SORT IT reviews strengthen the case for OR capacity building

TDR news item
26 June 2014

Two articles on SORT IT (the Structured Operational Research and Training Initiative) have been published in the open-access journal Public Health Action. A review article provides a definition of operational research for this programme, argues for more use of this type of research, and provides an overview of the SORT IT training model. A second article documents the positive impacts from 8 rounds of training.

The development of the training model adopted by SORT IT was started by the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (The Union) and Médecins sans Frontières (MSF) in Brussels and Luxembourg in 2009. Training was combined with practical aspects, and the success of a participant was judged on whether or not a research project had been designed and completed, with a paper submitted to a peer-reviewed journal, within an agreed time frame. In January 2013, The Union and MSF joined forces with TDR to develop a blueprint for training public health programme staff.

The journal article describes the vision, objectives and structure of SORT IT training, including selection criteria for applicants, the research projects that can be undertaken within the time frame, the milestones, mentorship, monitoring and evaluation and what happens after training in terms of further research, publications and the setting up of additional capacity building. The authors suggest SORT IT could act as an observatory to monitor and evaluate operational research in public health.

The second article reviews the impact after 8 rounds of SORT IT. Following completion of training, 62% of the participants went on to complete new research projects, 50% published papers, and 72% said their institutions were involved in operational research implementation or capacity building. The authors see this as providing encouraging evidence of the long-term value of this capacity building model.

A third paper describing the impact of SORT IT research projects on policy and practice has also been published online in the journal, Tropical Medicine & International Health.

For more information, contact:

Andy Ramsay (

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