Background: Research in midwifery is a relatively new development in many countries, and as a consequence it can be difficult to identify ongoing and completed research, to network with other researchers in similar fields, and to plan appropriately to develop research and research capacity. This paper describes the establishment of the UK Midwifery Research Database, MIRIAD, which aimed to address these problems. Method: Funding from the Department of Health (England) supported the establishment of MIRIAD in 1988. Systems and procedures were set in place to collect, store, analyse and disseminate information about ongoing and completed research in midwifery. Six detailed reports were published. MIRIAD was closed in 1999 as a result of lack of ongoing funding. Key findings: 466 studies were registered with MIRIAD, with start dates ranging from 1974 to 1998. The majority of studies examined clinical topics. A wide range of research approaches were used. Studies were supported by a range of sources, including employers and national funding agencies. There were many examples of high-quality, peer-reviewed, and externally funded studies which can be used to inform practice. Issues raised by some studies, however, included concerns about research quality, inadequacy of some supervision, low rate of publication, and inconsistency in gaining ethics committee approval. Conclusions: Research in midwifery in the UK has matured over the past 25 years. It still faces many challenges, including the need to maintain quality and to gain more national funding support. Lessons have also been learned about the need for quality in research information systems. Ongoing assessment of the growth and direction of research in midwifery is recommended, possibly through monitoring of the generic NHS database, the National Research Register (NRR), to inform strategic developments in research and research capacity at national, regional and local levels. © 2000 Harcourt Publishers Ltd.