is an area that is gaining more attention and in need of guidance.

Hearing from the source

Throughout the event, 16 scientists from low- and middle-income countries were provided funding by TDR to attend the meeting, and some presented posters or spoke at events.

TDR-sponsored Summit attendees with TDR Director John Reeder
TDR-sponsored Summit attendees with TDR Director John Reeder
Credit: WHO/TDR/Jamie Guth

Four of the sponsored people spoke on their experiences of research uptake, sharing what has worked and, just as importantly, what has not. Read more about that session, titled “Is evidence used for policy” here.

Hearing from the funders

At the session titled, “A dialog with funders: What approaches and activities ensure research achieves its expected impact?”, TDR Director John Reeder reinforced to attendees: “You need to answer the questions that policy-makers are asking.”

Also on the panel were Katherine Littler, policy advisor at the Wellcome Trust; Sue Kinn, Team leader and head of research for health and education in the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development; and Han van Dijk, WOTRO Science for Global Development (Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research). Panel members acknowledged that not all research should be generalizable, and that context specificity is important. Katherine Littler pointed out how research is a key path toward providing the appropriate evidence that can lead to change, recommending: “No research without uptake and no uptake without research.”

In another session titled, “Impact and evaluation of research: Perspectives from funders and users of research,” the ESSENCE health research initiative hosted at TDR shared lessons learnt. The group has been working together since 2008 to better coordinate their funding and increase efficiency among their institutions. They have seen that both their funding and evaluation of research uses different approaches and methods, so they recently published a document outlining lessons learnt and examples of good practices for funding agencies to use: Six practices to strengthen evaluation in global health research in low- and middle-income countries.

“Both funders and grantees are under pressure to show impact in short periods of time,” says Garry Aslanyan, TDR’s manager of partnerships and governance, who co-chaired the session with Linda Kupfer from the Fogarty International Centre of the U.S. National Institutes of Health. Panel members included Maria-Teresa Bejarano, Swedish Development Cooperation Agency; Annica Wayman, US Agency for International Development, Katherine Littler, Wellcome Trust, UK; Richard Gordon, Medical Research Council, South Africa, Iqbal Parker, Academy of Science of South Africa; and Pamisha Pillay, Sothern African Research and Innovation Management Association.

ESSENCE members
ESSENCE members

Audience members came to hear more about ESSENCE’s role to discuss commonly-shared issues of funders who are working together to develop good practices, and to provide feedback on progress. Suggestions were also made for future work in the area of funding data management, data sharing or other standards, which ESSENCE is following up on.

Implementation research challenges

Soumyadeep Bhaumik with poster on implementation research online discussion
Soumyadeep Bhaumik with poster on implementation research online discussion
Credit: WHO/TDR/Jamie Guth

A poster on the TDR-supported email discussion on implementation research was also presented at the Summit by Soumyadeep Bhaumik. This was done through the Health Information for All listserve that has more than 16 000 members. The discussion reinforced the challenges in locating implementation research in journals, since major indexing databases like PubMed do not have indexing terms for it. The many terminologies are confusing for not only frontline health workers but also for those in the academia.

For more information, contact:
Jamie Guth
TDR Communications Manager
Telephone: +41 79 441 2289
E-mail: guthj@who.int.