In low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), postgraduate-level training opportunities for epidemiologists and biostatisticians typically do not include demographic surveillance as a significant component. They may have no requirement; moreover, for practical field research, and where field research is incorporated, it is usually of short duration.

In 2005, to address these shortcomings and to strengthen the capacity of scientists from the Global South to conduct high quality health and demographic research, INDEPTH launched its Scientific Development and Leadership Programme. Taking advantage of the mass of longitudinal data available for analysis in INDEPTH member centres and of the vibrant research environment in the HDSS sites, a Master’s Degree Programme in Population-based Field Research was instigated to equip dozens of graduates with the skills to conduct high quality research, communicate their findings, compete for international research resources, and influence health policy – in short, to become leaders in scientific research.