Methods for Identifying Health Research Gaps, Needs, and Priorities

A Scoping Review

Published in: Journal of General Internal Medicine (2021). doi: 10.1007/s11606-021-07064-1

Posted on RAND.org on November 10, 2021

by Eunice C. Wong, Alicia Ruelaz Maher, Aneesa Motala, Rachel Ross, Goke Akinniranye, Jody Larkin, Susanne Hempel

Read More

Access further information on this document at Springer

This article was published outside of RAND. The full text of the article can be found at the link above.

Background

Well-defined, systematic, and transparent processes to identify health research gaps, needs, and priorities are vital to ensuring that available funds target areas with the greatest potential for impact.

Objective

The purpose of this review is to characterize methods conducted or supported by research funding organizations to identify health research gaps, needs, or priorities.

Method

We searched MEDLINE, PsycINFO, and the Web of Science up to September 2019. Eligible studies reported on methods to identify health research gaps, needs, and priorities that had been conducted or supported by research funding organizations. Using a published protocol, we extracted data on the method, criteria, involvement of stakeholders, evaluations, and whether the method had been replicated (i.e., used in other studies).

Results

Among 10,832 citations, 167 studies were eligible for full data extraction. More than half of the studies employed methods to identify both needs and priorities, whereas about a quarter of studies focused singularly on identifying gaps (7%), needs (6%), or priorities (14%) only. The most frequently used methods were the convening of workshops or meetings (37%), quantitative methods (32%), and the James Lind Alliance approach, a multi-stakeholder research needs and priority setting process (28%). The most widely applied criteria were importance to stakeholders (72%), potential value (29%), and feasibility (18%). Stakeholder involvement was most prominent among clinicians (69%), researchers (66%), and patients and the public (59%). Stakeholders were identified through stakeholder organizations (51%) and purposive (26%) and convenience sampling (11%). Only 4% of studies evaluated the effectiveness of the methods and 37% employed methods that were reproducible and used in other studies.

Discussion

To ensure optimal targeting of funds to meet the greatest areas of need and maximize outcomes, a much more robust evidence base is needed to ascertain the effectiveness of methods used to identify research gaps, needs, and priorities.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation External publication series. Many RAND studies are published in peer-reviewed scholarly journals, as chapters in commercial books, or as documents published by other organizations.

Our mission to help improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis is enabled through our core values of quality and objectivity and our unwavering commitment to the highest level of integrity and ethical behavior. To help ensure our research and analysis are rigorous, objective, and nonpartisan, we subject our research publications to a robust and exacting quality-assurance process; avoid both the appearance and reality of financial and other conflicts of interest through staff training, project screening, and a policy of mandatory disclosure; and pursue transparency in our research engagements through our commitment to the open publication of our research findings and recommendations, disclosure of the source of funding of published research, and policies to ensure intellectual independence. For more information, visit www.rand.org/about/principles.

The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.