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20/56 HS&DR General Guidance Community Pharmacies



Closing date: 25 September 2020  (two stage – Stage 1 to Stage 2)

General guidance for applicants

NB: This is general guidance and not all the sections will apply to the specific call.

Applicants must show that their proposed research:

  • is well-designed; will be effectively carried out by the research team;
  • will produce findings which meet the needs of the NIHR HS&DR Programme and the NHS and Social Care management and leadership community it serves;
  • will be used to improve health and/or social care services.

We do not prescribe or prohibit particular approaches to research, but we encourage applicants to take account of this guidance in their project proposals, and point out that the HS&DR committees will take account of this guidance when they assess and select proposals.

Research team makeup and expertise

Projects should have a research team with the right skills to undertake the research. It is important that the team has the necessary expertise, but is not so large that project management will be difficult. Projects are likely to use a team with significant input from diverse disciplines appropriate to the content and methods of the project. All applicants need to show that they will commit appropriate time and effort to the project, and the use of large teams of applicants with little time commitment to the project is discouraged. Stage 2 proposals should make it clear what responsibilities and roles will be fulfilled by each team member.

The Lead Applicant (chief investigator) should generally be the person who has contributed most to the intellectual and practical development of the proposal, and who will take lead responsibility for its delivery. This is not necessarily the most senior investigator in the research team. Where the Lead Applicant has a limited track record in holding grants, we will look for evidence that they will be supported and mentored by more experienced co-applicants. Joint leadership is permitted and details about this arrangement should be provided within the application. The Lead Applicant will be the first name cited on all outputs required by the NIHR.

NHS management engagement

Wherever appropriate, the health and care management community should be directly engaged or involved with HS&DR research projects because this will produce research that is more closely grounded in and reflective of their concerns and makes the subsequent uptake and application of research findings more likely.

We particularly welcome project proposals in which an NHS or and Social Care manager is formally part of the project team as a co-applicant, and in which they (and/or other health and social care managers) play a significant part in the project. Their contribution may be to facilitate or enable research access to organisations, to be directly involved in research fieldwork, to comment on and contribute to emerging findings, and to be involved in dissemination activity. The time for health and social care managers to participate as co-applicants can be costed into the proposal, as part of the Research Costs.

There are other ways in which health and care management support for the proposed research can be demonstrated, such as co-opting managers to project advisory or steering groups, the inclusion with Stage 2 proposals of a letter or statement of support from senior leaders in relevant health and social care organisations.

Gains for the service

Not all research will individually result in potential savings or direct gains for the NHS or and Social Care. Where it is appropriate, studies should include a cost-effectiveness component with a view to helping managers and service providers make decisions and identify potential for savings. Researchers should look to demonstrate potential savings and gains for services, where appropriate. This includes setting out in broad terms the likely impact of this work for Social Care and/or the wider NHS in your stage one application.

Research methods

Proposals must show that the research is appropriately designed, will be well conducted, and will add to knowledge in the area. It is not our intention to specify particular research methods, but to highlight areas where we have found common weaknesses in the past.

Proposals need to make proper use of relevant theory and of the findings in the existing literature to frame their research questions. Although at stage one comprehensive referencing is not required, illustrative sources and indication of the grounding in a body of literature should be given. Theoretical, descriptive evaluations, proposals which appear not to be informed by the existing literature, and projects which appear to replicate rather than add to existing research are unlikely to be funded. Research questions need to be very clearly stated and framed – in terms which are sufficiently detailed and specific. This includes a clear description of the intervention which is being assessed (where relevant) and articulating the objectives and aims of the research.

The research methods proposed must be appropriate to the nature of the research questions and to the theoretical framework for the project. It is important that the proposal makes a clear link between the research questions and the intended empirical approach and fieldwork, showing what data will be gathered and how it will be used. The approach to data analysis must be clearly explained. The proposal needs to show that the research team has considered and addressed the logistics and practical realities of undertaking the research – gaining ethical and research governance approval, securing access, recruitment, data collection and management, etc. Studies should be realistically costed to take account of these activities. Where trial methodology is proposed, researchers are advised to have gained input from their local clinical trials unit or officer.

Researchers should be mindful of the need for generalisability of results and the relevance of the outputs for the NHS and/or Social Care as a whole. This may affect the study design – for instance, single case studies are likely to be supported only exceptionally.

At stage one, a flowchart to provide an overview of the study is requested. This is useful to show the committee how different parts of the study fit together. At stage two, a Gantt chart or project timetable showing clearly the planned dates of different project phases and of project outputs should be included.

Public involvement

It is a core concern of the HS&DR programme that all projects should pay attention to the needs and experiences of all relevant stakeholders (including local communities, individual members of the public, users of services, carers and minority ethnic communities as well as healthcare practitioners and managers) during the design, execution and communication of the research. Proposed projects should describe their arrangements for public and patient involvement and in communicating how the proposed work could lead to enhanced public and community engagement. The application includes a section for the non-expert (Plain English Summary) and care should be given to ‘pitching’ the proposal at a public audience, avoiding jargon and explaining clearly the expected benefits of the research.

Research governance

Applicants should show that they understand and that their proposal complies with the Research Governance Framework for the NHS and social care ( Successful applicants will be required to provide proof of research ethics committee approval for their project, if it is required, before funding commences. The project plan should take realistic account of the time required to secure ethics and governance approval.

Costs and value for money

Project costs will be carefully scrutinised and must always be well justified and demonstrate value for money. NIHR programmes currently fund Higher Education Institutions (HEI) at a maximum of 80% of Full Economic Cost (except for equipment over £50,000 – 100%). For non-HEI institutions, NIHR may fund 100% of costs. However, the NIHR HS&DR programme reserves the right to award a grant for less than this maximum and for less than the amount sought by applicants.

Clinical Trials Toolkit

Researchers designing or undertaking clinical trials are encouraged to consult the Clinical Trials Toolkit ( This NIHR resource is an innovative website designed to help researchers navigate through the complex landscape of setting up and managing clinical trials in line with regulatory requirements. Although primarily aimed at those involved in publicly funded Clinical Trials of Investigational Medicinal Products (CTIMPs), the Toolkit will also benefit researchers and R&D staff working on trials in other areas, who will find useful information and guidance of relevance to the wider trials environment.

Research output dissemination

Our key concern is to ensure that projects funded by the HS&DR Programme are designed from the outset to produce useful, timely and relevant research findings which are then used. Experience suggests that this is most likely if researchers collaborate with NHS and Social Care managers/commissioners throughout the life of a project, and aim to produce a variety of research outputs – not just a final report and one or more papers for academic peer reviewed journals.

All Stage 2 proposals submitted to the HS&DR programme must include a detailed section on research outputs in the full plan of investigation which is attached to the proposal when it is submitted. Applicants need to show that sufficient resources have been allocated within the project budget to undertake these activities. In general terms, all projects which are longer than 12 months are expected to produce some interim outputs during the life of the project as well as those at the end of the project.

The outputs and dissemination activities in the project proposal are likely to include some or all of the following:

  • A final and full research report detailing all the work undertaken and supporting technical appendices (up to a maximum 50,000 words), an abstract and an executive summary (up to 2000 words). This is a required output. The executive summary must be focused on results/findings and suitable for use separately from the report as a briefing for NHS and/or Social Care managers. Care should be given to using appropriate language and tone, so that results are compelling and clear. This is a required output from all projects.
  • A set of PowerPoint slides (up to 10 maximum) which present the main findings from the research and are designed for use by the research team or others in disseminating the research findings to the NHS. The slides must use the branding available on the NIHR website ( They will be made available alongside the report on the HS&DR programme website. This is a required output from all projects.
  • Journal papers for appropriate academic peer reviewed journals, designed to ensure the research forms part of the scientific literature and is available to other researchers.
  • Articles for professional journals which are read by the NHS and Social Care management community and which will be helpful in raising wider awareness of the research findings.
  • Seminars, workshops, conferences or other interactive events at which the research team will present and discuss the research and its findings with NHS and Social Care managers/commissioners.
  • Guidelines, toolkits, measurement instruments or other practical methods or systems designed to enable health and social care managers to use the research findings in practice. We are looking for practical, innovative ideas – such as questions arising from the research that non-executive directors could raise at board meetings or similar.

This list is illustrative rather than comprehensive, and we will welcome project proposals which include other forms of output dissemination activities. Guidance is available on our website to support your plans for Dissemination and Impact.