Tracking the career development of scientists in low- and middle-income countries trained through TDR’s research capacity strengthening programmes: Learning from monitoring and impact evaluation

<div><p>The Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases (TDR) co-sponsored by UNICEF, UNDP, World Bank and WHO has been supporting research capacity strengthening in low- and middle-income countries for over 40 years. In order to assess and continuously optimize its capacity strengthening approaches, an evaluation of the influence of TDR training grants on research career development was undertaken. The assessment was part of a larger evaluation conducted by the European Science Foundation. A comprehensive survey questionnaire was developed and sent to a group of 117 trainees supported by TDR who had completed their degree (masters or PhD) between 2000 and 2012; of these, seventy seven (77) responded. Most of the respondents (80%) rated TDR support as a very important factor that influenced their professional career achievements. The “brain drain” phenomenon towards high-income countries was particularly low amongst TDR grantees: the rate of return to their region of origin upon completion of their degree was 96%. A vast majority of respondents are still working in research (89%), with 81% of respondents having participated in multidisciplinary research activities; women engaged in multidisciplinary collaboration to a higher extent than men. However, only a minority of all have engaged in intersectoral collaboration, an aspect that would require further study. The post-degree career choices made by the respondents were strongly influenced by academic considerations. At the time of the survey, 92% of all respondents hold full-time positions, mainly in the public sector. Almost 25% of the respondents reported that they had influenced policy and practice changes. Some of the challenges and opportunities faced by trainees at various stages of their research career have been identified. Modalities to overcome these will require further investigation. The survey evidenced how TDR’s research capacity grant programmes made a difference on researchers’ career development and on south-south collaborations, by strengthening and localizing research capacity in lower income regions, and also showed there is more that needs to be done. The factors involved, challenges and lessons learnt may help donors and policy makers improve their future interventions with regard to designing capacity strengthening programmes and setting funding priorities.</p></div>