Health research observatories are globally recognised proactive institutions that provide appropriate evidence-based information to guide policy-making decisions in a country, thereby improving health care. The World Health Organization has recommended the development of national and regional research and development observatories to ensure relevant, timeous and credible information on current and emerging health research priorities and impact on health responses and interventions, including allocation of resources and their scope and location.
This chapter describes the vision, mandate, purpose, scope and benefits of a proposed health research observatory, as well as the key challenges, in order to stimulate awareness and generate local interest among and participation by the health research community and relevant stakeholders in South Africa.
The National Health Research Committee (NHRC) has undertaken to establish the National Health Research Observatory as a comprehensive information and translation system to enable the national co-ordination and integration of research and health information from the country's multiple research platforms.
Potential challenges inherent in this undertaking include legislative inadequacies that could limit the NHRC authority over public entities, and the autonomy of research institutions such as universities where conflicts of interest may cause and perpetuate barriers to vital research-related information.