Let’s stop and take stock

The halls have been ringing with calls for more in the last couple of days. More research, more capacity to do that research and more focus on the kind of research that should be pursued, whether it be basic, clinical, health systems or implementation research.

So it was something of a surprise when one speaker called for a one-year moratorium on research in a session on social and technological innovation for health. “We should see what we’ve got and how it can be used,” she said. Whether she was serious or not, it raises an important question – do we already have enough research? Should we not be concentrating more on what that research has found and making sure that the right people know about it?

The problem is that no one can say whether we have all the research we need for now, because no one person has access to it all. Language and publication barriers, and no trend in students publishing their research is leading to a lot of research ending up in the so-called ‘grey literature’, inaccessible to the global and sometimes local communities and rendering other researchers incapable of determining whether they are “reinventing the wheel”.

There was much debate on the HR4D-net discussion forum before the conference about the need to create repositories and such for less visible research. Maybe I’ve missed it, but there doesn’t seem to have been much discussion here – which seems like a missed opportunity.

Katherine Nightingale, SciDev.Net

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