Research is a core business of universities globally, and is crucial in the scientific process as a precursor for knowledge uptake and use. We aimed to assess the academic productivity of post-graduate students in a university located in a low-income country.
This is an observational retrospective documentary analysis using hand searching archives, Google Scholar and PubMed electronic databases. The setting is Makerere University College of Health Sciences, Uganda. Records of post-graduate students (Masters) enrolled from 1996 to 2010, and followed to 2016 for outcomes were analysed. The outcome measures were publications (primary), citations, electronic dissertations found online or conference abstracts (secondary). Descriptive and multivariable logistic regression analyses were performed using Stata 14.1.
We found dissertations of 1172 Masters students over the 20-year period of study. While half (590, 50%) had completed clinical graduate disciplines (surgery, internal medicine, paediatrics, obstetrics and gynaecology), Master of Public Health was the single most popular course, with 393 students (31%). Manuscripts from 209 dissertations (18%; 95% CI, 16–20%) were published and approximately the same proportion was cited (196, 17%; 95% CI, 15–19%). Very few (4%) policy-related documents (technical reports and guidelines) cited these dissertations. Variables that remained statistically significant in the multivariable model were students’ age at enrolment into the Masters programme (adjusted coefficient –0.12; 95% CI, –0.18 to –0.06; P < 0.001) and type of research design (adjusted coefficient 0.22; 0.03 to 0.40; P = 0.024). Cohort studies were more likely to be published compared to cross-sectional designs (adjusted coefficient 0.78; 95% CI, 0.2 to 1.36; P = 0.008).
The productivity and use of post-graduate students’ research conducted at the College of Health Sciences Makerere University is considerably low in terms of peer-reviewed publications and citations in policy-related documents. The need for effective strategies to reverse this ‘waste’ is urgent if the College, decision-makers, funders and the Ugandan public are to enjoy the ‘return on investment’ from post-graduate students research.