Experimental scientific enquiry in the fields of medicine and public health has played key roles in the development of medicine and health services, testing the effectiveness of interventions (be they pharmaceutical, technological or programmatic), and balancing benefits against potential harms.
Such clinical trials and innovative public health programmes are being carried out on an increasing scale in the Global South, with considerable potential for development efforts. They can improve the technical inputs into health programmes, and help to produce social infrastructures that facilitate the South becoming active players in the generation and management of innovatory knowledge.
Recently, clinical trials activity has shifted significantly towards Brazil, Russia, India and China. Public health interventions are of equal importance, yet have been given much less attention.
In this comparative study of three South Asian countries (India, Nepal and Sri Lanka) we focus on a region where growth in these processes is creating new social forms (such as contract research organisations, training courses, consultancies, dedicated units in hospitals and universities and site management organisations) that have not hitherto been studied. Our exploratory qualitative project will illuminate how these social forms are created, managed and sustained in three possibly very different patterns of involvement.