Reviewers sought for new guidance on reporting implementation/operational research

TDR news item
18 August 2015

19 October 2015 update: Reviewer comments are now closed. The guidelines will be published in January, 2016.

New guidelines are being developed to improve the consistency and reliability of reporting on implementation and operational research. Reviewers are being sought for peer review of these guidelines, which will be published in relevant journals and on the EQUATOR website that helps improve the quality of research publications and the research itself.

WHO/TDR Andy Craggs

TDR is collaborating on this process with the World Health Organization (WHO) departments of HIV and Knowledge, Ethics and Research, as well as the Alliance for Health Policy and Systems Research (AHPSR).

“Implementation/operational research has the potential to make a huge difference to the lives and well-being of the many people at risk of and suffering from infectious diseases of poverty,” says Dermot Maher, TDR’s coordinator of research capacity strengthening and knowledge management. “Developing guidance for reporting on this type of research will lead to improvements in the quality of research reported in health journals”.

“Developing guidance for reporting on implementation research will lead to improvements in the quality of research reported in health journals”.

Dermot Maher, TDR coordinator of research capacity strengthening and knowledge management.

Implementation/operational research studies the bottlenecks and challenges to expanding access to known treatments and health strategies. The importance of this work has become increasingly recognised in low-resource settings and is receiving increasing support by a range of funders, and leading scientific journals have established new sections on the topic.

However, the field remains poorly defined, with no established consensus guidance on its reporting, compared to experimental and comparative observational research. This type of guidance would be of immense benefit to research funders, researchers, journal editors, and health programme managers by ensuring better reporting of key essential features that help explain the success, failures, and replicability of implementation/operational research.

There are three main stages in the development of guidance for reporting on Implementation / operational research.
  • Through a standardized questionnaire, journal editors, researchers, and funders will be interviewed to determine key items that should be reported for this type of research.
  • The outcomes of this survey will inform the development of draft guidance, which will be further developed through peer review.
  • The guidance will be finalised at an expert consensus meeting in Geneva in October 2015.

Contributions to this process of peer review are welcome.
If you are interested in reviewing the draft guidance, please contact Ana Cristina Lesher-Trevino (
Contributions to the reviewing process will not be remunerated.

What is implementation/ operational research and why is it important?

Implementation research involves increasing access to health products and strategies that are already available and have been shown to work but remain beyond the reach of many of the people who could benefit from them. Different research methods may be used depending on the type of problem studied. Operational research uses an existing resource – the data routinely collected by programmes – to provide ways of improving programme operations and thereby delivering more effective, efficient and equitable care. Implementation and operational research are usually carried out in close collaboration between researchers and disease control programme staff. Although the costs of implementation/operational research are generally very modest, these types of research have the potential for a huge magnifier effect by extending the impact of health interventions delivered by programmes.