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Balancing relevance and excellence: Organizational responses to link research with decision making


  • Frenk, Julio


Research faces the challenge of balancing relevance to decision making and excellence in the strict adherence to the norms of scientific inquiry. This paper examines the organizational responses that can be undertaken to promote integration of these potentially conflicting goals. We posit that there seem to be structural barriers to effective communication between researchers and decision makers, such as differences in priorities, time management, language, means of communication, integration of findings and definition of the final product of research. These barriers must be overcome through solutions aimed at the organization of research. In this respect, there are three possible models to approach the tension between excellence and relevance: academic subordination, segregation and integration. Only the latter makes it possible to reconcile the advantages of proximity to decision making with the procedures to assure academic quality. In addition to organizational design and institutional development, a strategy to promote research must include a set of incentives to prevent the 'internal brain drain', that is, the tendency of researchers to move to managerial positions. There are four guiding principles to address this problem: parallel careers, academic autonomy, administrative sacrifice and inverted incentives. The complexities of health problems demand that we create new organizational formulas to finally balance relevance and excellence in research.

Suggested Citation

  • Frenk, Julio, 1992. "Balancing relevance and excellence: Organizational responses to link research with decision making," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 35(11), pages 1397-1404, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:35:y:1992:i:11:p:1397-1404

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    Cited by:

    1. Tran, Nhan T. & Hyder, Adnan A. & Kulanthayan, Subramaniam & Singh, Suret & Umar, R.S. Radin, 2009. "Engaging policy makers in road safety research in Malaysia: A theoretical and contextual analysis," Health Policy, Elsevier, vol. 90(1), pages 58-65, April.
    2. Walsh, Julia & Simonet, Maryse, 1995. "Data analysis needs for health sector reform," Health Policy, Elsevier, vol. 32(1-3), pages 295-306.
    3. John, Peabody & Tauiwalo, Mario & Robalino, David & Frenk, Julio, 2004. "Improving the Quality of Care in Developing Countries," MPRA Paper 12252, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    4. repec:spr:scient:v:95:y:2013:i:2:d:10.1007_s11192-012-0855-x is not listed on IDEAS
    5. D'Souza, Carol & Sadana, Ritu, 2006. "Why do case studies on national health research systems matter? Identifying common challenges in low- and middle-income countries," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 62(8), pages 2072-2078, April.
    6. Jansen, Maria W.J. & De Vries, Nanne K. & Kok, Gerjo & Van Oers, Hans A.M., 2008. "Collaboration between practice, policy and research in local public health in the Netherlands," Health Policy, Elsevier, vol. 86(2-3), pages 295-307, May.
    7. Brousselle, Astrid & Champagne, Fran├žois, 2011. "Program theory evaluation: Logic analysis," Evaluation and Program Planning, Elsevier, vol. 34(1), pages 69-78, February.
    8. Landry, Rejean & Amara, Nabil & Lamari, Moktar, 2001. "Utilization of social science research knowledge in Canada," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 30(2), pages 333-349, February.


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