Reflection on global health research capacity: CCGH Plenary, November 6th, 2015

Reflection on global health research capacity: CCGH Plenary, November 6th, 2015
15 novembre 2015

Lisa Merry, Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Ottawa School of Nursing 

“Critical reflections on approaches to building global health research capacity” was the topic of discussion at the CCGH morning plenary on Nov 6th. What did the panelists have to say?

“You know your partnership is successful if you can leave and it continues on without you"

Tim Brewer kicked off the plenary with some tips on how to establish successful and true partnerships between colleagues from the North and South. Do away with generalizations (aka stereotypes). All partners need to be open and listen to one another- everyone is coming with talent, resources and capacity! The partnership should have a clear focus. An explicit discussion on what each partner will get out of the partnership must be had. Trust is crucial. Commitment and infrastructure are necessary to ensure sustainability.

“We need to be mindful of our origins”

Denise Gastaldo reminded us that as researchers from the “North” working with partners from the “South” we need to be critical of our “northern” (neo-liberal academic) ways of knowing and doing.  There is no one universal knowledge and there are different ways of generating evidence. We need to engage in numbers and words and expand our way of measuring research success. Impact factors, publishing and bringing in funding are a reality that both researchers in the North and South must contend with, but advocacy and development should be recognized as research triumphs too.

“Power is about giving up power”

If we want to address the inequities that exist between and within countries, capacity should be created where those inequities exist. Sharon Fonn spoke to us about CARTA (Consortium for Advanced Research Training in Africa), a partnership between several African countries with collaboration from seven Northern academic institutions. This initiative aims to create institutional infrastructure and to train PhD fellows so that research and knowledge may be generated locally. One hundred fifteen fellows, representing a range of disciplines are in the pipeline; 16 have completed their PhD; fellows have published and attended conferences and raised research funding for projects; a scholarly network has been established laying the foundation for future collaboration and projects.

“GHR is on the map!”

Anne-Marie Turcotte-Tremblay and Slim Haddad shared their reflections on GHR CAPS – the Global Health Research Capacity Strengthening Program – a 6-year, inter-university (four Quebec institutions) initiative that sought to train and mentor PhD students, post-doctoral fellows and young researchers in global health research, and to establish an international GHR community. While there remains unfinished work and challenges lie ahead in sustaining the GHR training structure and the community that’s been created, the program has been a great success. 

Overall, an inspiring discussion and lots of food for thought when we return home and continue our work in “building global health research capacity.”


Lisa Merry can be reached at