Nutritional research at North-West University 1998-2018: impact, scope and reach through evidence mapping
Grundlingh, Magdaleen L.
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Background and objectives: The growing evidence base of nutrition research provides ample evidence that could potentially inform public health nutrition related policies. Universities contribute significantly towards evidence production, often relying on student research. Research findings are often disseminated in peer-reviewed publications and utilised within the greater scientific community as well as the policy-making community. Barriers to evidence-utilisation by policy-makers require scientists to adapt presentation of available research data, of which evidence mapping is currently emerging. The aim of this study is to determine the scope, evaluate the impact, and assess the reach of nutrition research conducted by post-graduate students at the North-West University (NWU) between 1998-2018 in the context of the World Health Organisation (WHO) nutrition-related publications and the South African nutrition-related policies and programmes. Evidence maps are produced to present the results in an interactive online format. Methods: Nutrition-related documents from the WHO and the South African government were collected to determine the nutrition landscape and categorised according to predominant themes as retrieved from the WHO. All the NWU’s Nutrition and Dietetic masters and doctoral student publications (theses, dissertations and articles) from 1998 to 2018 were collected and matched to the themes to determine the scope. Citations to student publications were collected and analysed to determine the reach on international, national and government level. From the citation analysis, relative citation counts (indicating impact) were normalised to publications corresponding in sub-field and publication year. Corrections were made for time since publication and self-citation. Evidence mapping methodologies were adapted to present findings on an interactive online platform. Results: NWU student publication performance often reached and exceeded world averages. Of degrees obtained between 1998 till 2018 post-graduate students disseminated 60.56% of degree results in the form of journal articles. Student publications corresponded to WHO and South African nutrition-related documents and exceeded the public health nutrition scope. Not only did 90.35% of student articles impact the scientific community, but 32.9% reached world average impacts for publications in corresponding sub-fields and publication dates. Owing to limited citation of source documents by the government, impact and reach of student publications could not be determined. The results were presented, together with explanatory videos, on an online platform in the form of evidence maps (http://bit.ly/2nUDs9m_CEN1EM) for viewing and use. Conclusion: The nutrition-related research conducted by post-graduate students at the NWU holds considerable potential in contributing to public health nutrition evidence. Nonetheless, barriers to evidence-utilisation still remain. Evidence mapping offers a means to overcome some barriers by visually presenting evidence and evidence impact. Existing evidence can be made accessible to stakeholders and decision-makers through the presentation of available evidence bases. In addition, evidence mapping methodologies can be adapted to stakeholder needs and similarly implemented in other applied fields.
- Health Sciences