CENPHER - From a Research Project to a Research Center
Urgent need for more research at universities in Vietnam
|Health risk due to exposure to polluted waste water Hoang Tay commune, Kim Bang dist., Hanam province||
Vietnamese universities are generally perceived to be teaching oriented-institutions. Research is not always prioritized and is often given limited resources. This leads to modest visibility in the international sphere, especially in regards to international publications, funding, and social impact compared to the research of national research institutes worldwide. Research centers at universities have been to strengthen research at the university level. Many research centers are established to implement specific projects that are usually supported by international funding. As a result, the sustainability of these centers beyond the lifespan of the funded research projects is questionable as they cannot function without funding. Moreover, postdocs have the potential to start new research groups, often bringing new fields of study to their institutions and the research centers. The intermixing of disciplines is an essential ingredient for integrated research. However, the concept of a research group nuclei comprised of postdocs appears to be rather new to Asian academic institutions, which largely operate with limited resources.
From a research project to a research group
Understanding the local context and having opportunities to develop international research partnerships, a group of researchers at the Hanoi School of Public Health (HSPH) got together to develop a research center at HSPH that would a new model,it would be donor-funded. We began in 2009 with a postdoc project working on environmental sanitation and health issues of the Swiss National Centers of Competence in Research North-South (NCCR North-South) program at HSPH. This project allowed the creation of a research group of “water, sanitation and health” within the Department of Environmental Health. The research group gradually established other projects and activities that have been both internationally and nationally funded. This was the basis for the upgrade of the research group to a research center in 2012.
And to the emergence of a research center
To assist individuals and groups of researchers, research for development requires developing institutional research capacities to ensure the sustainability of these efforts. Three years after forming a research group, HSPH founded the Centre for Public Health and Ecosystem Research (CENPHER) on June 1st, 2012, as a research Centre affiliated to HSPH. CENPHER’s objective was to conduct and strengthen interdisciplinary research capacity at HSPH. The support of HSPH’s leadership to embed CENPHER within the university shows their recognition of CENPHER’s work and its relevance to the local context, as well as their understanding of the importance to develop institutional research capacity. The establishment of CENPHER at HSPH has brought HSPH the benefit of improved visibility nationally and internationally.This has been a win-win situation for both institutions. CENPHER functions as a donor-funded unit, and has the responsibility to raise its own financing. The partnership with HSPH has also allowed CENPHER to be recognized as a legal entity within the university.
Up to the present, a handful of research, training, service, and knowledge translation activities have been carried out by CENPHER. The next few sections provide a glimpse of what has been done over the last five years.
The development of CENPHER from a research project to a research center. Adapted from Tanner (2012)