Practical metrics for establishing the health benefits of research to support research prioritisation

Beth Woods, Laetitia Schmitt, Claire Rothery, Andrew Phillips, Timothy B Hallett, Paul Revill, Karl Claxton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction: We present practical metrics for estimating the expected health benefits of specific research proposals. These can be used by research funders, researchers, and health-care decision makers within low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) to support evidence-based research prioritisation.
Methods: The methods require three key assessments: (1) the current level of uncertainty around the endpoints the proposed study will measure; (2) how uncertainty impacts on the health benefits and costs of health-care programmes; and (3) the health opportunity costs imposed by programme costs. Research is valuable because it can improve health by informing the choice of which programmes should be implemented. We provide a Microsoft Excel tool to allow readers to generate estimates of the health benefits of research studies based on these three assessments. The tool can be populated using clinical studies, existing cost-effectiveness models and expert opinion. Where such evidence is not available, the tool can quantify the value of research under different assumptions. Estimates of the health benefits of research can be considered alongside research costs, and the consequences of delaying implementation until research reports, to determine whether research is worthwhile. We illustrate the method using a case study of research on HIV self-testing programmes in Malawi. This analysis combines data from the literature with outputs from the HIV synthesis model.
Results: For this case study we found a costing study that could be completed and inform decision making within one year offered the highest health benefits (67,000 DALYs averted). Research on outcomes improved population health to a lesser extent (12,000 DALYs averted) and only if carried out alongside programme implementation.
Conclusion: Our work provides a method for estimating the health benefits of research in a practical and timely fashion. This can be used to support accountable use of research funds.
Original languageEnglish
JournalBMJ Global health
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2020

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© Author(s) (or their employer(s)) 2020. Re-use permitted under CC BY. Published by BMJ.

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