New guidance for strengthening research capacity

TDR news item
26 June 2014

A new good practice document designed to provide broad guidance on how to strengthen research capacity has been published by the ESSENCE on Health Research initiative. The publication was developed for agency directors and officers and research leaders to help shape programme goals and implementation plans in a simple and effective way.

“Really important foundations are being laid that should have strong impacts in the coming years".

Dr John Reeder, TDR Director

The guidance has been broken down into a number of principles and accompanied by illustrative examples to show how they have been adopted in practice, as well as some of the most commonly encountered barriers to their effective implementation. The ultimate goal is to better support researchers in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) to identify and address these health barriers. Rather than being prescriptive, or staking any claim to being the gold standard of practice, the document has been developed as a tool for further discussion.

TDR Director John Reeder says the process of bringing together funders to identify shared strategies and approaches has been valuable. “Really important foundations are being laid that should have strong impacts in the coming years,” he added.

“We want to share learning accumulated over many years by our individual funding agencies and by the award holders themselves,” said Val Snewin, International Activities Manager at the Wellcome Trust. “We hope producing this document will help shape future programmes".

Seven principles for good practice in research capacity strengthening

The seven principles identified in the publication are:
  • Network, collaborate, communicate and share experiences
  • Understand the local context and accurately evaluate existing research capacity
  • Ensure local ownership and secure active support
  • Build in monitoring, evaluation and learning from the start
  • Establish robust research governance and support structures, and promote effective leadership
  • Embed strong support, supervision and mentorship structures
  • Think long-term, be flexible and plan for continuity

The ESSENCE document can be regarded as a gateway to the current research capacity strengthening landscape,” said Dr Metin Gulmezoglu, a coordinator in the World Health Organization’s Reproductive Health and Research Department. “The document is full of interesting and useful web links”.

This is the third in the series of good practice documents produced by ESSENCE. The earlier publications are Planning, monitoring and evaluation framework for capacity strengthening in health research, and Five keys to improving research costing in low- and middle-income countries.

TDR hosts ESSENCE, which is a collaborative framework between funding agencies to scale up research capacity. It aims to improve the impact of investments in institutions and people, and provides enabling mechanisms that address needs and priorities within national strategies on research for health.

For more information, contact:

Dr Garry Aslanyan (

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