The Complex Challenge of Setting Priorities in Health Research Investments (Commentary) (‘Combined Approach Matrix’) (Report)

The Complex Challenge of Setting Priorities in Health Research Investments (Commentary) ('Combined Approach Matrix') (Report)

In this issue Dr Abdul Ghaffar from Global Forum for Health Research in Geneva, Switzerland, presents the application of “Combined Approach Matrix (CAM)” in addressing research priorities across several themes and contexts (1). CAM is a helpful tool for setting research priorities which was developed by the Global Forum for Health Research in 1999. Since its development, the CAM has been successfully implemented for setting research priorities for diseases and programmes at global and national levels. It has found its application in several areas, and this paper presents three examples of its applications within: (i) the Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases (TDR), which is being executed by the World Health Organization; (ii) diarrhoeal disease research at the national level in India; and (iii) globally, for schizophrenia as a specific disease and also a research challenge (1). The CAM is a tool which respects the complexity of setting priorities in health research investments. It recognizes that this is a multi-dimensional process heavily determined by the context in which priority setting takes place, and by the criteria used to set research priorities. It requires trans-disciplinary approach, because there are many dimensions (lenses) that can be applied in setting health research priorities. The results obtained through use of different criteria will necessarily conflict each other. Some of the obvious dimensions that are relevant mainly to the researchers themselves are novelty and attractiveness of the research and its results, potential for publication in high impact journals, potential to attract further funding, but also effectiveness of the resulting interventions, maximum potential of research to impact disease burden addressed through health research and many others (2). Investors in health research will be more concerned about answerability of the research questions in an ethical way, feasibility and value for money that they may be getting for their investment, potential for forming partnerships (academic or public-private) between researchers and industry to increase the competitiveness of generated research results and their translation and application, etc (3). Ministries and international organizations may be more interested in criteria such as deliverability, affordability and sustainability of the results, local and national research capacities to carry out the proposed research ideas and also whether research question is linked in any way to an ongoing public debate or societal issue. Investors in health research from the industry may be primarily motivated by generating patents and in potential of the research to get translated into commercial products as desirable endpoints (4). Finally, the society as a whole may be mostly interested in safety and equity lenses and whether beneficiaries of supported health research would be found mainly among the underprivileged or would they be widening the gaps that are already present in the society (5).

The Complex Challenge of Setting Priorities in Health Research Investments (Commentary) ('Combined Approach Matrix') (Report)

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