Johns Hopkins faculty co-found new international society for global health policy research

Johns Hopkins faculty members Jeremy Shiffman and Kerry Scott have announced the Global Health Policy Research Forum, a new international research society that brings together a global community of scholars who draw on social science theory and methodology to study global health policy-making.

The forum, which they co-founded with five other researchers from African, Asian, and Australian universities, was announced on October 20 at the opening plenary of the Symposium on Global Health Policy Research, which they and their colleagues organized, and where researchers from around the world are gathering virtually. The symposium, supported by the Alliance for a Healthier World, is taking place in a series of webinars on Tuesdays through December 1. The opening plenary drew over 250 attendees from 51 countries.

Shiffman, Bloomberg Distinguished Professor of global health policy, convened the first Symposium on Global Health Policy Research in 2016 after realizing that while many social scientists in the Washington, D.C., and Baltimore areas were working on global health policy, many of them had never met, as they came from a variety of disciplines and studied global health policy only in their specific fields. Shiffman recognized that bringing these scholars together was essential for promoting knowledge on global health policy-making. Since then, the symposium has grown each year, now welcoming scholars from around the world.

“My biggest hope is that the anthropologists will talk to the economists, the political scientists to the psychologists, the historians to the sociologists, breaking out of our disciplinary silos that limit originality and creativity so that we can deepen our understanding of how power shapes global health policy-making,” Shiffman says. “We’re building a new field of interdisciplinary research, and to be at this stage is really exciting.”

The focus on building a network of global health policy researchers is reflected in the symposium’s structure. Each week’s panel includes four to six experts who give brief opening presentations and remarks. More than half of each 90-minute session, however, is devoted to open dialogue to facilitate discussion, debate, and allow people to exchange ideas and form connections that will extend beyond the symposium. “The presentations anchor us with concrete applications of policy analysis, while the facilitated discussion enables field-building dialogue including around interdisciplinary theory, methodological challenges, power, ethics, and impact,” adds Scott, who is an associate in the Health Systems Program of the Department of International Health at the Bloomberg School of Public Health.

“The seven of us who organized the new society and the symposium want it to be inclusive,” Shiffman says. “Two of our primary concerns were to ensure that the symposium welcomed researchers from across the world, especially those from low-income settings, and that there was a focus on rising scholars, so that they could build connections that would help them advance their careers.”

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