Academics ‘have too much say’ on health research agendas

Academics are not always in the best position to know what research is most relevant for the country Copyright: USDA

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[BAMAKO] Tricky decisions about research priorities should not be left in the hands of academics, according to a speaker at the Global Ministerial Forum on Research for Health.

Instead, policymakers, recipient communities and those who implement policies — an often-neglected group — should be setting the agendas, Irene Akua Agyepong, regional director of the Ghana Health Service told the conference in Bamako, Mali.

Speaking at the Health Policy and Systems Research session of the meeting (17 November 2008), Agyepong said that academics are not always in the best position to know what research is most relevant for the country.

Researchers should stick to setting the methodology of projects, because that is their area of expertise, she said.

The most forgotten people in health research policy are those who implement it, said Agyepong. She said that this important, but neglected, group often "tweak" policies as they implement them, because they are just not practical in real-life situations.

She suggested this "street bureaucracy" should be discouraged by more formal consideration of their opinions earlier in the process.

Some researchers agreed with Agyepong. Sourou Gbangbade, a researcher in maternal health at Improve Health Systems Performance in Africa (IHSPA) in Benin, said, "People in universities always have their head in the clouds but the people in government are the ones who face the pressure from society".

If policymakers set the priorities they will be obliged to make use of the resulting research, he added.