A review of selected research priority setting processes at national level in low and middle income countries: towards fair and legitimate priority setting

Health Res Policy Syst. 2011 May 15:9:19. doi: 10.1186/1478-4505-9-19.


Background: It is estimated that more than $130 billion is invested globally into health research each year. Increasingly, there is a need to set priorities in health research investments in a fair and legitimate way, using a sound and transparent methodology. In this paper we review selected priority setting processes at national level in low and middle income countries. We outline a set of criteria to assess the process of research priority setting and use these to describe and evaluate priority setting exercises that have taken place at country level. Based on these insights, recommendations are made regarding the constituents of a good priority setting process.

Methods: Data were gathered from presentations at a meeting held at the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2008 and a web-based search. Based on this literature review a number of criteria were developed to evaluate the priority setting processes.

Results: Across the countries surveyed there was a relative lack of genuine stakeholder engagement; countries varied markedly in the extent to which the priority setting processes were documented; none of the countries surveyed had a systematic or operational appeals process for outlined priorities; and in all countries (except South Africa) the priorities that were outlined described broad disease categories rather than specific research questions.

Conclusions: Country level priority setting processes differed significantly in terms of the methods used. We argue that priority setting processes must have in-built mechanisms for publicizing results, effective procedures to enforce decisions as well as processes to ensure that the revision of priorities happens in practice.