GCRF Challenge Clusters: Good practice recommendations on how to embed and sustain improvements in research capacity

Project 16 Jul 2020

The £1.5Bn GCRF fund supports collaborative, large-scale research projects between UK and developing country institutions. Many of these projects directly or indirectly contribute to strengthening research capacity in partnering countries – however, much of this effort can be wasted if these capacity improvements are not adopted or sustained in the long-term.

This project will identify strategies for sustaining project-initiated gains within the frame of dedicated research capacity strengthening (RCS) programmes. The long-term goal of our project is for developing countries to achieve self-sufficiency in capacity to generate research and innovation to solve their own problems and accelerate socio-economic development. Through the GCRF challenge cluster member’s network, we will access information from around 100 project partner institutions in at least 20 African countries.

In the first phase we will conduct a literature review to synthesize the current information on good practice for embedding and sustaining improvements in research capacity. Using the concepts and tools identified, and through our own methods and tool development, we will collect baseline data through our cluster network via:

  • A survey of all relevant institutions within the cluster network to collate high-level information about research capacity changes that have been initiated through projects, and the outcomes and challenges
  • A document review of consortia/programmes’ planned and actual changes in research capacity in developing country partners’ institutions
  • Interviews with key informants within the developing country institutions and UK partners about why certain changes in research capacity were selected for embedding, and factors that influenced the success and sustainability (or not) of the changes

Findings from the survey and interviews will identify knowledge gaps and transferable lessons which will allow us to produce evidence-informed ‘good practice’ draft guidelines on how to embed and sustain improvements in research capacity within an institution. Cluster members will be invited to input to the draft guidelines to make sure that they are practical and feasible.  Phase 2, which is dependent on securing additional funding, would involve collaborations with selected cluster institutions and partnerships for more in-depth analysis.

Phase 2 objectives would include:

  • Chart what happens to project-initiated changes in research capacity once a project finishes, and how and why the changes are/are not sustained
  • Test the draft guidelines in the ‘real world’ across a diverse set of projects to see if and how they can be scaled and used to promote more effective uptake and sustainability of changes in research capacity
  • Refine and finalise the guidelines based on the evidence and through consultations within and beyond the cluster