A systematic review on academic research productivity of postgraduate students in low- and middle-income countries
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BACKGROUND: While several individual studies addressing research productivity of post-graduate students are available, a synthesis of effective strategies to increase productivity and the determinants of productivity in low-income countries has not been undertaken. Further, whether or not this research from post-graduate students' projects was applied in evidence-informed decision-making was unknown. Therefore, we conducted a systematic review of literature to identify and assess the effectiveness of approaches that increase productivity (proportion published) or the application (proportion cited) of post-graduate students' research, as well as to assess the determinants of post-graduate students' research productivity and use. METHODS: We conducted a systematic review as per our a priori published protocol, also registered in PROSPERO (CRD42016042819). We searched for published articles in PubMed/MEDLINE and the ERIC databases through to July 2017. We performed duplicate assessments for included primary studies and resolved discrepancies by consensus. Thereafter, we completed a structured narrative synthesis and, for a subset of studies, we performed a meta-analysis of the findings using both fixed and random effects approaches. We aligned our results to the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) statement. RESULTS: We found 5080 articles in the PubMed (n = 3848) and ERIC (n = 1232) databases. After excluding duplicates (n = 33), we screened 5047 articles, of which 5012 were excluded. We then retrieved 44 full texts and synthesised 14, of which 4 had a high risk of bias. We did not find any studies assessing effectiveness of strategies for increasing publication nor citations of post-graduate research projects. We found an average publication proportion of 7% (95% CI 7-8%, Higgins I-squared 0.0% and Cochran's Q p < 0.01) and 23% (95% CI 17-29%, Higgins I-squared of 98.4% and Cochran's Q, p < 0.01) using fixed effects and random effects models, respectively. Two studies reported on the citation of post-graduate students' studies, at 17% (95% CI 15-19%) in Uganda and a median citation of 1 study in Turkey (IQR 0.6-2.3). Only one included study reported on the determinants of productivity or use of post-graduate students' research, suggesting that younger students were more likely to publish and cohort studies were more likely to be published. CONCLUSIONS: We report on the low productivity of post-graduate students' research in low- and middle-income countries, including the citation of post-graduate students' research in evidence-informed health policy in low- and middle-income countries. Secondly, we did not find a single study that assessed strategies to increase productivity and use of post-graduate students' research in evidence-informed health policy, a subject for future research.
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