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Call for Applications: NIHR Specialised Evidence Synthesis Groups (ESGs) to provide research evidence to support the UK National Screening Committee (NSC)


Published: 18 April 2024

Version: 1.0 Mar 2024

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Call specification

The Evidence Synthesis Programme is inviting applications from suitable applicant groups to carry out priority evidence syntheses required by the UK National Screening Committee (UK NSC).

The UK NSC makes evidence-based recommendations to ministers and the NHS in the 4 UK nations about all aspects of screening and supports implementation of screening programmes. Recommendations are underpinned by robust review and evaluation of the research evidence relevant to proposals to introduce, modify or cease screening programmes.

In 2023 the NIHR Evidence Synthesis Programme commissioned 9 Evidence Synthesis Groups (ESGs) who perform a broad range of types of evidence synthesis for key stakeholders across all four UK nations, including for the UK NSC. These collaborations have identified a need for increased evidence synthesis provision to support the UK NSC decision making process.

We are therefore commissioning 3 specialist evidence synthesis groups to provide dedicated support to the UK NSC.

Contracts will be for 5 years in the first instance, awarded through open competition. Applications are welcomed from all four UK nations. It is anticipated that funding will be for up to 3 groups, each to receive up to a maximum of £750K per year.

Applications should demonstrate the following criteria:

  • expertise across a broad range of synthesis methods
  • expertise and experience of evidence synthesis in screening topics
  • understanding of the UK NSC criteria for a population screening programme and for a targeted screening programme, and of the types of research that underpin these
  • experience of producing evidence maps, rapid reviews, systematic reviews and decision models
  • established links with patient and client networks “so that things are done with people and not to people” (Chappell, Lancet, August 2021)
  • access to a network of experts who can support evidence synthesis production and interpretation in an advisory capacity
  • experience of innovative dissemination and knowledge exchange activities and of recording and promoting research impact
  • understanding of “Best Research for Best Health: The Next Chapter” and other evolving NIHR priorities
  • acknowledgement that outputs will be made available fully Open Access on publication


The appointed specialist ESGs will produce high quality research projects, principally delivering the established types of syntheses that are used currently within the UK NSC decision-making framework. Projects will be co-designed with the UK NSC to inform decisions about population and targeted screening programmes, but will be carried out independently. Research projects will include:

  • evidence maps
  • evidence summaries
  • systematic reviews
  • effectiveness and cost effectiveness models
  • methodological guidance

The appointed groups will also work with the UK NSC secretariat to develop and evolve methods to best meet UK NSC needs and to take account of emerging technologies.

Groups are required to be flexible and should there be periods with few UK NSC projects, they will be expected to contribute to delivering projects within the NIHR ESG general portfolio, although this is anticipated as being unlikely.

Successful applicants will be expected to deliver between approximately 3 and 10 evidence syntheses a year depending on the types of work requested which may include a mix of short-turnaround evidence maps or summaries, or more substantive systematic review, meta-analyses and cost effectiveness modelling projects, which may run for a year or more. An adequate core team needs to be demonstrably in place at the start of the contract. Subject experts may need to be co-opted by the group for particular topics.

Networking/mentoring between the commissioned research groups is encouraged to share best practice and build a future sustainable community of researchers undertaking evidence syntheses on screening topics.

The specialist NSC ESGs will be commissioned on a call-off research contract arrangement. The contract and funding will be issued to applicants based in any of the four nations in the UK and international co-applicants or network membership is in remit. Applications are welcome from commercial companies, higher education, and NHS and Social Care institutions with a proven track record in producing evidence synthesis.

Assessment process and timescales

Applications will be considered by a commissioning committee. Groups that best demonstrate suitability and competency will be invited to interview prior to final decision-making and selection of groups by the committee. Up to 3 representatives from each selected group may attend interviews, which will be held virtually in October/November 2024.

Applications must include:

  • consideration of the criteria set out in the call specification and scope
  • a statement of the general approach to be adopted
  • a description of the group; its overall capacity and ability to recruit, supervise and direct resources as needed
  • a statement of research skills and track-record including specific expertise and experience related to screening and screening programmes
  • a description of the group’s established networks and partnerships
  • arrangements for project management of the work and contract
  • details of the resources required to undertake the work over the life of the contract (HEIs to cost at 80% FEC)

Applications should be completed and submitted by 1pm on 2 July 2024 using the NIHR REALMS research portal


  • submission (single stage): 1pm on 2 July 2024
  • committee: October 2024
  • interviews: October/November 2024
  • contract start date: 1 April 2025

Probity and handling conflicts of interest

A competing interest will include any financial or other relationship with, or interest in, an intervention or service or application to be reviewed. Any competing interests will be considered against individual syntheses. Any possible conflict arising from a particular topic should be declared to the Evidence Synthesis Programme at the time of scoping the review.

Transparency agenda

In line with the government’s transparency agenda, any contract resulting from this commissioning process may be published in its entirety to the general public.


Should you have any queries about this call, further details can be obtained from