Internet Explorer is no longer supported by Microsoft. To browse the NIHR site please use a modern, secure browser like Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, or Microsoft Edge.

Call for Applications: NIHR Specialised Living Evidence Synthesis Group


Published: 18 April 2024

Version: 1.0 - Mar 2024

Print this document

Call specification

The Evidence Synthesis Programme is inviting applications to establish a specialised research group to carry out living evidence syntheses addressing UK priority topics in health, public health and social care.

A living approach to evidence synthesis regularly incorporates new research evidence to provide access to up-to-date syntheses of research evidence at the time decision makers need them. This is particularly important in areas where new research is emerging rapidly, current evidence is uncertain and new research might change policy or practice.

The contract will be for 5 years in the first instance, awarded through open competition. Applications are welcomed from all 4 nations. It is anticipated that funding will be for one group to receive up to a maximum of £750K per year.

Applications should demonstrate the following criteria:

  • atrack record in producing living evidence syntheses
  • expertise and competency across a range of synthesis methods including decision modelling
  • a thorough understanding of the living evidence synthesis landscape internationally
  • capability and capacity to produce living evidence syntheses in health, public health and social care topics
  • access to a network of experts who can support established links with patient and client networks "so that things are done with people and not to people" (Chappell, Lancet, August 2021)
  • 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

The specialist NIHR Living Evidence Synthesis Group 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.


The appointed specialist group will produce and maintain a suite of high quality living evidence syntheses, conducting a series of baseline syntheses and updating these at appropriate intervals across the duration of the contract. Early developmental activity will include working with NIHR and policy stakeholders to map priority areas where a living approach to synthesis is most needed and will have the greatest impact on people’s health and wellbeing. An agreed initial work plan will include projects that address current NIHR and NHS challenges and will be developed and adapted in response to changing health and care needs. A flexible approach is required along with an understanding that emerging priorities may displace planned activity. In the event of a future pandemic the group should be able to pivot to provide robust evaluation and synthesis of relevant emerging research evidence addressing questions of most importance to decision makers.

As a centre of excellence, the new group will serve as a nucleus for living evidence activity and, in addition to their core research programme, will also help develop expertise and capacity across the 9 current Evidence Synthesis Groups (ESGs) (appointed in 2023 to carry out a broad range of types of evidence synthesis). This will include methodological development and adaptation to harness the capabilities of emerging technologies. The group may consider secondment of colleagues from other ESGs or organisations to contribute to and learn from topics of shared interest.

The group will engage with international initiatives in living evidence to ensure synergy and avoid unnecessary duplication and to facilitate uptake and use of outputs beyond the UK stakeholders for whom it will primarily be generated.

The group will focus on the production of living evidence syntheses, but may be asked to deliver other types of synthesis should there be gaps in the group’s work plan (recognising that living syntheses require ongoing development and maintenance, and that as the portfolio builds, gaps will become less likely). An adequate core team needs to be in place at the start of the contract. Subject experts may need to be co-opted by the group for particular topics.

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 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
  • understanding of the international living evidence landscape and consideration of how they might engage and align with this
  • a statement of research skills and track-record including specific expertise and experience related to living evidence syntheses
  • 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
  • commissioning 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