International Workshop: Research Agenda and Priority Setting Methods

1 June 2012, Plymouth University, Plymouth, UK

 The beginning of June 2012 didn’t just see the start of the Queen’s 60th Jubilee celebration weekend, but it was also the occasion of the inaugural Research Agenda and Priority Setting Workshop in Plymouth. The workshop was held in the Roland Levinsky Building which hosts the art department of the city’s university and so we were surrounded by half finished works of art. Mona Nasser, Co-Convenor of the Cochrane Agenda and Priority Setting Methods Group, opened the meeting explaining how presentations would facilitate discussions about different ways of priority setting and the importance of priority setting for research and research into priority setting.  I had been invited to describe how Evidence Aid was tackling the challenges of priority setting in the complex area of disasters and to discuss a range of options of for setting our priorities.

The first day highlighted different ways of involving the public in priority setting, introducing us to the ‘Dialogue’ model used in the Netherlands. Evidence Aid presented after lunch and was followed by Peter Tugwell, co-Convenor of the Campbell and Cochrane Equity Methods Group, who spoke about equity in research priority setting. We then had a group discussion where different models of priority setting were discussed, exploring the type of research needed to address existing knowledge, and identify and understand the gaps. Discussion went on through the evening meal which was at a lovely Italian restaurant called ‘Morgans’, helping the presenters to get to know each other better, both socially and professionally.


Claire Allen presenting the Evidence Aid priority setting challenges

The second day brought a complicated but interesting session from Ed Wilson on economic approaches to priority setting; Katherine Cowan, of the James Lind Alliance (JLA), talked about partnership models and described the JLA approach; Sandy Oliver described the skills and knowledge needed to set research priorities; and Pam Carter set out the difficulties of a research project for people living with joint pain. After a wonderful Cornish lunch, looking out over Plymouth harbor, Marco Palomino talked to us about horizon scanning and how that could help to assess research priorities. Much discussion ensued, before we agreed on the action points that had come out of the meeting, sharing these among the participants. We all took on an action point or two and I will be working with Sally Crowe, Janneke Elberse and Sandy Oliver to develop a paper on facilitation skills and knowledge required for priority setting. Evidence Aid also hopes to work with Marco on horizon scanning.

I came away having learned that priority setting should be consistent, efficient, objective, responsive and transparent. We will put these principles into practice in Evidence Aid, along with taking on board some of the other lessons learned during a stimulating two days in the south west of England.

More information can be found on the website of the Cochrane Agenda and Priority Setting Methods Group.