As an IRO, Sightsavers will be eligible to apply for grants from the seven UK research councils, including the Medical Research Council and the Economic and Social Research Council. To qualify as an IRO, organisations must prove to Research Councils UK that they “ possess an existing in-house capacity to carry out research that materially extends and enhances the national research base and are able to demonstrate an independent capability to undertake and lead research programmes.”*
Caroline Harper, CEO of Sightsavers, said: “Achieving IRO status is a serious recognition of the way in which Sightsavers strives to work. We seek to build the evidence base, through research and demonstration, for the most effective and efficient ways to deliver eye health, achieve disability inclusion, and control or eliminate tropical diseases. Research is a fundamental pillar to that approach, and this status will allow us to broaden our scope of work, improve the connection between research and implementation, and ensure that, when we do have compelling evidence, that this has the best chance to inform policy and practice. At this point in time, I could not be more proud of the work.”
Over the past year Sightsavers has undertaken a large number of research projects, including eye health system assessments, prevalence surveys of visual impairment, economic research using ‘willingness to pay’ methodology, and participatory peer-led research with children and adults with disabilities.
Elena Schmidt, Sightsavers’ Director of Research, added: “Sightsavers’ research team includes epidemiologists, economists and social scientists. But we strongly believe that research is a collaborative process, so we will continue working with a wide range of academic and NGO partners in the design and implementation of research activities, and all evidence generated from new research will continue benefiting both Sightsavers’ programmes and the global research community.”
Upcoming research plans include costing studies of inclusive education and integrated school health programmes, studies of barriers to uptake of cataract and NTD services and surveys on participation of people with disabilities in political processes.
In the coming months, Sightsavers will launch a new research website, which will feature its research projects and publications.