Challenges and opportunities in country-specific research synthesis: a case study from Cameroon
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BACKGROUND: Research synthesis is an important approach to summarizing a body of literature. Usually, the goal is to determine the effectiveness of an intervention, to determine the strength of association between two factors, to determine the prevalence of a condition, or to scope the literature. Research synthesis methods can also be used to appraise the quantity and quality of research output from institutions or countries. In the latter case, standard quantitative systematic review methodologies would not apply and investigators must borrow strategies from qualitative syntheses and bibliometric analyses to develop a complete and meaningful appraisal of the literature from a given country. METHODS: In this paper, we use the example of Cameroon to highlight some of the challenges and opportunities of appraising a body of country-specific literature. A comprehensive and exhaustive search of the literature was conducted to identify health-related literature from Cameroon published from 2005 to 2014. Titles were screened in duplicate. RESULTS: A total of 8624 studies were retrieved of which 721 were retained. The main challenges were making a choice of synthesis approach; selecting the right databases, data storage and management; and sustaining the team. Key opportunities include enhanced networking, a detailed appraisal of funding sources, international collaborations, language of publication, and issues with study design. The product is a comprehensive and informative body of evidence that can be used to inform policy with regards to international collaboration, location of research studies, language of publication, knowledge areas of focus, and gaps. CONCLUSION: Knowledge synthesis approaches can be adapted for appraisal of country-specific research and offer opportunities for in-depth appraisal of research output.
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