I recently had the pleasure of attending the Fourth Global Symposium for Health Systems Research in Vancouver, Canada, along with several other AcademyHealth staff members. This year’s theme- Resilient and Responsive Health Systems for a Changing World-  was reflected in discourse on the urgency of strengthening health systems in the face of complex crises that give rise to epidemics like Ebola and Zika.  Discussions and presentations reinforced that health challenges are global, and that we require shared information to improve health systems in a way that is informed by evidence. 

In my own presentation, Developing an International Perspective on Health System Challenges through Shared Evidence and Methods: Expanding NLM’s HSRProj internationally, I highlighted the usefulness of the Health Services Research Projects-in-Progress (HSRProj) database in sharing information about current research. This is a resource of the National Library of Medicine (NLM), that AcademyHealth helps manages, containing informing on ongoing, recently completed, and archived health services research (HSR) projects. It contains more than 32,000 records on HSR projects.

The usefulness of HSRProj is multifold. Funding organizations use the database for portfolio analysis and to find grantees. Researchers and students use HSRProj to build networks of colleagues, enhance literature reviews, and understand trends in the field. Policymakers use it to find cutting edge research and subject matter experts.

HSRProj is now at a watershed moment: after growing for twenty years, it is the most comprehensive repository of information on HSR in the United States. To complement this, its functionality has increased tremendously from an advanced search to the newly unveiled full data download.

HSRProj flow chart

AcademyHealth and the Cecil G. Sheps Center at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, jointly manage the HSRProj database on behalf of the NLM; ensuring a robust set of records through complementary processes.


Standing on the foundation of a robust national database of information on HSR projects, we are now looking to expand to include records on projects taking place in and funded by countries other than the United States. Before his retirement as Director of the NLM in 2015, Dr. Donald Lindberg emphasized the potential for HSRProj to include more global HSR to support a better understanding of the similarities and differences between health services and systems research projects funded by and conducted in countries outside of the U.S.

AcademyHealth’s global engagement efforts recognize that across the wide spectrum of approaches to organizing, financing, and improving national health care systems, innovations and experiences in one country can provide useful insights for improving health or healthcare, particularly at the regional and local level.  An open, free resource with information on health services, health systems, and health policy research would be invaluable to understand global and national trends in health research policy and funding. Searchable and sortable by geographic area, it could help to build bridges between researchers working on similar challenges in very different contexts.

Although HSRProj currently contains information on projects in 57 countries and in all 50 of the United States, most projects take place in the U.S. and are funded by U.S. institutions. Those projects taking place outside of the U.S. are primarily Canadian and Australian. Given our current efforts, we project that records for HSR conducted outside the U.S. could reach 30 percent of all new projects in HSRProj in the next five years. However, to expand in a meaningful way, we know that we must work to actively include:

  • Better regional representation of records in HSRProj;
  • Diversity in funding sources beyond agencies and organizations in the U.S.;
  • Records that explicitly engage in cross-country health systems and policy research;
  • Content representation across the different sub-topics and disciplines that constitute HSR; and
  • Language representation beyond English.


This is no small task. We must work to understand how “health services research” is framed and conceptualized across borders, additional resources and partnerships will be essential. And to do that, we will need the help of the global research community. Here’s how you can be involved:

  1. Submit your research to HSRProj.
  2. Contact HSRProj@AcademyHealth.org if your organization compiles or conducts health systems, policy, or services research within or outside of the United States. We want to hear from you.
  3. Download and use the HSRProj data or explore records by searching. Let us know how you use the data (HSRproj@academyhealth.org).
  4. Finally, spread the word about HSRProj by sharing this blog post with you network.

We look forward to hearing from you.

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