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Practical actions for fostering cross-disciplinary global health research: lessons from a narrative literature review
  1. Yan Ding,
  2. Justin Pulford,
  3. Imelda Bates
  1. Centre for Capacity Research, Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, Liverpool, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Yan Ding; yan.ding{at}


Introduction Global health research involves disciplines within and beyond the health sciences. A cross-disciplinary collaborative research approach enables an interchange of knowledge and experience and stimulates innovative responses to complex health challenges. However, there is little robust evidence to guide the design and implementation of cross-disciplinary research in global health, hampering effective collective action. This review synthesised evidence on practical actions for fostering cross-disciplinary research to provide guidance on the design and implementation of research in global health.

Methods We searched five electronic databases using key words. The search included original research and research notes articles in English. We used a framework adapted from the socio-ecological model and thematic synthesis for data analysis.

Results Thirty-six original research and 27 research notes articles were included in the review. These were predominantly from high-income countries and indicated that practical actions on fostering cross-disciplinary research are closely linked to leadership and teamwork which should be planned and implemented at research team and institutional levels. The publications also indicated that individual qualities such as being receptive to new ideas and funders’ power and influence have practical implications for conducting cross-disciplinary research. Practical actions that individuals, research team leaders, academic institutions and funders can undertake to foster cross-disciplinary research were identified.

Conclusion Our review found evidence from high-income countries, not low-and-middle-income countries, about practices that can improve cross-disciplinary research in global health. Critical knowledge gaps exist around how leadership and teamwork processes can better integrate expertise from different disciplines to make cross-disciplinary research more effective.

  • review
  • public health
  • health systems

This is an open access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 Unported (CC BY 4.0) license, which permits others to copy, redistribute, remix, transform and build upon this work for any purpose, provided the original work is properly cited, a link to the licence is given, and indication of whether changes were made. See:

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  • Handling editor Seye Abimbola

  • Twitter @YanDing9

  • Contributors YD: conceptualisation, methodology, data curation, writing—original draft preparation. JP: methodology, writing—reviewing and editing. IB: conceptualisation, methodology, writing—reviewing and editing, supervision. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

  • Funding This study was funded by National Institute for Health Research, grant number 16/136/35.

  • Disclaimer The views expressed in this publication are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the NHS, the National Institute for Health Research or the Department of Health.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient and public involvement Patients and/or the public were not involved in the design, or conduct, or reporting, or dissemination plans of this research.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data availability statement All data relevant to the study are included in the article or uploaded as online supplementary information.

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