Historically, the health research agenda has been largely investigator-driven with limited input from other stakeholders including patients, caregivers and the community . Given the evident mismatch between the research interests of patients and researchers, investment into health research may be misdirected to areas of low priority or fail to address important needs of relevant stakeholders. For example, an analysis of 14 research priority setting partnerships involving patients with different medical conditions found that pharmacological interventions were prioritized only in 18% of the total priorities but 58% of the clinical trials in those fields evaluated pharmacological interventions .
Globally, there have been calls for research priority setting with stakeholders to be done at all levels of health systems, jurisdictions, and health areas . There is no consensus on the definition of research priority setting but most definitions refer to a range of activities that involve identifying, prioritizing, and achieving consensus on the research areas or questions of importance to stakeholders . The past two decades have seen increasing efforts to develop better ways to engage all relevant stakeholders, particularly patients, in setting priorities for research across different health disciplines and populations [15,16,17]. Involving stakeholders in an explicit manner in research priority setting can help to: 1) ensure that funding decisions and research meet critical evidence gaps to inform decision making; 2) facilitate shared responsibility and accountability in implementing the research agenda; 3) improve the relevance and legitimacy of research; and 4) ultimately achieve better health outcomes .
A diverse range of methods are used to prioritize research given the different healthcare contexts, populations, environments and resources available in which the priority setting is undertaken . The process of research priority setting can be complex, political and value-laden. It can also be challenging to identify, address and integrate the different perspectives and values held by diverse stakeholders. While there is no consensus on what constitutes “successful” research priority setting, it has been advocated that processes must be fair, legitimate, informed by credible evidence, involve a broad spectrum of stakeholders, and be transparent
However, reviews of published research priority setting exercises have consistently demonstrated a lack of transparency because of suboptimal reporting . A systematic review of research priority setting in childhood chronic disease, in which most studies were conducted in the UK, US, and Australia, found that methods for collecting and prioritizing research topics were reported in only 50 (60%) of the 84 studies included. Another review of research priority setting exercises in Zambia reported that details about the process and the stakeholders involved were omitted in the majority of studies , and similarly, a review of studies in the Islamic Republic of Iran revealed that 22 (61%) of the 36 priority setting studies did not report methods and only listed the research priorities . Inadequate description of the stakeholders and the methods makes it difficult to assess the validity of research priorities identified, and limits the ability to aggregate, analyze or compare research priorities that have been established .
Frameworks and guidelines are available for conducting and evaluating research priority setting, which mainly focus on criteria related to the process rather than the outcomes and impact of priority setting. There are no published guidelines for reporting priority setting for health research . Ensuring the transparency of the process for research priority setting can strengthen legitimacy and credibility to support implementation and maximise impact. A reporting checklist for research priority setting may facilitate more consistent and comprehensive reporting and enable researchers and end-users to better understand the processes taken in developing research priorities.
The paper presents the reporting guideline for priority setting of health research (REPRISE), describes its development and provide a rationale for the items included.
Read the full paper in BMC Medical Research Methodology here (Open Access)