Summative Evaluation of the Regional Partnerships Program (RPP) - Final Report: Appendix B
Appendix B: Program Design Suggestions
The following five suggestions are offered for consideration in the design of a renewed program if the recommendation of this evaluation is accepted. They are fairly detailed in an attempt to give attention to all significant aspects of planning for a renewed program.
These suggestions are based on the summative evaluation regarding whether or not to renew RPP. On the question of renewal, the recommendation is to renew the program. This still leaves open the design of a renewed program. Lessons learned during the evaluation have been used to develop the following suggestions that CIHR may consider in designing a renewed program.
S1. CIHR should continue to view a renewed RPP as a partnership program.
- CIHR should manage a national partnership between CIHR and Advisory Committees within provinces. Terms and conditions should be influenced by a consensus of the Chairs.
- Consideration should be given to having areas within a province recognised as regions with the possibility of having more than one region in a province.
- The formal involvement of each province's government is highly desirable regardless of how many regions there may be within a province.
- Advisory Committees should develop partnerships between itself and partner contributors.
S2. Advisory Committee Chairs should be asked to establish a consolidated partner fund under the management of the Advisory Committee.
- Funds from partners would be sought, banked and allocated to projects by the Advisory Committee. Partner funds would be disbursed by the Advisory Committee within the province.
- Conditions of eligibility within a province would continue to be set by the Committee with the guidance of the Chair who should also be a member of the research communities. The intent is to have a Chair who is representative of, and responsive to, existing and intended research strengths. There is no implication that the incumbent should be selected by vote among researchers.
- Senior funding partners, those who contribute at least one-third of the total annual requirement, should be invited to join the Advisory Committee along with representatives of the health research communities. This suggestion does not imply a minimum contribution level is needed in order to be invited to the Committee; only that major contributors should also be invited.
S3. CIHR should actively support the Chairs of Advisory Committees.
- Keep the flexibility of the current program design within which Advisory Committees have the freedom to set their own guidelines insofar as these do not subvert the program framework of CIHR guidelines.
- Create a mechanism for sharing lessons learned among the Advisory Committee Chairs. One such possibility would be face-to-face meetings of Chairs on an annual basis. Restrain the use of teleconferences to additional meetings on matters of time-urgency.
- CIHR/RPP management should provide a secretariat to, and should chair the meetings of, the Chairs of the Advisory Committees.
S4. Once the policy and design details for a renewed program have been established, it will be important to also design a program of performance measurement. To be effective, performance measurement is best initiated at the start of a renewed program. Data collection for the performance measures is required on a cyclic basis. The findings should be consolidated at least once a year and examined as trend lines. The reports of the performance measurement should be shared among the primary stakeholders.
- The precipitating situation for RPP was the disproportionate allocation between funds received and population size. In this evaluation, this was examined through a "gap" analysis. CIHR and the Chairs should consider whether this "gap" remains a key measure of success in a renewed program. Even if it is not, consideration should be given to maintaining the gap measure as one indicator of progress.
Among the concepts to be defined, and for which key indicators can then be sought, are:
- success rate
- conversion rate
- promising researcher
- excellent researcher
- recent entrant to health research
- Additional concepts which could usefully be defined, and for which key indicators can then be sought, are:
- critical mass for health research (both the criteria for recognising when critical mass has been achieved for a defined area of health research and the time frame for the achievement of capacity development in each area); and
- minimal funds necessary to sustain a research presence (consideration should be given to defining a minimum level of funding to a region without which any funding is not likely to be effective).
- Advance consideration should be given to the criteria by which to judge if an objective has been achieved (both in terms of variance from a standard and in terms of how long a period of being at the standard will be deemed to be a stable condition).
- Consider the desirability of asking each region to state, a priori, its operational intention for training grants and for operations awards. This is not a suggestion to partition the funding across the two; it is a suggestion that each province develop, as part of its strategic planning, the partitioning that it will use and, as well, the targets for its objectives in each area.
S5. CIHR should consider increasing the allotment for a renewed RPP.
- The RPP allotment in 1999 was 1.5% of MRC/CIHR research funding. By 2003, this had been reduced to 0.8% of the increased CIHR funding for health research. In that same time interval, the CIHR funding for health research had slightly more than doubled.
- The size of projects is increasing with the result that the current allotment accommodates fewer projects.
- Consider the use of a formula by which there would be an uneven distribution of allotment to the several regions. The total allotment could be partitioned among the regions in accordance with need as determined by a formula. The following factors may be considered in the construction of such a formula. The intention in this list is to be inclusive. Following additional policy research, it may be decided to remove some factors and perhaps add others.
- provincial wealth level.
- the numbers of medical school faculty (which is still a major determinant of demand but will likely be of diminishing weight as Pillars 3 and 4 increase in prominence).
- the inclusion of Pillar 3 (health systems and services) and Pillar 4 (population and public health) is relatively recent and may be of particular importance to the development of capacity in regions without medical faculties.
- the base level of funding judged necessary if even a minimal presence of health research is to be maintained in a region.
- the relative number of participating new researchers who may require some priority within the framework of a development program. Currently, significant amounts of RPP funds are being used by scientists who are well into their career paths. Priority decisions may be required to balance the needs of entry scientists with those seeking bridge funding to maintain an existing health research program.