Improving the availability and use of health research information in LMICs (4)

6 February, 2020

Dear HIFA colleagues,

HIFA is preparing to host the Roundtable at the Geneva Health Forum, 24 March: How can we improve the availability and use of health research information in LMICs?

We invite your thoughts, experience and expertise in relation to any or all of the following questions:

1. Increasing the availability and use of quality health research information is fundamental to the successful attainment of global health and progressive realization of the right to health. Who needs access and why? What is our vision of access to and use of health research information in LMICs in 2030?

2. What steps are needed to promote open access (for publishers, researchers and users in LMICs)?

3. What steps are needed to address the challenges of open access (for publishers, researchers and users in LMICs)?

4. What other steps (other than open access) are needed to increase the availability and use of health research information?

5. How shall we take this forward? (eg through a Statement/Declaration).

Please email your contributions to the HIFA forum:

In the meantime, we thank Chris Zielinski and Joseph Ana for their reflections on Question 1:



Chris wrote: 'Let me offer a thought about the targets for health research information. I think there are three main targets, each a step in knowledge translation beyond the preceding one, and each a layer further from the thoughts of the person(s) conducting the original research. These targets are: 1) other health researchers, 2) policy makers, and 3) the general public...'

I would add here 'frontline health workers', which I think 'fit' between policy makers and the general public in the above concept.

Chris reminds us of the role of 'knowledge intermediaries - people who will take the dull, over-complicated academic language and make it fit for consumption by decision-makers'.

Indeed there are many ways in which information derived from health research is made 'fit for consumption'. For example, these can broadly be sequentially described:

1. the research process itself and the publication of that research (including peer review)

2. the indexing of research papers (to make them more easily found and retrieved)

3. the synthesis of related research (as in systematic reviews)

4. the production of international evidence-based guidelines for policy and practice (as done by WHO)

5. the development of national guidelines for policy and practice

6. the publication of 'information for end-users' - a wide range of books, manuals, apps, videos, websites, news services for different audiences... each of which may or may not be 'reliable' (ie reflecting the cumulative evidence of the available health research knowledge base)

7. the role of library and information sciences in helping people find what they need.

The bottom line is that access to health research information is a sine qua non to inform health policy and practice at global, national, local and individual levels. A robust research base that is accessible is needed directly or indirectly by *everyone*.

Up until recently, there were some major barriers in knowledge translation. It is only about 40 years since evidence-based medicine has emerged as a concept, and only about 20 years since WHO radically changed is guideline development criteria to give more emphasis to rigourous processes, including recognition of the central importance of systematic reviews. During this time we have of course seen the evolution of open access, which has huge promise but presents many challenges during this transformative transition period (does anyone doubt that we are in the midst of a rapid transition towards a future where most research will be published open access?).

We look forward to read your thoughts on the above:

Best wishes, Neil

Coordinator, HIFA Project on Access to Health Research - Supported by The Lancet and Elsevier

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HIFA profile: Neil Pakenham-Walsh is coordinator of the HIFA global health campaign (Healthcare Information For All - ), a global community with more than 19,000 members in 177 countries, interacting on six global forums in four languages. Twitter: @hifa_org FB: