Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Public Health

How Can PhD Research Contribute to the Global Health Research Agenda?

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Public Health

How Can PhD Research Contribute to the Global Health Research Agenda?

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

We propose that PhD and post-doctoral researchers are a strong, untapped resource with the potential to make a real contribution to global health research (GHR). However, we raise some ethical, institutional and funding issues which either discourage new researchers from entering the field or diminish their capacity to contribute.

We offer a number of recommendations to Canadian academic and non-academic institutions and funders, and aim to generate discussion among them about how to overcome these constraints. We need changes in the way graduate research is organized and funded, to create opportunities to work collaboratively within established low- and middle-income country (LMIC)/Canadian research partnerships. We urge changes in the way institutions fund, recognize, value and support GHR, so established researchers are encouraged to develop long-term LMIC relationships and mentor new Canadian/LMIC researchers. We ask funders to reconsider additional GHR activities for support, including strategic training initiatives and dissemination of research results. We also encourage the development of alternative institutions that can provide training and mentoring opportunities.

GHR per se faces many challenges. If we address those that reduce our potential to contribute, we can become real partners in GHR, working towards equitable global health and solutions to priority health issues.

MeSH terms: Global health; world health; international cooperation; public health; education, public health professional; international educational exchange

The Canadian research community has become increasingly committed to advancing global health equity and improving global health.1-3 New alliances of researchers, policy-makers and funding organizations, such as the Canadian Coalition for Global Health Research (CCGHR), have come together to support research aimed at reducing the 10/90 gap - an unconscionable situation wherein only 10% of health research is aimed at diseases (such as TB, malaria, HIV/AIDS) that make up 90% of the global burden of disease, borne by the world's poorest people.4,5

Many Canadian doctoral and post-doctoral researchers, who are new members of the research community, support this growing effort and are asking, 'How can Canadian PhD research contribute to the global health research and action agenda? What can we add with our research? What stands in the way?'

Twenty-one 'new' global health researchers from Canada and various low- and middle- income countries (LMICs), who attended the CIHR-funded CCGHR 2004 Summer Institute, vigorously debated these questions. The participants included ten dyads of Canadian/LMIC PhD, post-doctoral and other researchers with less than five years experience, who came together for five days of mutual learning, mentored project planning and problem-solving. Their workshop deliberations and a subsequent brainstorming session revealed the strengths and untapped potential of doctoral and post-doctoral research as a resource for global health. However, participants also raised some ethical, institutional and funding issues which either discourage new researchers from entering the field or diminish their potential to contribute. While LMIC and Canadian researchers share some of the same challenges, those faced by researchers from LMICs are truly daunting6-8 and need urgent attention. Their voices are included in this commentary, but our LMIC colleagues need further opportunities to raise their particular issues and indicate how northern researchers, institutions and donor agencies could support their goals. Here, we offer a Canadian perspective and propose a number of recommendations for Canadian funders and institutions. We seek broader thinking and aim to stimulate discussion among them.

THE POTENTIAL FOR PHD RESEARCH TO CONTRIBUTE TO GLOBAL HEALTH

Today's Canadian graduate researchers do have the potential to make a unique and valuable contribution to global health. …

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