The Union was founded in 1920 to serve as a central resource for conducting, supporting and disseminating the latest research on TB and related issues. It continues to play this role today.
All Union technical departments conduct research, and the departments and offices, as well as alumni of The Union's research courses, work together to foster collaboration and an effective flow of information about research activities that are underway. Each year, this work results in more than 125 papers published in peer-reviewed journals, books, chapters, and other publications.
In 2009, a Department of Research was established to oversee and provide direction for The Union's Centre for Operational Research and the Clinical Trials Unit as well as other research projects, as the need arises. The mandate of this department is to provide leadership, coordination, information and guidance on research and policy within The Union in order to improve the health of those living in low- and middle-income countries. It also liaises with The Union's Ethics Advisory Group to promote good ethical standards in research. Partnerships and collaborations with other external institutions and organisations that implement research in low- and middle-income countries are another important aspect of this department's work. From 2014, The Union’s Centre for Operational Research has incorporated the aims and objectives of the Health Policy Research Unit within its mandate and thus this Unit no longer exists as an independent entity.