Background: prioritization is helpful in preventing research waste by supporting the right research questions, that will fill the gaps in knowledge. Evidence and Gap Maps (EGMs) are systematic and visual presentations of the availability of rigorous evidence for a particular policy domain. The EGMs consolidate what we know and do not know about ’what works’ by mapping out evidence graphically. EGMs effectively communicate to the decision maker the gaps that need to be filled with research. The schematic depiction of research gaps prevents information overload with textual information. Use of EGM as a technique in health research prioritization needs to be extended in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs).
Objectives: to build capacity of Indian scientists in EGMs as a tool for health-research prioritization.
Methods: the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) is partnering with the Campbell Collaboration to work on EGMs in important areas including the social dimension of health research. Workshops and presentations on EGMs are being held at ICMR to introduce this methodology to Indian scientists. The social dimension of health research, which has so far not been adequately researched, needs to be prioritized to fill the knowledge gaps. EGMs on child abuse and violence, and interventions for tobacco control have been initiated. The title registration has been completed and the EGMs are in the protocol phase. The scope and domain areas, search strategy, inclusion exclusion criteria are being discussed and the work is in progress.
Results: a graphical display of areas with strong, weak or non-existent evidence, systematic reviews and impact evaluations will be presented schematically in a framework with interventions and sub-categories in rows, and outcomes domains in columns. The absence of ‘bubbles’ on the EGMs will represent gaps in research, thus providing guidance regarding funding of research in that particular area. The research areas and topics identified through EGMs will be advertized as calls for proposals on the ICMR website and approved proposals would be funded.
Conclusions: EGMs can be used as tools for prioritization in LMICs. Their use will contribute towards formalizing a systematic approach in research priority setting that is based in evidence.
Patient or healthcare consumer involvement: prevention of research waste is in the interest of healthcare consumers, since the source of funding for research comes from taxpayers’ money.