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Viergever et al. Health Research Policy and Systems 2010, 8:36 http://www.health-policy-systems.com/content/8/1/36 REVIEW Open AccessA checklist for health research priority setting: nine common themes of good practice Roderik F Viergever1, Sylvie Olifson2, Abdul Ghaffar3, Robert F Terry4*Abstract Health research priority setting processes assist researchers and policymakers in effectively targeting research that has the greatest potential public health benefit. Many different approaches to health research prioritization exist, but there is no agreement on what might constitute best practice. Moreover, because of the many different con-texts for which priorities can be set, attempting to produce one best practice is in fact not appropriate, as the opti-mal approach varies per exercise. Therefore, following a literature review and an analysis of health research priority setting exercises that were organized or coordinated by the World Health Organization since 2005, we propose a checklist for health research priority setting that allows for informed choices on different approaches and outlines nine common themes of good practice.It is intended to provide generic assistance for planning health research prioritization processes. The checklist explains what needs to be clarified in order to establish the context for which priorities are set; it reviews available approaches to health research priority setting; it offers discussions on stake-holder participation and information gathering; it sets out options for use of criteria and different methods for deciding upon priorities; and it emphasizes the importance of well-planned implementation, evaluation and transparency.Introduction Setting priorities for health research is essential to maxi-mize the impact of investments, which is especially rele-vant in resource-poor environments. Health research prioritization is regarded as a key part of efforts needed to strengthen national health research systems [1-6]. Additionally, prioritization mechanisms are necessary to facilitate the current demand for increased harmoniza-tion of health research at a global level [4,7-10], particu-larly in combination with analyses of financial flows for health research [9,11,12] and burden of disease studies [13,14]. Numerous World Health Assembly resolutions and the 2004 and 2008 Ministerial Summits on Health Research have stressed the need for action on these issues [4,15-19]. For health research priority setting exercises to effec-tively target research with the greatest public health benefit, it is important that they are of high quality and so there is a need for consensus on what constitutes quality or good practice in this area [2,20]. The various Correspondence: [email protected]4WHO strategy on research for health, Department of Research Policy and Cooperation (RPC), World Health Organization (WHO), Geneva, Switzerland Full list of author information is available at the end of the article approaches that are available to guide priority setting for health research differ on important aspects of the process [20-29]. Because of the different contexts for which priorities can be set, the optimal approach varies per exercise. Consensus on a gold standard or best prac-tice for health research prioritization thus seems difficult to achieve and is, more importantly, not an appropriate response [30]. Therefore, taking the heterogeneous nature of research priority setting exercises into account, while recognizing the need for agreement on appropriate gui-dance for these exercises, we propose a checklist that outlines options for different approaches and defines nine common themes of good practice for health research prioritization processes. It is intended to pro-vide assistance for planning a high quality health research priority setting exercise whether at national, regional or global level.Methods Several methodological approaches were combined to acquire a comprehensive overview of common views on good practices in health research priority setting. First, a literature search was conducted of Pubmed for peer-© 2010 Viergever et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. Copyright World Heath Organization; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. This is an Open Access article in the spirit of the BioMed Central Open Access Charter http://www.biomedcentral.com/info/about/charter/, without any waiver of WHO’s privileges and immunities under international law, convention or agreement. This article should not be reproduced for use in association with the promotion of commercial products, services or legal entity. There should be no suggestion that WHO endorses any specific organisation or products. The use of the WHO logo is not permitted. This notice should be preserved along with the article’s original URL.

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