Top 10 priorities for future infertility research: an international consensus development study

J. M. N. Duffy*, G. D. Adamson, E. Benson, S. Bhattacharya, M. Bofill, K. Brian, B. Collura, C. Curtis, J. L. H. Evers, R. G. Farquharson, A. Fincham, S. Franik, L. C. Giudice, E. Glanville, M. Hickey, A. W. Horne, M. L. Hull, N. P. Johnson, Lucy Jordan, Y. KhalafJ. M. L. Knijnenburg, R. S. Legro, S. Lensen, J. MacKenzie, D. Mavrelos, B. W. Mol, D. E. Morbeck, H. Nagels, E. H. Y. Ng, C. Niederberger, A. S. Otter, L. Puscasiu, S. Rautakallio-Hokkanen, L. Sadler, Apostolos Sarris, M. Showell, J. Stewart, A. Strandell, C. Strawbridge, A. Vail, M. van Wely, M. Vercoe, N. L. Vuong, A. Y. Wang, R. Wang, J. Wilkinson, K. Wong, T. Y. Wong, C. M. Farquhar, Priority Setting Partnership for Infertility

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


STUDY QUESTION: Can the priorities for future research in infertility be identified?

SUMMARY ANSWER: The top 10 research priorities for the four areas of male infertility, female and unexplained infertility, medically assisted reproduction and ethics, access and organization of care for people with fertility problems were identified.

WHAT IS KNOWN ALREADY: Many fundamental questions regarding the prevention, management and consequences of infertility remain unanswered. This is a barrier to improving the care received by those people with fertility problems.

STUDY DESIGN, SIZE, DURATION: Potential research questions were collated from an initial international survey, a systematic review of clinical practice guidelines and Cochrane systematic reviews. A rationalized list of confirmed research uncertainties was prioritized in an interim international survey. Prioritized research uncertainties were discussed during a consensus development meeting. Using a formal consensus development method, the modified nominal group technique, diverse stakeholders identified the top 10 research priorities for each of the categories male infertility, female and unexplained infertility, medically assisted reproduction and ethics, access and organization of care.

PARTICIPANTS/MATERIALS, SETTING, METHODS: Healthcare professionals, people with fertility problems and others (healthcare funders, healthcare providers, healthcare regulators, research funding bodies and researchers) were brought together in an open and transparent process using formal consensus methods advocated by the James Lind Alliance.

MAIN RESULTS AND THE ROLE OF CHANCE: The initial survey was completed by 388 participants from 40 countries, and 423 potential research questions were submitted. Fourteen clinical practice guidelines and 162 Cochrane systematic reviews identified a further 236 potential research questions. A rationalized list of 231 confirmed research uncertainties was entered into an interim prioritization survey completed by 317 respondents from 43 countries. The top 10 research priorities for each of the four categories male infertility, female and unexplained infertility (including age-related infertility, ovarian cysts, uterine cavity abnormalities and tubal factor infertility), medically assisted reproduction (including ovarian stimulation, IUI and IVF) and ethics, access and organization of care were identified during a consensus development meeting involving 41 participants from I I countries. These research priorities were diverse and seek answers to questions regarding prevention, treatment and the longer-term impact of infertility. They highlight the importance of pursuing research which has often been overlooked, including addressing the emotional and psychological impact of infertility, improving access to fertility treatment, particularly in lower resource settings and securing appropriate regulation. Addressing these priorities will require diverse research methodologies, including laboratory-based science, qualitative and quantitative research and population science.

LIMITATIONS, REASONS FOR CAUTION: We used consensus development methods, which have inherent limitations, including the representativeness of the participant sample, methodological decisions informed by professional judgment and arbitrary consensus definitions.

WIDER IMPLICATIONS OF THE FINDINGS: We anticipate that identified research priorities, developed to specifically highlight the most pressing clinical needs as perceived by healthcare professionals, people with fertility problems and others, will help research funding organizations and researchers to develop their future research agenda.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2715-2724
Number of pages10
JournalHuman Reproduction
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020


  • Consensus science methods
  • infertility
  • modified Delphi method
  • modified Nominal Group Technique
  • reproductive medicine
  • research priorities

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