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Global Effort on COVID-19 (GECO) Health Research Frequently Asked Questions

 

Contents

This document provides the answers to Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) relating to the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR)/Medical Research Council (MRC) Global Effort on COVID-19 (GECO) Health Research competition. These FAQs will be updated when significant new questions/queries are submitted, so applicants are advised to check this frequently for the latest version (as indicated by the date and version number).

Eligibility

Q: Can researchers at an organisation based in Upper Middle Income Countries on the DAC list be eligible to apply?

A: All countries identified on the OECD DAC list of ODA recipients are eligible for this call. This includes Upper Middle Income Countries and Territories. Please note that researchers from China and India are not eligible to be PIs for applications to this call but are welcomed as international co-investigators within proposals. Partnerships with co-investigators from China or India must have global or regional development impact as the primary objective, with local or national impacts within China or India as secondary objectives.

Please see the call specification for eligibility criteria for researchers from China and India and ‘Finance/Funding’ section below.

Q: With the UKRI GCRF/Newton Call, there is a requirement that LMIC researchers are previous UKRI grant holders – does such a limitation exist for this joint NIHR/UKRI call, or is it open to all researchers who belong to bona fide research organisation in their own country?

A: LMIC researchers do not have to be previous UKRI grant holders in order to apply to this call. In the case where the lead organisation of a GECO application is not from the UK or a previously MRC/UKRI funded-organisation, the UKRI-MRC will undertake the necessary due diligence and funding assurance processes once the Panel-decision has been made.

Q: Can you please confirm whether non-research institutions /non-governmental organisations/civil society organizations may also be co-investigators? Does the call support the costs of the research partners?

A: To be eligible to be a co-investigator, the applicant must be based at a Higher Education Institution or not-for-profit research institution for LMIC based researchers, or UK Higher Education Institutions, Research Council institutes, or eligible Independent Research Organisations for UK based researchers (refer to the UKRI eligibility web page for detail).  

Non-research institutions/commercial organisations/NGOs/civil society organisations/ government ministries may be included in the application as a project partner via service level agreement. You will need to make it clear what benefit is provided to the research programme. The project partners are unfunded by the application/award.

Q: What are the eligibility criteria for PIs, in terms of career stage and academic qualifications? Can Early Career Researchers be named as PIs for this call?

A: Early Career Researchers are eligible to apply, provided that they have a relevant academic affiliation to an eligible institution in an LMIC or the UK and can demonstrate they will direct the proposed research and be actively engaged in carrying it through. Please refer to section 1.3.1 (The Principal Investigator) of the MRC guidance.  Proposals from less experienced PIs should normally include a senior colleague as a Co-Investigator. 

Q: Does a PI from LMIC need to have a partner from the UK in order to apply for this call? 

A: LMIC PIs do not require UK-based co-investigators or a UK-based organisation as project partner to apply to this call.  

Q: Our university has its headquarter in a country on the DAC list but also has campuses in other countries not on the DAC list. 

  • Can the work be conducted in those non-LMIC campuses? 
  • Can the PI be based in a non-LMIC campus and if so, which campus would be the lead administering institution, if awarded?

A: The University is eligible to apply to this call as its headquarter is in a country on the DAC list. 

  1. Some work must be conducted in the LMIC campus.  Some work is permissible in other campuses in non-LMIC, provided that the work is clearly focussed on vulnerable populations and has LMIC impact as its primary objective. The application must have a direct and primary focus on improving health in an LMIC country or LMIC countries on the DAC list. 

    2. The PI can be based at any other campus as long as some work is conducted in the LMIC campus and the primary focus of the research is on improving health in an LMIC country or countries. The lead administering organisation should be the LMIC campus where the organisation’s headquarter is. 

Q: I am an NHS consultant and have an honorary contract with a UK university. Can I apply to this call as a PI or a co-investigator?  

A: If the investigator is not paid a salary by the Research Organisation (e.g. honorary staff), then the application should indicate their hours attributed to the project but with zero salary requested. Estates and Indirect costs can be requested regardless of whether they are getting a salary/payment or not. 

Q: Can non-UK non-LMIC Co-investigators be included in the application?

A: Researchers from non-UK, non-LMIC research organisations may be a co-investigator if they provide expertise not available in the UK or in LMICs on the OECD DAC recipient list. Clear justification must be provided in the application for involving non-UK co-investigators from countries not on the DAC list and demonstrate what considerable added value they will bring to the proposed research.  

Finance/Funding

Q: Can we buy equipment?

A: Equipment costs are eligible.  Please refer to section 3.2.2.2 (equipment) of the MRC guidance. Items of equipment costing between £10,000 (£8,330 ex VAT) and £138,000 (£115,000 ex VAT) require a robust explanation in the justification of resources. Items of equipment above £138,000 (£115,000 ex VAT) require a two-page business case outlining the strategic need for the equipment and three quotations for each individual item. Please see www.ukri.org/files/funding/tcs/equipment-guidance-pdf/ for more information on meeting this requirement. Also please reference RGC9 of the terms and conditions of funding. Additionally, if the equipment is required for use in the UK then the UK research organisation is expected to contribute 50% towards the cost of any capital items or equipment over £10,000 (inc VAT). 

However, as the award will need to start quickly, within weeks of being notified of an award and the duration of the award is up to 18 months, we do not expect large/expensive pieces of equipment that take considerable time to procure would form a proportion of GECO applications.

Q: Can we include PhD studentships or scholarships for graduate students as part of the GECO Health Research application?

A: PhD studentships or scholarships for graduate students are not eligible for this call. 

Q: Would an HEI colleague from a non-UK high income country be funded at 80%fEC, the same as a UK colleague? 

A: This call will cover 100% of directly incurred costs for non-UK, non-LMIC co-investigators from high income countries. However, salary costs must be clearly justified and must not exceed 30% of the entire award amount. Non-UK, non-LMIC co-investigators from high income countries are also expected to make a significant contribution to their own research costs, including covering their own overheads.  

It should also be noted that researchers from non-UK, non-LMIC research organisations may be included as a co-investigator provided their expertise is not available in the UK or in LMICs on the OECD DAC recipient list. Clear justifications must be provided in the application for involving non-UK co-investigators from countries not on the DAC list and demonstrate what considerable added value they will bring to the proposed research.

Q: Can costs be requested in the application to support international co-investigators from China and India and non-UK, non-LMIC co-investigators from High Income Countries? 

Researchers from India and China and High Income Countries (HIC) outside of the UK may be co-investigators (Co-Is).  It is expected that international Co-Is from China and India and HIC outside the UK make a significant contribution to their own research costs, including covering their own overheads; and, that costs requested do not normally exceed 30% of the proposed total. 

Q: It states that proposals should be up to £1M. Is this the 100% FEC total? Or is this the costs for the NIHR/UKRI contribution? 

A: £1m as the total amount requested, not 100%fEC figure. 

Q: Would you mind confirming whether open access (OA) publication costs are eligible to be included in the budget please? 

A: OA costs for UK  HEIs/ research organisations are not eligible for this call as they are covered by the UKRI block grant. However, OA costs for LMIC organisations are eligible. 

Q: Can we include costs for a Co-I at an NHS Foundation Trust on this GECO call? If so, are these costs funded at 100% direct cost and we don’t include estates or indirects? 

A:  Please note that eligible UK institutions for this call include UK Higher Education Institutions, Research Council institutes, and eligible Independent Research Organisations (IROs).  Co-investigators at an NHS trust are not eligible. Many researchers in an NHS organisation usually have academic affiliation with a HEI or other eligible organisations.If not then they can be included in the proposal as Project Partners which are not funded by the proposal.

Applications may be made for research costs associated with NHS studies. The UKRI and NIHR will only fund costs which fall under the heading of 'Research costs'. These are funded at the appropriate FEC rate (usually 80%). The award does not include NHS support and/or treatment costs, although the UKRI and NIHR will take NHS support and treatment costs into account when considering the value for money of the research. Please refer to section 3.5 (NHS costs) of the MRC guidance. Please note that your research should be of primary and direct benefit to the health of people living in LMICs, not in the UK.

Your Proposal

Q: Is there an application form for the GECO call? Where can I get it? 

A: You can download a copy of the application form from the GECO call specification webpage. We only accept applications made using the official GECO application form.

Q: Do we have to submit an application written in English? Or do you accept applications in other languages as well?

A: The call only accepts applications written in English.  

Q: Do the character counts in the application form include spaces?

A: Yes, the character count includes spaces. Please ensure your answers fit within the limits of the character counts specified in the form. 

Q: Are joint (UK and LMIC) PIs permitted? If so would the funds be sent directly to both PI’s organisations?  

A: The intellectual leadership can be shared, however, each proposal must have one PI. The PI is usually responsible for the intellectual leadership of the research project and for the overall management of the research.  If intellectual leadership of the research is shared, the PI should be the individual who will act as the NIHR and UKRI’s main contact and coordinator. 

The PI's organisation should be the lead administering organisation eligible to accept and administer funds from NIHR and UKRI - an eligible research organisation in a country on the OECD DAC recipient list or in the UK

Q: Can a co-investigator’s organisation be the lead administering organisation?

A: No. The PI's organisation should be the lead administering organisation. 

Q: Is the involvement of co-investigators mandatory for this call? Is it possible to have only the PI and some project partners?

A: Having a co-investigator is not a requirement to apply to this call for an application led by a LMIC PI. However, you will need to clearly demonstrate in your application that you have all the necessary expertise and experience to successfully deliver the project.  

Where the application is submitted by a UK organisation, the applicants must ensure equitable partnerships with LMIC investigators. 

Q: Is there a limit on the number of co-Investigators that can be included in an application? 

A: No, there is no limit on the number of co-investigators in an application. The application form (section 2.2) provides space for up to 10 co-investigators and you will not be able to add extra rows due to restrictions on the form. Please add multiple co-applicants in a row if more than 10 co-investigators are involved in an application. 

Q: In section 1.3 (Plain English Summary) of the application form, it states that further guidance can be found from the NIHR “make it clear”. Can you please provide the link to this webpage? 

A: Here is the link to the NIHR Make it clear webpage: https://www.invo.org.uk/resource-centre/plain-english-summaries/nihr-funding-applications/

Q: Section 1.5 of the application form asks to provide total costs. Do I put in the calculated 80% final figure or the amount that needs to be calculated at 80% prior to conversion?

A: In Section 1.5 Total, please provide the total request (i.e. the sum of 80% for UK HEIs, 100% for LMIC and 100% for non-LMIC, non-UK HIC if applicable) against each category.

Q: I noticed that the application appears to only ask for a summative budget (section 1.5). Is there another finance form that needs to be submitted alongside the application form? 

A: No, there is not a separate finance form to complete for this call.

Q: Section 1.7 of the application form asks to list ODA-Eligible countries. Does it mean the study should be multicounty, or its benefits can be replicated to other ODA countries?

A: Your application does not have to involve multiple ODA-eligible countries. Please list ODA eligible countries where your proposed research will be of primary benefit. You are required to provide further details in section 7. ODA Compliance Statement of the application form.

Q: Section 2 (Investigator Details) asks to provide ORCID.   Is it necessary to have an ORCID in order to submit to this call? 

A: You do not need to have an ORCID in order to submit an application to the GECO call, but it helps to clearly distinguish people with similar names.

Q: What do you mean by administrative authority under section 2 (Investigator details) of the application form? Do you mean head of the whole institution or college or department or just head of finance in the department?

A: This would be someone with the authority to sign a contract with UKRI/NIHR if the application was successful. 

Q: Could you please tell me whether I should list the named postdoctoral research associate (PDRA) as a co-investigator and include their CV?

A: Please refer to section 1.3 Applicants of the MRC guidance for qualifications and roles of co-investigators. Also, we would like to comment that PDRAs are usually funded by a grant and you may want to consider the implication of their involvement in your GECO proposal if they are employed on a different grant.

Q: Our application is focused on developing a technology. Can we supply a link to our technology embedded within the application for the reviewers to navigate the functionality as described in the text. Is this acceptable?

A: We expect sufficient information to be provided in the application for reviewers and panel members to assess the application without referring to the link. In the application form please provide the necessary details and not just the link.

Q: Can we submit references as a separate document?

A: References should be included in the character/word limit of the relevant section of the application form. They cannot be submitted as a separate document/attachment to the application form. Full citations are not required. Those references being cited multiple times in different sections of the application form can be listed in one section only and referred to in other sections of the application.

Q: Do I list PI or CoI’s organisations in section 2.3 Project Partners of the application form?

A: PI and CoI’s organisations should not be listed as project partners on the application.

Q: Section 2.3 of the application form asks to provide details of the value of Project Partners Contribution. Are we talking about indirect funding such as the use of institution office, equipment, vehicles etc. which are believed would help support the project?

A: Please provide project partner contributions to the proposed research in cash or in-kind.  For in-kind contribution, please provide equivalent value of any in-kind contribution.

Q: Can I include sub-contractors in my GECO application? What is the difference between a sub-contractor and a project partner?

A: Yes, subcontractors are permitted and you can include their costs.

Please note the role of a subcontractor is distinct from a project partner.

A project partner provides a substantial intellectual contribution to the project, and their organisation may also provide resources either in-kind or financially, project partners are not expected to request funding to participate. The contribution and involvement of project partners should be acknowledged in the project partner section of the application form and described in detail in the application form, where the whole team and their skills/expertise and responsibilities should be set out for the benefit of assessors.  

A sub-contractor is contracted by the lead organisation to carry out a specific piece of work on behalf of the investigators on a fee-for-service basis, with no potential claim on any arising intellectual property (IP). They are being paid a set amount for a set piece of work and their cost must not include any indirect or estates costs. All sub-contracted work should be subjected to external competition to ensure best value for money through competitive purchasing processes. Where this is not possible because of the specialist nature of the work involved, it must be fully justified in the justification of resources section of the application form. Subcontractors should not be named as part of the project team.

Q: Can I submit letters of support with my application?

A: Letters of support are not required for this call, unless they are for applicants from MRC Units. A core funding statement must be included as a letter of support attachment for applicants from MRC Units. The statement needs to clearly explain the relationship between the proposed work and core support. It must be signed by the Unit Director or equivalent. Details can be found under ‘3.9 MRC Units and partnership institutes’ in the MRC grants guide' . Due to the volume of the application, we advise you not to include any documents not listed in the call specification.

Q: Do I need to submit with our application collaboration agreements that we as the lead organisation will have with our co-investigators or service level agreements with our Project Partners?

A: You are not required to submit with you application collaboration agreements or service level agreement that you may have if successful.  

Q: Is there a preferred format for CVs? Or do you provide a template for CVs? 

A: We do not provide a template for CVs. Each CV should provide relevant key publications/outputs and grants and other relevant information indicating their suitability to lead/support the research as described in the application. A CV should not be more than one A4 page using Arial 11 point. 

Q: Do you required CVs of all team members mentioned in my application or only PI and Co-Investigators?

A: Please include CVs for the PI and Co-Investigators only.

Q: I am unable to combine the application form with the CVs into one PDF document as required. Can you please advise? 

A: To combine the application form with the CVs, you would need to convert your application form to a PDF format and merge it with CVs in PDF to make a single document. PDF software offers this function, or you can use online tools. Due to restrictions on the form, you will not be able to directly add any pages to the application form.

Q: When will I be notified of the outcome of my application? 

A: We aim to notify all our applicants within 2 weeks of respective panel meetings.

Panel meeting dates: Round 1 -22 July 2020; Round 2 -7 September 2020; and Round 3 – end of November 2020 (exact dates TBC).

Q: My application was not successful. Will I receive feedback on my application? 

A: Feedback will not be provided for unsuccessful applications due to the volume of applications to this call. 

Other 

Q: The call specification states that there are three deadlines. I wanted to clarify whether this call is rolling or whether they are separate rounds with different focus areas.

A: This call is a rolling call. We have given 3 closing dates to help our applicants to plan their application/project. There will be 3 panel meetings for this call at which our independent international panel will make recommendations on funding. All 3 rounds have the same research focus areas as outlined in the call specification. Applications can be submitted anytime until the last deadline of midday (UK time) 28th September 2020. Therefore, for example if your application was received after the deadline of Round 1 it will be considered in Round 2. 

Q: Who can submit my application? Can I submit it as a PI? Or should it be the official of my organisation who submits my application? 

A: The PI him/herself can submit the application by emailing to geco@nihr.ac.uk. Applications do not have to be submitted by the official of the PI’s institution.

Q: Could you please advise if applications for the GECO call will need institutional approval via Je-S before the funder deadline?

A: Applications are received by email. Institutional approval via Je-S is not required for this call.  Please email your completed application with all the required documents as specified in the call specification to geco@nihr.ac.uk. 

Q: Can we resubmit our unsuccessful COVID-19 Rapid Response Rolling Call application to this call?  

A: No, resubmissions are not allowed. You are not allowed to resubmit the same application to this call.

Q: We intend to submit a research proposal to the GECO call. Can we apply for research funding to other funding agencies for doing research on COVID 19 after submitting an application to the GECO call?

A:  We do not prevent our GECO applicants from applying for funding to other funding agencies. However, you cannot submit the same application to the UKRI GCRF/Newton Fund Agile Response call to address COVID-19 or NIHR and UKRI's domestic rolling call for proposals for research into COVID-19.

Q: I am looking for clinical trials centres in the UK or in LMIC which can join my proposed research to this call. Can you help find them?

A: We are unable to find or suggest clinical trials centres for your study.

Q: When you say successful awards should be able to start within 4 weeks of award, do you mean they should have obtained ethical approvals in 4 weeks or that’s the time they should be able to submit protocols for ethical review?

A: We would expect you to have obtained ethical approval and ready to start the project within 4 weeks of award.

Q: What are the Research Outcome Reporting and Financial monitoring requirements for award holders?

A: All contracts will be issued by MRC and as such standard UKRI Terms and Conditions will apply. All successful awardees will be required to submit annual reports via ResearchFish. For previously MRC/UKRI-funded organisations, standard financial monitoring procedures apply (see section RGC 10 for details). For other organisations, UKRI will undertake due diligence and funding assurance evaluations. Quarterly financial reports is a requirement of all ODA funding to monitor awards. In the latter case, details will be communicated to successful applicants as appropriate.