There is a serious shortage of senior African social scientists to lead health-related research in Africa, despite there being many African social science graduates and decades of Northern-funded research programmes intended to develop local capacity. The shortage is particularly apparent in sexual health. This newsletter presents findings from two studies on social science research capacity in East Africa. The first (described in an article in Social Science and Medicine) looked at researchers, focusing on the individualized nature of research activity in the region and the role of individual research consultancies in limiting research capacity. The second (described in a manuscript by the same authors submitted to African Development Review with the title Development assistance and research capacity strengthening: the commissioning of health research in East Africa) explores the role of research commissioners (e.g. donors and agencies), analysing the prevailing modes of research commissioning among bilateral, multilateral, nongovernmental and philanthropic organizations, and providing a typology of such. Recommendations are made for strengthening research capacity more successfully than has been done in the past.
SRH & HIV Bulletin no. 3, July 2008; 4 pp.