Experiences of health research stakeholders with international health research collaborations in Zambia

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Matenga, Tulani.F.L
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The University of Zambia
The promotion of collaborative partnerships involving researchers and institutions from Low-and Middle-Income Countries with those from High-Income Countries has been a major development in health research. While these initiatives have shown great promise and attracted growing interest, research examining the processes that improve or hinder joint working and the inner workings of international health research collaborations has been limited. The study aimed to explore the experiences of health research stakeholders with international health research collaborations. A qualitative phenomenological inquiry was employed using In-depth interviews with 20 key informants involved in North-South health research partnerships conducting health research activities in different parts of Zambia. Thematic analysis was used to analyse the data with the aid of Nvivo 12 data management software. The findings of this study revealed that partnerships produce benefits for Southern partners which include generating of evidence to influence policy, improved service delivery, infrastructure development and designing of interventions to improve the healthcare of populations in most need. Most importantly through partnerships, there is the availability of financial resources to accomplish partnership goals. To enhance international health research partnerships, effective communication, local leadership, values, and accountability were identified as important in the process of partnership functioning. Trust interacts with different elements that create partnerships where there is co-ownership of study rewards. When this trust has been created, more opportunities for partnerships are formed. Negative loops of interaction in health research collaborations are largely due to funding mechanisms where ninety percent of the funding for health research is from Northern partners. This funding mechanism results in power imbalances that lead to publication challenges, dictation of research agenda and ownership of samples and data leading to misunderstandings between partners and a general lack of motivation to collaborate. The study highlights the importance of international health research collaborations and its many benefits which include strategies to address community health challenges through the supply of ideas, translating research into interventions and designing health strategies. Challenges experienced result from unequal power relations where most of the funding comes from Northern partners. Acknowledging and reporting both positive and negative processes maximises learning in health research collaborations and highlight areas that partnerships need to focus on to make the most of joint workings. Keywords: Health Research, Successes, Challenges, International collaboration, Power-sharing, Trust and Transparency
International research cooperation , Health Science--Research , Health research