Promoting sustainable research partnerships: A mixed-method evaluation of a United Kingdom-Africa capacity strengthening award scheme

Laura Dean, Janet Njelesani, Helen Smith, Imelda Bates

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Research partnerships between high-income countries (HICs) and low- or middle-income countries (LMICs) are a leading model in research capacity strengthening activities. Although numerous frameworks and guiding principles for effective research partnerships exist, few include the perspective of the LMIC partner. This paper draws out lessons for establishing and maintaining successful research collaborations, based on partnership dynamics, from the perspectives of both HIC and LMIC stakeholders through the evaluation of a research capacity strengthening partnership award scheme. Methods: A mixed-method retrospective evaluation approach was used. Initially, a cross-sectional survey was administered to all award holders, which focused on partnership outputs and continuation. Fifty individuals were purposively selected to participate in interviews or focus group discussions from 12 different institutions in HICs and LMICs; the sample included the research investigators, research assistants, laboratory scientists and post-doctoral students. The evaluation collected data on critical elements of research partnership dynamics such as research outputs, nature of the partnership, future plans and research capacity. Quantitative data were analysed descriptively and qualitative data were analysed using an iterative framework approach. Results: The majority of United Kingdom and African award holders stated they would like to pursue future collaborations together. Key aspects within partnerships that appeared to influence this were; the perceived benefits of the partnership at the individual and institutional level such as publication of papers or collaborative grants; ability to influence 'research culture' and instigate critical thinking among mid-career researchers; previous working relationships, for example supervisor-student relationships; and equity within partnerships linked to partnership formation and experience of United Kingdom partners within LMICs. Factors which may hinder development of long term partnerships were also identified such as financial control or differing expectations of partners. Conclusions: This paper provides evidence of what encourages international research partnerships for capacity strengthening to continue past award tenure, from the perspective of researchers in high and LMICs. Although every partnership is unique and individual experiences subjective, this paper provides extension and support of key principles and mechanisms that can contribute to successful research partnerships between researchers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number81
JournalHealth Research Policy and Systems
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 23 2015


  • Capacity strengthening
  • International collaborations
  • Low- and middle-income countries
  • Mixed methods
  • International relations
  • research partnerships

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy


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