Capacity-building for health policy and systems research (HPSR) is a vital component in supporting
health system capacity in order to achieve certain health goals. Currently, a number of obstacles prohibit
the use of HPSR in real policy decision-making. These include selective use of evidence to support previously
set policy agenda, inadequate funding and support for HPSR, inadequate human resources and
poor research capacity, resulting in low-quality research. It is belived that capacity-building for HPSR
would help break the above-mentioned vicious cycle.
This paper is aimed at informing all stakeholders about the potential approaches to build up HPSR
capacity. It was conducted by (a) reviewing the literature, (b) using a questionnaire survey of existing
research capacity within the Health Systems Research Institute (HSRI) network aimed at identifying capacity
gaps and the current practices in building up research capacity, and (c) in-depth interviews with
key persons of leading research institutes, namely, the International Health Policy Program (IHPP), Epidemiology
Unit of the Prince of Songkhla University, and the Thai Research Fund, to learn from their
experiences in capacity-building.
Definitions of capacity-building and HPSR, and the potential approaches for building research capacity
were given. Results from the survey indicated that there is an urgent need to build up research
capacity at both the individual and research institute levels through formal and informal education, networking,
involvement of policy actors and the public in setting up research agendas, conducting research
and disseminating the research results. Lessons learned from the leading research institutes revealed
several key successes, including leadership, long-term and flexible research grants, critical mass,
multidisciplinary teams, and relevant policy research. At the end of the paper, the information gathered
was used to construct recommendations for HPSR capacity-building in health research institutes.