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Advice for applicants: managing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic


Published: 17 March 2020

Version: 12 - Updated 24/11/2023

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There was a tremendous effort from health and care professionals in responding to the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. The following advice is aimed at individuals applying for career development funding and support from the NIHR.

Assessment of applications

NIHR would like to reassure NIHR Academy Members and applicants to our schemes and programmes that we are acutely aware of the immediate and long-term impacts of COVID-19 on research activities. Any disruptions to research activities due to the COVID-19 pandemic will be taken into consideration by our Selection Committees when assessing an individual applicant’s record of outputs, research achievements, and career progression in future grant rounds.

We understand that most researchers will have been affected during this period of disruption. We also recognise that some of these impacts are likely to be felt long after the acute phase of the pandemic, potentially affecting applications for months or years to come.

Mitigating Factors

We strongly encourage those who have been adversely affected by disruptions caused by the pandemic to continue to apply to our schemes, in the knowledge that historic impacts will be considered when assessing new applications. We also want applicants to feel empowered to provide contextual information about the impacts of COVID-19 on their research, so that informed decisions can be made when assessing their application.

Our concern is not the details of what happened, but the impact it has had on the applicant.

We will therefore work to ensure that our processes reflect this and will be welcoming information outlining how the pandemic has impacted both individual’s and their team’s research activity as part of applications. COVID-19 related statements already form part of our application process in the 'mitigating circumstances', we expect to continue welcoming statements whilst they remain useful. Applicants should refer to individual programme guidance to ensure individual processes and policies are followed.

The consequences of any COVID-19 related impact on an applicant’s research will be taken into consideration by our Selection Committees, and peer reviewers will be advised to do the same. Some examples of how applicants might have been affected are below:

  • Change in personal circumstances, e.g. illness, additional caring responsibilities.
  • Clinical responsibilities (working on the front line, required to back-fill posts, etc) and any ongoing impacts during the transition back to research.
  • Impact on access to facilities and normal work environment or furlough.
  • Impact on research (including the hiatus of research within the NHS) and the production of preliminary data, development of collaborations or methodological/technique training and experience.
  • Impact on publications or other outputs, including markers of esteem, e.g. panel membership, presentation invitations, conference participation.
  • Any other way in which the pandemic and/or its impact has affected the applicant, their career, or their ability to deliver their research.

Applicants are encouraged to highlight if and how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted them. Importantly, applicants are asked to only disclose information that they are comfortable with being shared with our Selection Committees. Applicants are also encouraged to include, if relevant, examples of innovative ways they have responded to the crisis. Providing any information about how COVID-19 has impacted their research is optional and at the applicant’s discretion. All information that applicants share will be treated in line with the individual funder’s privacy policies.

Selection Committee members will be asked to consider the provided information about the impact of COVID-19 as part of their assessment of an application and to make appropriate adjustments where needed. This could include, for example, considering track records and expectations regarding the development of the proposal – including the extent to which preliminary data has been provided – in the context of the applicant’s individual circumstances.

Further information

Guidance for clinical academic trainees returning to research roles

Guidance for clinical academic trainees addressing the challenges of a Covid-19 second wave or another pandemic (medical and dental roles)

Useful links 

The Academy of Medical Sciences career support space