When priorities don’t align with needs: the case of mental health research

A RoRI seminar with Ismael Rafols

Mental ill-health and well-being are increasingly recognised as being intimately linked to a wide range of environmental and social factors. As such, the ways in which researchers approach, understand, and engage with mental health must be broad, ranging from the biophysiological mechanisms underpinning brain function, to the societal determinants which alter it.

The significance of this connection has been illustrated by the effects of COVID lockdowns on mental health in which: fear, sudden changes in daily habits, family roles, domestic violence, work burnout, etc. have all palpably impinged on mental well-being.

In this seminar, Ismael Rafols, senior researcher at the Centre for Science and Technology studies (CWTS, Leiden University) and associate faculty at SPRU (Science Policy Research Unit) at the University of Sussex, presents a recent study, based on a collaboration between Vinnova and CWTS.

This contrasts current research priorities with societal demands through the analysis of publication specialisation of countries, funders and organisations, shown in open interactive visualisations. The results suggest a need to diversify mental health research towards more socially engaged approaches.

Sara Nässtrom of Vinnova, the Swedish Innovation Agency, who represents Vinnova in Sweden’s National Strategy for Mental Health, offers her response.

This event was part of  RoRI ‘s seminar series on the theme of Culture Shift, where we aim to spotlight some of the most exciting thinkers, practitioners and research system entrepreneurs who are at the forefront of analysing, pioneering and propelling culture shifts across science and research.