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C. The Role of Research Support

1. The Need for Research

Research is a substantial part of the process of education and training for developing a scientific way of thinking and individual curiosity as well as for the generation of new knowledge. Teaching without research is only a passive transfer of knowledge that will always be partly obsolete and difficult to adapt to the real needs of a country or region.

2. The Need for Basic Applied Research

The aim of education in food and nutrition is to provide knowledge and skills necessary to achieve an adequate nutritional status of the community. Therefore, it is necessary to develop the capacity for research to assess the nutritional situation of the communities, to identify the various factors that are directly or indirectly conditioning the problem, and to determine possible solutions. The ability to design, implement, and evaluate interventions is essential. Different regions, countries, and communities have different combinations of problems, conditioning factors, and potential solutions.

In order for institutions providing education and training in nutrition to understand and contribute to the solution of nutritional problems they must be able to design and carry out multidisciplinary research. The complex multifactorial causation of the nutrition and food problems of developing countries requires the approach of a variety of disciplines for practical research, sound training, effective planning, and reliable policy advice. The disciplines may or may not be required in a single project but the capacity to exchange and discuss information and ideas with these disciplines is essential. While some nutrition problems can be solved by existing knowledge, others demand either updated or newly developed basic knowledge. Because of this infrastructure, human resources for problem-solving through basic and applied research must become available for every country. Research in developing countries should be oriented primarily toward existing problems. Nevertheless, imagination and initiative in research should not be discouraged, even when the application of new knowledge developed may not be immediately apparent. It is important to assure a continued and fluid synergistic interaction between basic and applied research.

3. The Need for Interdisciplinary Research

Nutritional problems are conditioned by a variety of different factors, including economic, social, cultural, ecological, demographic, health, educational, and political factors. Since these problems are multifactorial they demand interdisciplinary approaches. Interdisciplinary research is an indispensable tool in the analysis and solution of nutritional problems.

On the other hand, scientific and technological advances, diversification of knowledge, and specialization due to complexity of new technologies make it almost impossible to progress in solving problems with a small number of researchers. The institutions that carry out research should have sufficient staff to represent various areas of knowledge and technology and to ensure dialogue and co-operation among them. Although the different disciplines should all be available, not all of them will necessarily be in the same institution.

4. Research Needs of Institutions: Regional and National

Institutions that provide services on a regional basis need external support to ensure the scope and viability of their research programmes and the essential contribution of their research to training. In addition, national resources for research are almost always too limited. Food and nutrition research institutions of almost every developing country can benefit greatly from external assistance to develop and utilize research capability.

In some regions it would be appropriate for the national institutions of different countries to develop and stress special areas of knowledge, and specialized training capabilities to be used by sister institutions in the region. On the other hand, regional institutions generally have more human and economic resources, and should be able to co-ordinate and stimulate the research activities of national institutions.

5. Human Resource Requirements

Major nutritional problems are often concentrated in the non-industrialized countries where there is also a shortage of scientists who are well qualified in the different areas of knowledge required for effective multidisciplinary applied research. It is essential to promote the improvement of the scientific level of advanced centres by funding fellowships for post-graduate research work. It is also essential that such trainees have previously demonstrated research abilities, belong to regular staff, and have a position to which they will return that will enable them to utilize the training. Otherwise training efforts may be wasted.

5.1. Exchange of scientists between the most advanced research centres in the world and both regional and national institutions is also desirable. Visiting scientists should stay long enough to participate actively in research and/or management activities, contributing not only advanced knowledge and techniques, but also new ideas. They will learn the existing problems that their host institutions are facing, and enhance their own research and training knowledge for application upon return to their own centres. Such exchanges will often lead to future collaborative programmes.

5.2. Regional institutions should make particularly important contributions to the education and training of scientists in their region in ways that will facilitate their research when they return to their countries. The requirements to obtain any diploma or academic degree should always include experimental work to ensure familiarity with the scientific methodology of research.

6. Equipment and Supply Needs

There is a critical need for adequate equipment for research work. Equipment becomes obsolete rapidly, and the new and more sophisticated equipment required is often extremely expensive. Frequently institutions cannot afford to purchase new equipment and may not even have the resources for maintenance. Availability of spare parts is often a serious problem. Assistance to ensure the acquisition and maintenance of advanced instrumentation, necessary for effective research, is needed and critical. Lack of availability of rare chemicals and reagents is often a constraint, and assistance should be provided to overcome this.

7. Need for Research Management Capability

Research should be an essential ongoing activity for food and nutrition scientists and professionals in related disciplines and is the only way in which an understanding can be obtained of the dynamics of the process of food acquisition and consumption in a particular cultural setting. Therefore, it is necessary to ensure that leaders in food and nutrition develop a capability in research management.

7.1. The management of research not only includes the skills to implement projects, but also requires the ability to conceive and formulate them in a way that is realistic and therefore capable of attracting funds. For many developing-country institutions this is the limiting factor in their ability to obtain external research support, not the quality of their personnel and facilities. Guidelines for the preparation of nutrition research proposals should be published in the UNU Food and Nutrition Bulletin. Guidance in the development of research proposals should be made part of the training of food and nutrition research workers.

8. Support for Capital Expenditure

Frequently, buildings and other physical restrictions limit the development of the institutions. It is essential to emphasize this because international organizations and private agencies often reject the idea of allocating resources to build up physical facilities. However, external assistance may be indispensable in some countries.

9. Supplementation of Research Salaries

The salaries of even outstanding researchers in developing countries are likely to be low. Because of this, as they gain success and reputation, they may be strongly attracted by a centre in one of the industrialized countries or by the private sector in their own country. Research grants should allow for the supplementation of salaries for additional work where this is permitted.

10. Selection and Evaluation of Research Activities

Institutions should practice and adopt appropriate mechanisms for the identification and evaluation of research topics, priorities, and programmes. Institutions should also make regular assessment of their research activities and of individual research workers.

11. Institutional Linkages

In optimizing the existing research resource facilities and utilization of generated knowledge there is a need to strengthen the linkage among the food and nutrition research institutions in each region.

D. Assistance with Scientific Communication

1. Books and Periodicals

One of the basic prerequisites for strengthening training centres is to build up the library facilities. A certain number of textbooks as well as periodicals should be made available on a continuing basis. As most of the publications will have to be imported, and taking into consideration the deteriorating foreign exchange situation in many developing countries, in certain cases a sustained international assistance to ensure essential publications would be needed.

1.1. Financial assistance should be provided to each training centre to acquire a basic list of periodicals. Duplication of imported periodicals should be avoided. A list of journals available within the same university (or city) should be prepared and kept in the library of each institution.

The usefulness of Unesco coupons for the import of literature has been recognized, but in practice their availability is limited to the amount of local currency the Unesco local office can use at a time. This may seriously limit the efficiency of this system.

1.2. The availability of textbooks has also become a critical issue because of high prices. Each training institution would require multiple copies for use by staff and trainees. It may be useful, therefore, to review the textbooks as they become available and to prepare a list of those that may be recommended to teaching institutions. Such an exercise was undertaken in the past (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Nov. 1983) and proved useful. The UNU should arrange for the periodic publication of such a list in its Food and Nutrition Bulletin.

1.3. Research and training institutions should have up-to date scientific and technical information that they can disseminate to those responsible for carrying out nutrition programmes and for food and nutrition policy.

2. Audiovisual Materials

Many teaching aids in the form of films, slides, and videocassettes have been developed. It would be of great benefit to the training institutions if more information about their quality, usefulness, and availability could be made available.

3. Access to Relevant Agency Working Papers

As most of the training institutions will be actively engaged in field studies, including operational research and intervention measures, they would greatly benefit from the availability of existing manuals as well as reports, working papers, etc. dealing with such specific subjects. Some of these materials can be obtained commercially. More of them, however, are prepared by various agencies for their internal, although not necessarily restricted, use. A list of such materials available from UN and bilateral agencies should be made available through the SCN to training institutions concerned with food and nutrition.

4. Support of Regional Food and Nutrition Journals

There is a need to ensure the creation or continuation of good regional food and nutrition journals to provide for the publication of research findings and the dissemination of scientific information of regional significance. Such journals are difficult to establish and sustain because of limited funds for subscription and page charges of individuals and institutions in most developing countries and the general inappropriateness of commercial sponsorship.

5. Access to Computerized Literature Searches and Photocopies

Though it is accepted that the computerized literature search has become an efficient way of obtaining scientific information, it should also be recognized that the use of microfilm and photocopying will still represent the most practical way of obtaining specific information not available locally. The library facility should be capable of handling this task. Training institutions should have facilities for reproducing teaching material and for reading microfilms and microfiche. They should be equipped also to develop their own teaching aids.

6. The Need for Librarians and Library Space

In many instances libraries are not receiving necessary support. Higher priority should be given to ensuring adequate space and financial resources for the maintenance of library facilities. It is also essential that library personnel receive adequate professional training.


There is a serious inadequacy in institutions to meet regional and national needs of most developing countries for training, research, and advisory services in food and nutrition.

As already recognized by the SCN, the greatest deficiency is in Africa south of the Sahara, where the food and nutrition problems are also most urgent. The meeting urges that the SCN Chairman personally present a request for special assistance for regional food and nutrition institution-building in Africa to the next session of the AGN.

To strengthen developing-country institutions to deal with their urgent food and nutrition problems, the meeting urges that international and bilateral organizations, foundations, and other donors give a high priority in their programmes to support of the following:

  1. Regional institutions concerned with food and nutrition where they exist, and assisting in the creation and maintenance of at least one such institution for those regions where none exists, preferably through improving the capacity of an existing national institution.
  2. National institutions concerned with food and nutrition problems and the assessment of the needs and potentials of those countries in which such institutions do not currently exist, helping with their development where pollitical and economic circumstances permit and, where they do not, assisting regional institutions to serve this function.
  3. Training of food and nutrition professionals for developing-country institutions, recognizing that the first priority in the building of effective institutions in developing countries is the training of a competent professional staff in accord with a staff development plan that takes account of both short-term and long-term needs.
  4. Research in those institutions with an appropriate level of competence, recognizing that research is indispensable for the solution of national nutrition problems and for effective training of food and nutrition scientists.
  5. Development of management competence, recognizing that capability for management of food and nutrition institutions and their programmes, projects, and training activities is of paramount importance.
  6. The foreign exchange cost of books and periodicals, regional food and nutrition journals, and other means of providing scientific and educational materials to developing-country food and nutrition institutions, recognizing that an effective system of scientific communications, including library facilities, access to the world scientific literature, and relevant audio-visual material, is essential.
  7. Seminars, workshops, and conferences that involve the participation of professionals from developing countries in food- and nutrition-related fields, giving priority to regional meetings for the exchange of information and the analysis of common problems, policies, and plans.


Dr. Bansi Lal Amla
Central Food Technological Research Institute
Mysore 570013, India

Dr. Salvador Barber
Institute of Agro-chemistry and Food Technology
J. Roig11
Valencia, Spain

Dr. Ratko Buzina
Department of Nutrition
Institute of Public Health of Croatia
Rockefellerova Bulevarv 7
41000 Zagreb, Yugoslavia

Dr. Alberto Carvalho da Silva
Rua Teixeira da Silva 392, Apt.
52 04002 São Paulo S.P., Brazil

Dr. Robert Choto
Chairman Department of Pediatrics and Child Health University of Zimbabwe
PO Box A178 Harare, Zimbabwe

Dr. Wenche Barth Eide
Institute for Nutrition Research School of Medicine University of Oslo
PO Box 1046 Blindern, Oslo 3, Norway

Dr. Rudolfo Florentino
Director Food and Nutrition Research Center Pedro Gil, corner Taft Avenue
Manila, Philippines

Dr. Osman Gallal
National Institute of Nutrition
Dokki, Cairo, Egypt

Dr. Joseph Hautvast
Department of Human Nutrition
Agricultural University
Lawickse Allee 11
6701 AN Wageningen, Netherlands

Dr. Abraham Horwitz
4001 W. Underwood St.
Chevy Chase, Md. 20815, USA

Dr. Alan Jackson
Tropical Metabolism Research Unit
University of the West Indies
Mona, Kingston 7, Jamaica

Dr. Anna Ferro-Luzzi
Unit of Human Nutrition
National Institute of Nutrition
Via Ardeatina 546
00179 Rome, Italy

Dr. Lenore Manderson
Department of Pacific and South-East Asian History
Australian National University
PO Box 4
Canberra, Australia

Dr. Fernando Mönckeberg
Casilla 15138
Santiago 11, Chile

Dr. Adjou Moumouni
National WHO Programme
B.P. 918
Cotonou, Benin

Dr. Nirmala Murthy
Public Systems Group
India Institute of Management
Vastrapur, Ahmedabad 380015, India

Dr. Mohammed Nour
Director General
PO Box 5466
Aleppo, Syria

Dr. Ade Omolulu
Department of Nutrition
University of Ibadan
Ibadan, Nigeria

Dr. M. Mohan Ram
Deputy Director
National Institute of Nutrition
Indian Council of Medical Research
Jamai-Osmania P.O.
Hyderabad 500 077, India

Dr. Fred Sai
University of Ghana
PO Box M197
Accra, Ghana

Ms. E. Sarakikya
Director of Nutrition Education and Training
Tanzania Food and Nutrition Center
S. L.P. 977
Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

Dr. Aree Valyasevi
Institute of Nutrition
Mahidol University
Rama 6 Road
Bangkok 4, Thailand

Dr. John Waterlow
Department of Human Nutrition
London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
Keppel Street
London WC1E 7HT, UK

Dr. F. G. Winarno
Food Technology Development Center
Fatemeta- IPB
J1. Raya Pajajaran
Bogor, Indonesia

UN Agencies

Dr. H. J. L. Burgess
Secretariat, ACC/SCN
Dr. Hossein Ghassemi
Senior Nutrition Consultant

Dr. Alberto Pradilla
Chief, Nutrition Unit

Dr. F. Ronchi-Proia
Chief, Nutrition Programme Services

Dr. P. Baron
Food Policy and Nutrition

Mr. Aly Nazerali
Fellowship Officer
UNU, Tokyo

Dr. Nevin S. Scrimshaw
Programme Director-UNU

Ms. Karen Bushold
Meeting Co-ordinator
MIT 20A-201
Cambridge, Mass. 02139, USA


Meeting on Training to Assure Needed Technical and Management Skills within National Institutions Concerned with Food and Nutrition, Rome, 28 February- 2 March 1984

28 February, Morning Session

1. Need for management capabilities
A. Of institutions

1. Planning and budgeting
2. Personnel selection and management
3. Fiscal management

B. Of individuals

1. Incorporation of programme management issues in food and nutrition programmes
2. Research project formulation, financing, implementation, and evaluation

Afternoon Session

II. Institutional characteristics required

A. Regional institutions

1. Breadth of disciplines, curricula, and level of training
2. Research and advisory service capabilities

B. National institutions

1. Breadth of disciplines, curricula, and level of training
2. Research and advisory service capabilities

29 February, Morning Session

III. Existing food and nutrition institutions (governmental, university, and other) A. Availability of institutions for regional training- gaps and needs

B. Institutional needs for national training and research resources

Afternoon Session

IV. Strengthening institutions for meeting regional food and nutrition needs

A. Fellowships for staff training

1. Need for variety and flexibility
2. Nature and location of training opportunities
3. Methods of selection
4. Follow-up visits and reports

B. Support of visiting teachers from other countries
C. Need for regional and global seminars, workshops, and conferences
D. Scientific exchange visits

1 March, Morning Session

IV. [continued)

E. Role of research support

1. Support of applied research that addresses country needs as a means of institution-building as well as problem-solving
2. Essential role of applied research as a component of regional training
3. Meeting equipment and supply needs
4. Matching country desires with donor policies

F. Help with obtaining books, journals, and other publications

Afternoon Session

Drafting group reports and recommendations

2 March

Review and completion of report, conclusions, and recommendations

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