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SettingResearch capacity is weakest in low and middle-income countries (LMICs) where operational research is highly relevant and needed. Structured Operational Research and Training Initiative (SORT IT) courses have been developed to train participants to conduct and publish operational research and influence policy and practice. Twenty courses were completed in Asia, Africa, Europe and the South Pacific between 2009 and 2014.ObjectivesIn the 20 completed SORT IT courses, to assess where the research was conducted, who was trained, who became facilitators in subsequent courses and course outcomes.DesignA cohort study of completed SORT IT courses.ResultsThere were 236 participants (41% female) including 64 nationalities who conducted research in 59 countries, mostly from Asia and Africa (mean course duration = 9.7 months). Most participants (68%) were from government health programs and non-governmental agencies. A total of 213(90%) participants completed all milestones successfully with 41(19%) becoming subsequent course facilitators, 88% of whom were from LMICs. Of 228 manuscripts submitted to scientific journals, 197(86%) were either published or in press; in 86%, the principal investigator (first author) was a LMIC national. Papers were published in 23 scientific journals (impact factor 0.5-4.4) and covered 21 disease categories (median publication time = 5.7 months). Published papers (186) had 94,794 cumulative article views/downloads. Article views/downloads for immediate open access articles were double those from closed access journals.ConclusionThe SORT IT model has been effective in training personnel to produce relevant operational research in LMICs. It merits continued commitment and support for further scale-up and development.

Original publication




Journal article


PloS one

Publication Date





Médecins Sans Frontières, Medical Department, Brussels Operational Centre, MSF-Luxembourg, Luxembourg.


Humans, Models, Statistical, Demography, Research, Internationality, Publications, Internet, Adult, Aged, Middle Aged, Female, Male, Capacity Building