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BACKGROUND: Maternal mortality has declined by nearly half since 1990, but over a quarter million women still die every year of causes related to pregnancy and childbirth. Maternal-health related targets are falling short of the 2015 Millennium Development Goals and a post-2015 Development Agenda is emerging. In connection with this, setting global research priorities for the next decade is now required. METHODS: We adapted the methods of the Child Health and Nutrition Research Initiative (CHNRI) to identify and set global research priorities for maternal and perinatal health for the period 2015 to 2025. Priority research questions were received from various international stakeholders constituting a large reference group, and consolidated into a final list of research questions by a technical working group. Questions on this list were then scored by the reference working group according to five independent and equally weighted criteria. Normalized research priority scores (NRPS) were calculated, and research priority questions were ranked accordingly. RESULTS: A list of 190 priority research questions for improving maternal and perinatal health was scored by 140 stakeholders. Most priority research questions (89%) were concerned with the evaluation of implementation and delivery of existing interventions, with research subthemes frequently concerned with training and/or awareness interventions (11%), and access to interventions and/or services (14%). Twenty-one questions (11%) involved the discovery of new interventions or technologies. CONCLUSIONS: Key research priorities in maternal and perinatal health were identified. The resulting ranked list of research questions provides a valuable resource for health research investors, researchers and other stakeholders. We are hopeful that this exercise will inform the post-2015 Development Agenda and assist donors, research-policy decision makers and researchers to invest in research that will ultimately make the most significant difference in the lives of mothers and babies.