ACHEST Executive Director Prof. Francis Omaswa has urged external partners to support research that responds to the needs of the local population.
This, said Prof Omaswa, would be through working with the mandated national organisations and civil society, whose mission is aligned to the development goals of the particular countries.
“All countries have development plans, with a research component in it and they have research coordinating bodies in the country. If we work with mandated national research organizations and inspired civil society organizations which speak for the people, the funding would be directed to more strategic areas,” said Prof. Omaswa
“Knowledge generation should be about the people – responding to the needs of the people. If the research generators are in sync with the people, the politicians just become a rubber stamp, if they want to be elected. The real issue here is that whatever research we are doing, what connection does it have with the quality of life to the people,” stressed Prof. Omaswa
He made the remarks during a panel discussion “Multi-Stakeholder Collaboration in Global Health Research” at the World Health Summit 2020.
Prof. Omaswa gave two vivid examples of targeted research in Uganda, which are based on the needs of the people. The first example is the Joint Clinical Research Center which was set up at the height of the HIV epidemic in Uganda to understand HIV better and how to respond to it. The center has now grown to be one of the best in the world linking clinical research to service delivery and bringing HIV down even before antiretroviral drugs came, explained Prof. Omaswa
The second research initiative is about the current move by the government of Uganda to invest in research for a COVID-19 pandemic vaccine. The government of Uganda has allocated $ 5 million for research on COVID-19 which is led by Ugandan scientists. “This is because of the fear, panic, and stress during lockdown; and the fear that new theuraptics and vaccines developed by the northern countries will not reach us,” observed Prof. Omaswa.
The session was chaired by Prof. Dr. Walter Bruchhausen, the Lead Global Health at the University Hospital Bonn; and Prof. Dr. Johanna Hanefeld, the Associate Professor of Health Policy and Systems, at Robert Koch Insitute.
Other speakers were: Prof. Dr. Achim Hörauf, the Director of the Institute of Medical Microbiology, University Hospital Bonn; Birgit Pickel, a representative from the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and Caroline Schmutte from the Wellcome Trust.
The session explored the relationships and intersections of development cooperation and academic research in global health.
Prof. Omaswa observed that academia research was mostly for personal career growth goals and the universities' interest to be ranked highly in international rankings.
“They are doing it for their career promotion: to grow from assistant lecturer to lecturer, to professor, you need to publish so many papers. So they need to publish, get their promotions and the papers stay in their cupboards and nothing happens,” noted Prof. Omaswa
He added: “Universities are also ranked now annually. Once someone publishes, they are ranked highly internationally and even get more money, but this research doesn’t respond or translate into addressing the needs of the people. ”
Prof. Omaswa particularly said the practical way for the German Government to consider, for example, is to find out how research priorities identified in the national development plans are being streamlined into a national research project, where the resources and capacity building for them comes from and how the German government can contribute. “Putting out a call is one way of getting partners. But I would discourage this in this case,” said Prof. Omaswa.
“I would like to call upon all of us to consider strengthening the capacity of national mandated research organizations who are responding to the needs of the development plans of the particular country and academia would also come in. The research will be country-led, and not as is the cases now, donor-driven. I would advocate for NGOs to be part of the equation when Germany is developing their collaborative research agenda,” he added.
Panelists discussed ways in which political, financial, and human resources investments in humanitarian development cooperation be sensibly linked to research. They also looked at coordination mechanisms that are needed to overcome fragmentation between or even within sectors and hence improve the coherence, efficiency, and capacity for action of donor countries.
Compiled by Carol Natukunda, Communications Specialist, ACHEST