From experience in Canada, we know that support for young investigators with small seed grants can provide the critical fuel needed to answer “simple” but important health care questions.
This research can improve health care, expand research capacity and generate a ‘fire in the belly’ to do better. We also know that training, mentoring and ongoing reinforcement of research principles can make this happen. We already have experience in training, and mentoring through our work in Uganda and we now need to add more initiatives to reward and reinforce research activity. The ultimate goal will be to develop a self-sustaining East African health research model for others to follow.
MicroResearch research volunteers work with international clinical academic leaders to teach two-week (half-days) workshops with interdisciplinary trainees from medicine, nursing, social work, education, agriculture etc. To ensure success, local collaborators participate as teachers. The half-day format allows participants to still attend to their duties during the workshop weeks - a must in developing countries.
During the 2-week workshop, 20 to 30 participants are taught practical research skills in daily seminars. Small groups transform the group’s research idea into a “rough” research project with a knowledge translation plan under the guidance of a tutor.
After the workshop, participants receive access to a web-based clinical research curriculum adapted for Africa based upon a very successful Canadian clinician scientist training program (CCHCSP).
Over the following months, the groups fine-tune their research proposal with the help of mentors.
Addis Abada - Ethiopia
Aga Khan - Kenya
Kabarak - Kenya
Nairobi - Kenya
Blantyre - Malawi
Chitwan - Nepal
Kigali - Rwanda
Ifakara - Tanzania
Kampala - Uganda
Mbarara - Uganda
Mildmay - Uganda
Nsambya - Uganda
Mentors are Canadian and international researchers who act as volunteer coaches. Each MicroResearch group will be linked via the internet to a Canadian coach or mentor who has knowledge of the research area and understands the challenges of research in a developing nation. The local mentor provides input on local issues such as ethics requirements and knowledge translation.
MicroResearch grant program funds grants up to $2,000 (CAD).
A research panel from the host country and Canada will judge proposals on scientific merit.
The panel is sensitive to the culture, and offer constructive critique for improvements.
MicroResearch groups carry out their study, write up an article to be peer review as well as develop a report where appropriate. The leaders of the most successful groups will be invited to Canada to present their papers at the annual general meeting of a sponsoring society (CPS or CCHCSP); a time to share ideas and nurture Canadian-African research collaboration.
Bureaucracy in MicroResearch is kept to a minimum. The major focus is on the local outcomes: research capacity enhancement, answering local health questions and improving health by application of research findings. A simple evaluation framework will be used to assess these parameters locally over time. Mentoring face-to-face during the workshop, via the internet with coaches, and at the Canadian meetings will help to establish a relationship between trainees in Africa and Asia and those in Canada. As with micro-finance, MicroResearch spin-offs are starting slowly but with time will increase in significance, and reach areas of the world where the need is greatest.
Robert Bortolussi MD FRCPC
Noni MacDonald MD FRCPC
Source: Microfinance Experience