Research output of health research institutions and its use in 42 sub-Saharan African countries: results of a questionnaire-based survey

J R Soc Med. 2014 May;107(1 suppl):105-114. doi: 10.1177/0141076813517681. Epub 2014 Mar 18.


Objective: To describe and analyse research output from surveyed national health research institutions in Africa.

Design: The survey used a structured questionnaire to solicit information from 847 health research institutions in 42 countries of the World Health Organization African Region.

Setting: Eight hundred and forty-seven health research institutions in 42 sub-Saharan African countries.

Participants: Key informants from the health research institutions.

Main outcome measures: Volume, type and medium of publications, and distribution of research outputs.

Results: Books or chapters for books accounted for the highest number of information products published (on average 16.7 per respondent institution), followed by patents registered in country (8.2), discussion or working papers (6.5) and conference proceedings (6.4). Publication in a peer-reviewed journal constituted only a minor part of research output (on average about 1 paper per institution). Radio and TV broadcasts on health research accounted for the highest number of products issued by institution staff (on average 5.5 per institution), followed by peer-reviewed journals indexed internationally (3.8) or nationally (3.1). There were, on average, 1.5 press releases, 1.5 newspaper or magazine articles, and 1.4 policy briefs per institution. Over half of respondent institutions (52%) developed briefs and summaries of articles to share with their target audiences, 43% developed briefs for possible actions and 37% provided articles and reports upon request. Only a small proportion of information products produced were available in institutional databases.

Conclusions: The research output of health research institutions in the Region is significant, but more effort is needed to strengthen research capacity, including human and financial resources.

Keywords: Africa research; health research; research output; research systems.