Qualitative Health Research Network


RREAL: Rapid Research, Evaluation and Appraisal Lab

This page provides information about RREAL

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The purpose of RREAL is to improve the quality and impact of rapid research used to study and evaluate clinical and health service models and interventions for time-sensitive contexts.

RREAL is hosted by the Qualitative Health Research Network (QHRN).

RREAL focuses on the development of rapid research in the following areas:

  1. Health services research
  2. Clinical trials
  3. Global health and complex health emergencies

Our objectives


Deliver training to facilitate the quick turnaround of findings for time-sensitive contexts and topics, and timely sharing of findings to inform decision-making.

Contribute to the design of rapid studies.







Provide/develop expertise on a wide range of approaches including research projects, programme evaluations, services and interventions, or diagnostic and structured assessments in the form of appraisals.
LLabMaintain a commitment to methodological and theoretical innovation and experimentation to advance the field of rapid research.

Streams of work

  1. RREAL training and development programme: deliver a training programme for academic researchers, healthcare professionals and other practitioners and develop a virtual learning community for alumni. Alumni from the different courses will have the opportunity to join a virtual learning community where they can share their experiences with other students, access online training materials, and receive information on future training courses.
  2. Advisory role in rapid research, evaluation and appraisal methods (REAM): provide guidance and supervision in the use of rapid research approaches through collaborations in grant applications or in the form of consultancies.
  3. Design and implement research to evaluate and pilot new REAMs: lead funding applications and studies to evaluate existing approaches to rapid research and experiment with new methodologies.


Who is involved?

Dr Ginger Johnson (Co-director)

UNICEF, Pakistan

Ginger Johnson is a Medical Anthropologist who has conducted research in East, West, and Southern Africa, North and Southeast Asia, and in the Middle East and North Africa on behalf of the World Food Programme (WFP), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the World Health Organization (WHO), the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), Population Services International (PSI) and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). She was embedded in West Africa with the IFRC during the 2014-2016 Ebola outbreak and is currently a member of the Outbreak Research Team at the Institute of Tropical Medicine.

Dr Ginger Johnson
Dr Cecilia Vindrola-Padros (Co-director)

Department of Applied Health Research, UCL

Cecilia Vindrola-Padros is a Medical Anthropologist interested in applied health research and the development of rapid approaches to research. She works across four interdisciplinary teams, applying anthropological theories and methods to study and improve healthcare delivery in the UK and abroad. She is a researcher on the NIHR-funded Rapid Service Evaluation Team (RSET), a collaboration between UCL and the Nuffield Trust. She has written extensively on the use of rapid qualitative research and currently co-directs the Rapid Research, Evaluation and Appraisal Lab (RREAL) with Dr Ginger Johnson. She is the past Director and current training lead for the Qualitative Health Research Network (QHRN). Cecilia works as a Senior Research Fellow in the Department of Applied Health Research, UCL and Social Scientist at the NIAA Health Services Research Centre (HSRC), Royal College of Anaesthetists (RCoA).


Dr Cecilia Vindrola-Padros


Dr Silvie Cooper (Health sociologist)

Dr Silvie Cooper is a Teaching Fellow in Applied Health Research at University College London, UK and a health sociologist by background, having received an MA and PhD from the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) in South Africa. Before joining UCL, she completed a Research Fellowship at the University of Michigan, USA and was the Research Lead at a child health charity in London, UK. Her research interests include capacity building for health research, management of chronic pain, digital health, and patient education, using qualitative, mixed methods, and translational research approaches. Alongside her research, she designs and teaches on a variety of health and social science courses for undergraduates, postgraduates and professionals. Topics include research and evaluation methods, the social aspects of health and illness, and the impact of context, practice and policy on healthcare experiences.  

Dr Silvie Cooper
Nehla Djellouli

Nehla Djellouli is a Research Fellow at UCL’s Institute for Global Health. She is a social scientist with a background in participatory research, maternal and newborn health, health policy and evaluation. She has experience working in multidisciplinary projects in Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Colombia, India, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Uganda and the UK. Nehla is a co-investigator on an MRC Health Systems grant evaluating the WHO’s Quality of Care Network for improving the Healthcare of Mothers, Newborns and Children in 11 countries in Africa and South Asia; a Health Foundation Improvement Science PhD Fellow; and a committee member of the QHRN.

Nehla Djellouli
Angie McAfee (Graphic designer)

Angie McAfee is an experienced graphic and textile designer.  She has a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Ringling College of Art & Design. With a focus on illustration, she hand paints, draws and digitally renders her artwork. Angie has been a freelance designer for over twenty-one years and lives in Texas with her son and their dog, Daisy.

Angie McAfee
Dena Javadi (Health systems specialist)

Dena Javadi is a health systems researcher with experience in design, evaluation, and continuous quality improvement (CQI) of complex health system interventions. She’s worked across a range of countries in topics such as primary care strengthening, evidence-informed decision-making, systems thinking in healthcare design, and intersectoral partnerships. Her work takes an equity lens to study and improve the experiences of vulnerable sub-populations including older people, women and children, immigrants and refugees, and the urban poor. She’s currently working with the World Health Organization (WHO) to fine-tune research methodologies that can inform intersectoral action and enhance wellbeing through strengthened infrastructure.      

Dena Javadi
Norha Vera San Juan

Norha Vera San Juan is a social epidemiologist focused on mental health policy and service development, particularly applying research methods that promote stakeholder involvement. As part of her PhD she developed a measure of recovery as understood by Latin American mental health service users. This work challenged the traditional focus on clinical views and rather advocated for co-construction of knowledge to promote the sustainable development of health services. She works currently as a Postdoctoral Research Associate at the NIHR Mental Health Policy Research Unit, a commission of the Department of Health that provides timely evidence to policymakers.

Norha Vera San Juan
Our partners

- Rapid Service Evaluation Team (RSET): https://www.nuffieldtrust.org.uk/rset-the-rapid-service-evaluation-team

- Department of Targeted Intervention, UCL: https://www.ucl.ac.uk/surgery/research/research-department-targeted-intervention

- Institute for Clinical Effectiveness and Health Policy (IECS), Buenos Aires, Argentina: the IECS is an independent academic institution focused on research, education and technical collaboration on health. https://www.iecs.org.ar/

AUSVET, Australia: global consulting services in epidemiology, disease surveillance, health information systems, biosecurity, risk assessment, research and data analysis and project management: https://www.ausvet.com.au/

AFIN research group, Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona (UAB): http://grupsderecerca.uab.cat/afin/

Paliativa Asociacion Civil, Argentina: Non-governmental organisation focused on improving the delivery of palliative care in LMICs:

Our collaborators
  • Professor Linda Whiteford

Linda M. Whiteford holds a PhD and MA in Anthropology, and a Master’s degree in Public Health.  She is Professor Emerita of Anthropology and Founding Co-Director of the World Health Organization Collaborating Center for Social Marketing for Social Justice at USF.  She helped establish the dual degree program between the USF department of anthropology and the College of Public Health; and graduate certificates in ‘Health, Water, and Culture’ with USF anthropology and the Colleges of Engineering and Public Health; a graduate certificate in Medical Anthropology; helped establish the USF Centers for Community and Public Scholarship,  Sustainability, and USF World. In addition, she has represented USF internationally in Ghana, Cambodia, Thailand, China, Exeter, Dubrovnik, and London.

Dr. Whiteford has consulted for WHO, PAHO, USAID, the World Bank, and the Canadian Agency for International Development on projects in Bolivia, Ecuador, Antigua, Barbados and Mexico. She chaired the department of Anthropology, and was President of the Society for Applied Anthropology.  She also served USF as Vice Provost for Program Development and Review, Associate Vice President for Global Strategies and International Affairs, and Associate Vice President for Strategic Initiatives.  In 2019 Dr. Whiteford was awarded the prestigious Sol Tax Prize for Distinguished Service to the Profession by the Society for Applied Anthropology. Previously she was selected to be ‘Scholar of the Year’ at Santa Clara University, and also at St. Mary’s College of Maryland. She has received six Senior Researcher National Science Foundation research awards, and six School for Advanced Seminar awards, and as well as other research awards for investigations in the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Cuba and countries in Central and South America.

Her books include:  Community Participatory Involvement: A Sustainable Model for Global Public Health (2015); Anthropology and the Engaged University: New Vision for the Discipline Within Higher Education (2013);  Global Health in Times of Violence (2010), Primary Health Care in Cuba: The Other Revolution (2008); Anthropological Ethics for Research and Practice (2008); and Globalization, Water and Health: Resources in Times of Scarcity (2005); Global Health Policy, Local Realities: The Fallacy of the Level Playing Field (2000); and New Approached to Human Reproduction (1985).  

  • Duncan Wagstaff

Duncan is a registrar in anaesthesia in London. He is currently completing a PhD evaluating the national Perioperative Quality Improvement Programme (PQIP) led by the Royal College of Anaesthetists.  He is interested in exploring the use of data for improvement in the NHS, as well as improving the capacity and quality of perioperative care in Low and Middle Income Countries (LMICs).

He completed his first degree in Natural Sciences (Physics) at Peterhouse, Cambridge, and then worked as a financial derivatives trader for four years before qualifying in Medicine at Green College, Oxford.

 What are we working on?

  • Rapid research tool: Development of a rapid anthropological assessment in the field tool for the Social Science in Humanitarian Action Platform (SSHAP)- OFDA. 
  • Design and reporting standards for rapid qualitative research: these standards are being developed by doctoral student Stephanie Kumpunen (DAHR, UCL) through her thesis: A critical analysis and development of rapid ethnographies in healthcare quality improvement. 
  • Public Health Responder Needs Survey (PHRNS): development of a survey to capture public health responders’ (e.g. frontline response teams, health authorities, researchers, etc.) opinions regarding their primary needs and problems encountered when responding to public health emergencies. 
  • Focused qualitative study on the use of an instrument to improve the comprehensive care of people with advanced chronic diseases in acute hospitals: https://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/9/Suppl_1/A22.1
  • Rapid evaluation of a telemedicine intervention aimed at addressing nursing care capacity and expertise gaps in Argentina

COViD-19 infographic

Training programmes

RREAL delivers a training programme for academic researchers, healthcare professionals, students and other practitioners.

Current courses include:

1. An introduction to rapid appraisals and short-term ethnographies

This practical course is intended for those interested in using rapid research methods. The course combines short lectures with hands-on exercises. Course participants have the opportunity to work with real research cases and design their own rapid study. A wide range of rapid research approaches are reviewed, but the course emphasizes the use of rapid appraisals and short-term ethnographies.


This course is delivered twice a year through the UCL Doctoral School Skills Building Programme and it is restricted to UCL doctoral students.

Course dates

For more information visit: https://doctoral-skills.ucl.ac.uk/course-details.pht?course_ID=3075

2. An introduction to rapid qualitative research

This course provides an introduction to a wide range of approaches used in rapid qualitative research and rapid literature reviews. The course combines short presentations with hands-on exercises. Course participants have the opportunity to work with real research cases and design their own rapid study. Participants who are planning a rapid study are encouraged to use their own topic throughout the course. Short rapid research clinics are available at the end of the course to discuss individual projects in detail.

For more information on the course and instructor, please visit the QHRN training page or the course webpage

3. Advanced rapid qualitative research

This course is designed for those who have attended the introduction to rapid qualitative research course or who have experience participating in rapid qualitative studies. The aim of the course is to help attendees address issues they might be facing in the design and implementation of their rapid studies. The course combines peer work, short presentations, hands-on exercises and one-to-one coaching to review and work through the challenges encountered by researchers conducting rapid qualitative research.  

For more information on the course and instructor, please visit the QHRN training page or the course webpage

4. Rapid qualitative research in complex health emergencies

This course aims to provide attendees with the skills required to implement rapid qualitative research approaches in the context of complex health emergencies. The workshop will include a combination of interactive lectures, debates, hands-on exercises and self-study. Participants will learn to apply and adapt rapid qualitative methods to health emergencies through critical appraisal of the literature and contemporary case studies. Use of personal topics of interest as it directly applies to complex health emergencies is encouraged. This course will require preparatory reading (to be sent to attendees a few weeks before the course). A suggested list of additional reading materials will be provided at the end of the course for continuing self-study along with a ‘toolkit’ of methodological sources as developed by experts in the field.

For more information on the course and instructor, please visit the QHRN training page or the course webpage


  • Academic publications on rapid research and evaluation

Vindrola-Padros, C., & Vindrola-Padros, B. Quick and dirty? A systematic review of the use of rapid ethnographies in healthcare organisation and delivery. BMJ Quality and Safety, 2017. doi:10.1136/bmjqs-2017-007226: https://qualitysafety.bmj.com/content/27/4/321.info

Johnson, G., Vindrola-Padros, C. Rapid qualitative research methods during complex health emergencies: A systematic review of the literature. Social Science & Medicine, 2017; 189, 63-75. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.socscimed.2017.07.029: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0277953617304628?via%3Dihub

  • Other forms of dissemination

Rapid ethnographies in healthcare: https://hsruk.org/sites/default/files/upload/5.%20Rapid%20Evaluations%20Cecilia%20Vindrola.pdf

What is rapid research and why is it relevant for healthcare?: https://www.nuffieldtrust.org.uk/news-item/what-is-rapid-research-and-why-is-it-relevant-for-health-care


Our inspiration

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What we are reading now

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Contact us

Dr Cecilia Vindrola,

Department of Applied Health Research

University College London (UCL)

1-19 Torrington Place



United Kingdom


Tel: +44 (0)20 3108 3232