Published: 02 June 2020
Version: 4 - August 2022Print this document
About the Core Guidance
The NIHR Global Health Research portfolio supports applied health research for the direct and primary benefit of people in low-and middle-income countries (LMICs) on the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) Development Assistance Committee (DAC) list, using UK Aid from the UK government.
The below core guidance covers the key principles supported by NIHR Global Health Research funding. The guidance is structured to specifically help research teams applying to NIHR Global Health Research programme funding calls, such as Global Health Research Units, Global Health Research Groups, Research and Innovation for Global Health Transformation (RIGHT), the Global Health Policy and Systems Research (Global HPSR) calls and the Global Health Research Centres programme.
This document should be read in conjunction with each programme’s specific call guidance for details of specific eligibility requirements, scope and remit.
Career Development Awards such as NIHR Global Research Professorships will follow the principles outlined in this document, but due to the nature of these awards focusing on individuals, applicants should refer to the specific scheme guidance on research training and development.
Call specific guidance is published on the NIHR funding opportunity page.
Submissions to more than one NIHR Global Health Research Programme/Call
Whilst there are similarities in some of the core aims for the NIHR Global Health Research funding calls (high quality programmes of research, responsive to LMIC-led needs, embedded plans for community engagement, capacity and capability-strengthening), there are also fundamental differences. When considering where to apply, applicants need to take into account the specific remit of each funding call and decide which opportunity to apply for, according to their own aims and goals.
NIHR will not accept the same or substantially similar applications across multiple NIHR Global Health Research Calls. If two similar applications are submitted, once the overlap is identified, the application that is most advanced through the funding process will continue and the second will not be taken further.
Similar applications will only be considered by two NIHR Global Health Research programmes concurrently if;
- the aims and research proposals are substantially different;
- the successful delivery of one project is not dependent on the other.
Where multiple applications across calls are submitted, any applications proposing similar research themes and geographies will be carefully scrutinised to ensure there is no overlap.
- NIHR strongly encourages diversifying leadership models and support for leadership development opportunities,, but will accept applications where there is a strong rationale for the same leadership team, and where there is clarity the (Joint) Leads will have capacity to successfully run two large scale programmes of research concurrently.
- Contracts will be awarded and managed separately and independently of each other.
- NIHR reserves the right to reject an application if it is deemed too similar to another received in another NIHR Global Health Research call.
- NIHR Global Research Professorship award holders are eligible to be part of applications to multiple calls, provided there is no duplication of requests for costs.
Multiple applications to the same NIHR Global Health Research Programme/Call
HEIs or Research Institutes submitting multiple applications to the same NIHR GHR Programme/Call should consider (a) NIHR’s position on Equality Diversity and Inclusion - including but not limited to gender balance - at all levels of the awards, including leadership, governance and delivery and (b) the aims of the call. NIHR’s expectation is that, where multiple applications are submitted, Lead Applicants from a single institution will be equally balanced between genders. Justification should be provided where this is not possible and the plans in place to address this over the longer term.
Structure of Team and Expertise / Institutional Eligibility
Structure of the Team
Depending on the NIHR GHR Programme and call specification, proposed research teams and partnerships may be required to have a single Lead Applicant or two Joint Lead Applicants and depending on the research plans, a proportionate and manageable number of Co-Applicants and Collaborators (including service level providers).
- Lead Applicants are normally researchers employed at an eligible LMIC or UK-based Higher Education Institution (HEI) or Research Institute, who have a demonstrable ability to lead and manage a substantial large-scale programme of global health research with established reputation and appropriate standing within their employing organisations. NIHR will carefully review applications proposing a (Joint) Lead Applicant holding an honorary contract with a (Joint) Lead organisation to ensure they meet the call eligibility criteria (both for the (Joint) Lead institution and the individual proposed as the Lead). (Joint) Leads must provide details of all other institutional affiliations as part of the application.
- Co-applicants are those individuals with responsibility for the day-to-day management and delivery of the project who form your project team or consortium. Co-Applicants are expected to share responsibility for its successful delivery.
- Collaborators are those who provide specific expertise on particular aspects of the project and form part of your wider research team. They do not share in the responsibility for the delivery of the project.
Applicants should clearly describe the track record/expertise of the proposed interdisciplinary research team in the relevant area, including publications, award income and influence on health practice and policy. Applications should make clear the particular contribution that each of the named Lead Applicants/ Co-applicants will make towards the research programme, and as necessary, the planned contribution by Collaborators. Leadership models where less experienced Lead Applicant’s managing projects or programmes are mentored and supported to be (Joint) Lead are welcomed. Detail on the mentoring and support arrangements provided by an experienced Principal Investigator must be provided in the application.
For NIHR Global Health Research programme calls, the contracting institution must be a HEI or Research Institute. An eligible LMIC or UK Research Institute is considered to be a not-for-profit research organisation likely possessing the following characteristics:
- Demonstration of a significant track record in obtaining funding for research through competitive processes, and delivering successful outcomes from this funding
- Demonstration of a track record in building and strengthening research capacity; this would likely include supporting individuals through a range of formal training positions (i.e. Masters, PhD, postdoctoral, etc.)
- Demonstration of the ability to manage large awards supporting research and/or research capacity strengthening, through established research support functions (e.g. finance, intellectual property etc)
Affiliated LMIC/UK organisations
Researchers at LMIC-based academic Research Institutes that are affiliated with a UK or other High-Income Country (HIC) HEI are eligible to apply as (Joint) Lead, provided that the LMIC academic Research Institute meets the characteristics outlined above, maintains its scientific independence from the UK/other HIC HEI, and is considered an entity of its own. These institutes are expected to have strong local research governance and research support services; have a legal framework in place locally for conducting research and training, and be appropriately integrated into the local health system. It is expected that these organisations are fully operational in the LMIC, with capacity to employ staff, own assets, manage finances and take ownership of contractual obligations.
In applications proposing joint leadership between an LMIC-based academic Research Institute affiliated with a HIC HEI and their affiliated HIC HEI, it is expected that the joint lead institutions are legally separate to the extent that they would require a legally binding collaboration agreement for the research to commence.
The contracting organisation must be able to sign a contract with DHSC directly, and not via an intermediary or “parent” institution based in a HIC, and funding would usually be expected to flow directly to the contracting organisation named in the application. Equally, funding between the contracting joint lead organisation and its non-contracting joint lead organisation would be expected to flow directly (not via an intermediary or “parent” institution based in a HIC). In situations where flow of funding via an intermediary or “parent” based in an HIC is unavoidable, please discuss this with NIHR and justify this need within the application.
Non-health research organisations
For example an institute of engineering, can act as (Joint) Lead, Co-applicant or Collaborator, provided their expertise is relevant to the plans and their work will fall within the remit of the call.
(NGOs)/charities are eligible to apply as (Joint) Lead Applicants, provided they fulfil the expected characteristics of a Research Institute outlined above. NGOs who don’t fulfil these characteristics may be eligible to join the application as a Co-applicant or Collaborator.
Cannot be a (Joint) Lead on an application. However, these organisations may be included in applications as Co-applicant or Collaborators or via service level agreement, providing it is clear what benefit a commercial organisation would bring to the research programme and the research complies with ODA eligibility criteria. In addition, a company’s commercial model must be compatible with the conditions laid out in the NIHR research contract and NIHR’s policies around funding indirect costs. It is important that any applicant organisation is aligned with NIHR’s principles including open access to research.
Cannot be a (Joint) Lead on an application, however, these organisations may be included in applications as Co-applicant or Collaborators.
NHS Trusts, arms-length bodies or executive agencies of the UK Government
Are not eligible to act as (Joint) Lead applicants but may be eligible as Co-applicants or Collaborator where there is clear justification for their involvement.
Non-LMIC Co-Applicants or Collaborators
Are eligible provided Official Development Assistance (ODA) eligibility criteria are met, there is clear justification for their involvement and that these resources/expertise cannot be found within LMICs. Where some elements of the research are not undertaken in an ODA-eligible country during the course of the award (including where a country graduates from the DAC list during the lifetime of the award or there is a need for specialist expertise) the application must clearly state the reasons for this with due consideration to the benefit of the research to ODA-eligible countries.
Equitable and Sustainable Partnerships
Partnerships proposed in applications may build on existing relationships or represent the development of a new collaborative relationship. Applications should describe the approach to ensuring equity in partnerships and demonstrate how the partnerships will be able to deliver and sustain their research and capacity strengthening goals in the countries involved.
In line with the International Development (Gender Equality) Act 2014 and the UK Equalities Act 2010, as well as NIHR principles, NIHR expects equality diversity and inclusion considerations to be strongly reflected in research partnerships, programme leadership, decision-making, capacity strengthening, governance, appropriate distribution of funds, ethics processes, data ownership, and dissemination of findings. All proposals should consider input from and equitable representation of researchers, for example, from countries involved in the research, of different genders, at all career stages, and from multiple disciplines. There should be no disadvantages relating to areas of diversity, such as gender or sex, disability or any other protected characteristics as defined in the UK. As well as being assessed as part of the application process, the approach to equitable partnerships will be monitored and evaluated throughout the lifetime of funding.
Examples of how to achieve the above aims include:
- All parties listed as Lead or Co-applicant within the research team must have significant input to the research and its management (from the co-design stage through to dissemination) and should form an integral part of the leadership structure.
- Research partnerships should be equitable and clearly demonstrate gender balance, diversity and inclusion within the leadership, research prioritisation and design, delivery, research and capacity building activities and promote mutual benefits for all partners ((Joint) Lead(s), Co-applicants and Collaborators). Justification should be provided where this is not possible and the plans in place to address this over the longer term.
- All funded partnerships must have a strong underpinning research ethic based on mutual respect and understanding for different cultural, ethnic, social and economic beliefs and practices.
- The budget should be driven by the complexity and level of ambition for the work plans and partnerships. The NIHR expectation is that funds will be distributed equitably between partners, and that the flow of funds will reflect where the majority of work is taking place (i.e. in LMICs), and strongly underpin capacity strengthening within LMICs. Where this is not possible applications should justify how the funds will primarily benefit LMIC organisations. The Funding Committee will carefully scrutinise the balance of funds between the UK and LMICs expecting a majority flow for the direct benefit of LMICs.
- The roles and contributions of all members working as part of the partnership must be clearly stated within the application and must represent meaningful contributions and equitable collaboration.
- Full consideration should be given to additional complexity of managing large collaborations. Applicants should consider:
Will the number of proposed Co-applicants (and Collaborators) introduce undue complexity in the management and set up arrangements within the available
- Will there be sufficient funds available to support all partners to make a meaningful contribution?
- Is the size and breadth of expertise in the team justified and appropriate for delivery of the proposed programme?
- Full consideration should be given to additional complexity of managing large collaborations. Applicants should consider:
(Joint) Lead institutions are expected to provide institutional support throughout the lifetime of the award, such as the agreement of the employing institutions to undertake the research and willingness to provide the space, facilities and time for their staff to be able to deliver on the proposed research plans.
Further guidance to support developing and sustaining Equitable Research Partnerships can be found on the NIHR website.
Applicants may find the following resources useful:
- A Guide for Transboundary Research Partnerships (Swiss Commission for Research Partnerships with Developing Countries (KFPE)
- The UKCDR report on Building effective and equitable research collaborations (this link will open a .PDF document
- Co-Design as Collaborative Research Connected Communities Foundation Series (this link will open a .PDF document)
- NIHR Guidance on co-producing a research project, March 2018
- UKRI – KFPE workshop report: Working in Effective Partnerships to Address Sustainable Development Goals
Training and Capacity Strengthening
The NIHR is committed to strengthening individual and institutional capacity to undertake and manage applied health research for the long term to support sustainability and the research ecosystem as a whole.
Applicants must include a research capacity strengthening (RCS) component in their application. The NIHR recognise that there is no single agreed definition of RCS but highlight the UK Collaborative on Development Research (UKCDR) definition of RCS as ‘Enhancing the ability and resources of individuals, institutions, and/or systems to undertake, communicate, and/or use high quality research efficiently, effectively, and sustainably’. For NIHR Global Health Research Programmes, the objectives and priorities for RCS identified by/with local stakeholders should support or bring sustainable solutions to key national problems within LMICs. Teams should consider and cost activities that will build and help sustain both researcher capacity and support wider finance and research management capacity at institutional level.
Funds can be requested for a range of activities, for example:
- Full or partial formal training posts (including but not limited to BSc, MSc, MPhil, MRes, PhD, Post docs);
- Training in technical research skills, training and support to facilitate effective Community Engagement and Involvement, and personal development skills, such as, but not limited to, grant writing, writing for publication, communication and influencing skills, time management, team working etc.;
- Other wider institutional capacity strengthening activities such as finance management, research management, data management, legal compliance and assurance training;
- Institutional systems for coaching, mentoring and/or peer-mentorship.
These activities can be delivered through a range of mechanisms, such as through courses, workshops, exchanges and other relevant training activities.
NIHR strongly encourages opportunities for career development, particularly for early career researchers based in LMICs, for example, through involvement in co-design, analysis and dissemination of research, and leadership of work packages within the team.
Applications should demonstrate an understanding of the national and local context and work collaboratively and effectively with local stakeholders to ensure the research programme supports existing research capacity and increases sustainability in LMIC countries where the work is taking place.
NIHR will fund full studentship costs for LMIC national students who are based in ODA-eligible countries. All studentships will be considered, including but not limited to MScs and PhDs.
NIHR will also fund student fees for LMIC national students who are based in ODA-eligible countries but registered at an institution in a High-Income Country (HIC). In cases where the application includes LMIC student fees at a HIC institution, it is expected that the relevant Lead Applicant will negotiate with the HIC institution for reduced fees for the LMIC candidate. Applications for funding should show evidence of fees being reduced.
Please note: that HIC studentship fees or stipend costs are eligible only for ODA-eligible students. Student fees or stipends for HIC students registered at an HIC institution would not be eligible, regardless of the programme of study.
It is expected that studentships are co-terminus with the award. Therefore, where PhDs are being included as part of formal training plans, funding awards should be for a minimum of 48 months to allow time for recruitment and completion of training within the funded award period.
English language training in the context of all studentships is an eligible cost, provided clear justification and a strong value for money argument are given.
Details must be provided on the planned numbers of each type of formal training post, how these posts will be advertised in open competition and how individuals will be supported to develop a formal training plan.
Funded NIHR Global Health Research Programme awards will be expected to have a named Training Lead who will develop and lead a training plan for the NIHR Award. This individual will co-ordinate and lead career development activities across the Award, and act as the liaison point on training with the NIHR Academy. They would also be expected to be an active member of the NIHR Global Health Training Forum to coordinate and maximise training opportunities within the funded NIHR cohort.
Individuals receiving funding from, or being supported by, an NIHR Global Health Research Programme (including NIHR Global Research Professorships) to develop their academic career become NIHR Academy Members and are eligible for the career development and training support provided by the NIHR Academy.
Applicants may find the following resources useful:
- Seven Principles for Strengthening Research Capacity in Low-and Middle-Income Countries (2014)
UKCDR Research Capacity Strengthening Tools, Resources and Guides.
UKCDR Research Capacity Strengthening: Lessons from UK funded initiatives in Low and Middle Income Countries
- The Concordat to Support the Career Development of Researchers
Programme Management and Governance
Complex programmes of global health research require significant levels of management to ensure successful delivery. It is a NIHR requirement that a full-time programme manager is appointed to manage the research contract, and sufficient resources are included and costed to manage the regular programme and financial reporting processes.
Applicants should clearly describe programme management and governance arrangements which should represent international best practice. Sufficient resources should be allocated to manage the programme/work streams from initiation to completion. This includes but is not limited to: contracting, due diligence, assurance and audit, procurement, data management, risk management (including financial, reputational and legal risks), quarterly financial reporting, monitoring, evaluation and learning, impact tracking, communication management, and compliance with ethics frameworks.
It is important to ensure the right programme management and governance support is in place for all collaborating institutions (LMIC, and non-LMIC), not just the contracting institution.
In addition to having a named Training Lead and lead for Community Engagement and Involvement (see relevant sections), NIHR recommends that applicants consider having named leads for Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning, and Data Management.
Applicants should clearly describe the proposed governance structure, which should include an external advisory group with proposed membership if known at this stage. This group should, as a minimum, have an independent Chair, be gender balanced, and have a range of members and key stakeholders with relevant expertise from the partner countries involved in the programme, as appropriate. The advisory group should advise on strategy and progress, oversee programme risks, and meet annually at a minimum.
Approach to Risk Management and Assurance
To make effective arrangements for financial reporting, risk management and assurance, applicants should consider the financial systems and financial management capacity of all collaborating institutions involved in the research, the level of risk within the partner countries, and tailor assurance and monitoring processes and resources appropriately. Applicants should ensure all partners are sufficiently resourced to meet the requirements for managing ODA funds.
Partner institutions are encouraged to perform a Good Financial Grants Practice (GFGP) self-assessment and, as required, work to towards an appropriate level of GFGP accreditation to increase their financial and risk management capability. Applications can include costs associated with these activities - see the relevant programme/call Finance Guidance.
Applicants should identify any known or anticipated risks which may be faced in delivering the research programme in the ODA-eligible partner country/(ies). These may be specific programme/project-related risks faced as contractor, or those faced in the implementing context (e.g., by ODA-eligible country researchers or clinicians).
Applicants should describe plans for financial assurance, fraud and safeguarding as follows.
Financial assurance, ODA compliance, monitoring and auditing of expenditure in ODA-eligible countries
- Applicants should describe arrangements for due diligence, the allocation and transfer of funds to country partners from the contracted institution and the financial processes, controls and audit measures in place to monitor and ensure appropriate use of funds, including any specific subcontracting arrangements for compliance auditing.
Fraud, bribery and corruption
- Applicants should describe the arrangements or governance mechanisms in place to prevent fraud, bribery and corruption and to ensure compliance for the duration of the Award.
- Applicants should describe the arrangements for safeguarding of study participants and project/programme staff. The contracting Institution will be expected to take all appropriate measures to prevent actual, attempted or threatened sexual exploitation, abuse or harassment by their employees or any other persons engaged and controlled by the Award to perform any activities within the Research Contract, and adopt robust procedures for the reporting of suspected misconduct, illegal acts or failures to investigate, including contractors timely reporting to NIHR all serious incidents and the outcome of investigations by contractors, downstream Co-applicant or collaborator organisations involved in managing the associated NIHR GHR award(s).
- NIHR Policy on Preventing Harm in Research
- NIHR Safeguarding Guidance
- UKCDR Guidance on Safeguarding in International Development Research
- FCDO Enhanced Due Diligence: Safeguarding for external partners
- Charity Commission’s guidance on how to manage risks when working internationally
- Good Financial Grant Practice (GFGP) standard online assessment tool
Delivery Chain Risk Maps
Applications should include a Delivery Chain Risk Map (DCRM) to show the overall structure of the partnerships/collaborations, the distribution of ODA funds to partners/collaborators; and the associated downstream risks and accountability for the risks down to the end beneficiaries.
The Delivery Chain Risk Map should depict:
- The name of all downstream delivery partners, their functions and relationships between the partners.
- Funding distributed to each delivery partner.
- High level risks involved in programme delivery, mitigating measures and associated controls. These should include fiduciary and other risks associated with managing ODA funds down the delivery chain. This should include consideration of the potential for fraud, bribery, corruption or terrorist financing. It might also consider the dependency on key partners and the coherence and value for money (VFM) of the overall supply chain for the project/programme.
These are expected to be regularly reviewed and updated at a minimum annually. For more information on the format and content please see the following NIHR DCRM guidance.
Funded NIHR Global Health Research Awards will be expected to develop a project risk register as a contractual milestone. The risk register should identify any specific risks for the research programme and partnerships, it should illustrate the impact of the risks and the likelihood of their occurrence, steps to mitigate risks and the residual risk after mitigation. Risk registers should be reviewed regularly over the life-time of the project and are a required submission alongside annual progress reports.
Research Contract and Collaboration Agreements
A copy of the current ODA research contract is available on the NIHR website. You may wish to speak to your contracts department to determine the time requirements for contract approvals for this award. NIHR will perform due diligence on the contracting institution prior to contracting. A due diligence assessment template example is available on our website.
Prior to any transfer of money from the contracting institution to the collaborating institution(s), NIHR expect that proportionate due diligence assessments will be undertaken by the contracting institution on the project partners. Details of the outcomes of due diligence assessments conducted by the contractor on ALL collaborating organisations will need to be shared with NIHR.
For organisations not previously funded by the NIHR GHR programme, additional eligibility and due diligence checks may need to be undertaken in addition to standard NIHR eligibility and due diligence checks prior to contracting.
It is NIHR’s advice to ensure draft Collaboration Agreements are developed between the contracting institution and partners as soon as possible after a successful funding decision has been communicated. Development of Collaboration Agreements can be a lengthy process and realistic requirements for this activity should be built into the project timeline. This will reduce potential for delays in transferring funds after the contract start date. Draft Collaboration Agreements will need to be submitted for review and approval by NIHR.
Collaboration agreements should include details on:
- Flow down and adherence to the terms of the DHSC ODA Research contract to partners/collaborators.
- Roles and responsibilities of each partner, approach to communication and leadership structure
- Authorship and use of findings including intellectual property
- Data management plan for accessing and sharing data by partners
- How the project will resolve any problems
- Transparent budgets and payment schedules to each partner
Further guidance on Collaboration Agreements will be provided to successful applicants. In the absence of an approved and signed Collaboration Agreement, the contracting institution will be transferring funds to partners at their own risk or will need to make any relevant payments on behalf of partners until an NIHR approved Collaboration Agreement signed by the partner(s) is in place.
Background and Foreground IP
The guidance in this section is provided to support timely study set up once funding has been awarded. For definitions of Background Intellectual Property (IP), Foreground IP, Arising Know How and Research Data, please refer to the DHSC ODA Research contract.
In their application, research teams need to describe at high level the considerations for Intellectual Property in the barriers to proposed work field under the Success and Barriers section of the Detailed Research Plan.
During the contracting process, in relation to intellectual property, the NIHR will ask successful research teams to clarify the following:
- That it will have permission to use any Background IP for the purposes of the research and, if necessary due to complicated ownership arrangements, complete schedule C of the NIHR GHR research contract with reference to clause 24.1.5 (a) of the contract;
- The proposed ownership arrangements of the Foreground IP, Arising Know How and Research Data. The parties should consider who is best placed to use, disseminate and/or commercially exploit the relevant intellectual property and/or database to maximise the opportunities to deliver patient benefit. There should be license arrangements with collaborators (usually contained within the Collaboration Agreement signed for a project) for research and teaching purposes and/or in the support of the development, promotion or provision of health care or for any other purpose that is not a Commercial Use.
With respect to joint IP, please note that the NIHR does not recommend joint ownership of Foreground IP, Arising Know How and/or Research Data arrangements preferring that the research team agrees the IP ownership arrangements at the application stage as above. This is because owning the IP jointly can lead to delays about how the IP/data is used, disseminated and/or exploited and thus create a potential barrier to delivering patient benefit. Normally, giving Collaborators appropriate licensed rights to use Foreground IP, Arising Know How and Research Data is sufficient to avoid the need for joint IP. If specific circumstances for a proposed project mean that joint ownership of Foreground IP, Arising Know How and/or Research Data may be appropriate, please provide a justification in your application.
Regulatory Approvals and Compliance
Research requiring ethical approval must have the appropriate approvals in place, usually in both the LMIC and UK (any other country involved in the research) before it can commence. Applicants should ensure all plans for research follow the UK Policy Framework For Health and Social Care Research, the Concordat to support Research Integrity (this link will open a .PDF document), and the UK HRA guidance Governance Arrangements for Research Ethics Committees, and that research performed in partner countries is conducted in accordance with regulations and to a standard no less stringent than those applicable in the UK. Applicants should provide their plans for ethical review of the proposed activities in the relevant countries (LMIC/non-LMIC). Applicants should anticipate that securing ethical reviews can be a long process in their work plans. NIHR will seek evidence of positive ethics approvals as part of NIHR's standard contract monitoring. If there are no plans to obtain ethical review, the reasons for this must be provided.
Where the research involves vulnerable individuals or groups (e.g. children under the age of 18 or individuals lacking capacity to consent), applicants should describe how they will manage their involvement in the Ethical Consideration section of their Detailed Research Plan.
Applicants may find it useful to refer to the following online resources:
- MRC guidelines for the management of global health trials
- The Health Research Authority (HRA)
- HRA tool to help you decide whether you need ethical approval
- The MRC guidance on ethics and approvals.
Dissemination, Outputs and anticipated Impact
Applicants should describe the planned outputs of the research, how these will be communicated and to whom, and detail the proposed short, medium and longer term impact of the research. Impact is defined as the demonstrable contribution that research makes to society and the economy, of benefit to individuals, organisations and nations.
In their proposals applicants should consider the following:
- intended outputs of the research;
- likelihood of significant contribution to the evidence base in the relevant area;
- plans for engagement with policy makers, health practitioners, communities and the public at an early stage;
- pathways to improving health and wellbeing in ODA-eligible countries by 2030 (in line with Sustainable Development Goal 3).
Successful applicants will be required to submit a clearly outlined Theory of Change developed collaboratively with key stakeholders, as a contracted deliverable within 6 months of the start of the award. This should outline how the funded activities are expected to contribute to a chain of results that lead to the intended scale up of impacts on policy and practice. To include consideration of:
- how and when relevant stakeholders (policy makers, practitioners, public) will be engaged (from research design, implementation, analysis, to reporting and dissemination);
- underlying assumptions/risks;
- any external factors (social, political, economic, environmental, technological, legal, demographic, cultural context, other funders' activities) which may (either positively or negatively) influence the success of the programme in achieving these impacts;
- the sustainability of impacts (e.g. individual and institutional capacity strengthening initiatives, is there an appropriate exit strategy involving effective transfer of ownership?).
It is recommended that an experienced lead for Monitoring Evaluation and Learning (MEL) is appointed within the team to give consideration to requirements for MEL. This could include developing the Theory of Change, identifying and collecting relevant indicators to monitor progress against a baseline, designing and conducting a process/impact evaluation, and ensuring that there are processes in place to capture emerging lessons and feed these back into research activities.
Open Access Research Publication Costs
As per the NIHR Open Access publications policy, all peer-reviewed research articles funded by the NIHR Global Health Research Portfolio must be published immediately with open access. When an Open Access payment is applicable, NIHR will pay reasonable fees required by a publisher to effect publication in line with the criteria of the NIHR Open Access policy.
Applicants should refer to the NIHR Open Access publications funding guidance for further information. From 1 June 2022, Open access publication costs do not need to be predicted or incorporated into budgets at the time of application.
Funded NIHR Global Health Research Awards will be required to submit the following to NIHR:
- Quarterly finance reports and financial forecasts
- Regular milestones and deliverable reports
- Annual detailed progress report
- Emerging outputs, including detail in relation to the gender and country location of the authors
- At the end of the award,
- a final report summarising the research findings, contextual learning and impact for publication
- a synopsis summarising the key research publications, outputs, impacts and key learning to support knowledge mobilisation. This will be published in the NIHR Global Health Journal, an open access publication supporting transparency related to ODA impact and shared learning.
Applicants should ensure sufficient resources are requested to enable all of the above to be delivered.
Equality Diversity and Inclusion
Official Development Assistance (ODA) funds provided by NIHR must comply with the gender equality and other requirements of the International Development Act. Under the International Development (Gender Equality) Act 2014, development assistance should be provided in a way which is likely to contribute to reducing inequality between persons of different gender. The OECD-DAC Network on Gender Equality states that as a minimum, projects need to ensure a ‘do no harm’ approach – that is, projects consider the potential risks of unintentionally perpetuating gender inequalities in the context of their work, proactively monitor risks, and take corrective measures if applicable.
In addition, NIHR has a legal obligation under the Equality Act 2010, the Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED), to have due regard to the need to ‘advance equality of opportunity between persons who share a relevant protected characteristic’, to ‘eliminate discrimination, harassment, victimisation and any other conduct that is prohibited by or under this Act’ and ‘foster good relations between persons who share a relevant protected characteristic and persons who do not share it.’ The protected characteristics in UK law are: age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation.
Applicants are currently required to provide Equality and Diversity Monitoring Information (age, sex, ethnicity and disability) when submitting their application. By answering these Equality and Diversity Monitoring Information questions, applicants will help the NIHR to better understand the different groups of people that apply to us for funding and their experiences of the funding process – particularly the groups protected by UK equality legislation. Although it is mandatory to answer these questions, it is possible to select “prefer not to say” as a response, however, the more information applicants provide, the more effective the NIHR monitoring will be. This information will not be used to make decisions about funding. As part of NIHR’s ongoing commitment to promoting Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) we are reviewing the most applicable data collection categories for global health as part of our NIHR EDI strategy.
NIHR will also monitor how equality, diversity and inclusion have been considered at the award level throughout the lifetime of the research awards. This will include both considerations at the researcher level (as outlined in the Equitable Partnerships section) and how the research team are engaging with the relevant communities (including relevant sub-groups) to ensure that those with protected characteristics (as defined in the UK) are equal beneficiaries of the research findings.
All NIHR-funded research projects are required to adhere to the NIHR position on sharing of research data.
- RDI Network (2020) Enhancing Research Impact in International Development: A practical guide for practitioners and researchers. Authored by Nichole Georgeou and Charles Hawksley.
- Ellen Harries, Lindsay Hodgson and James Noble (2014) Creating your Theory of Change: NPC’s practical guide
- Isabel Vogel (2012) Review of the use of ‘Theory of Change’ in international development (this link will open a .PDF document)
- UK Aid Direct Gender Equality ( this link will open a. PDF document)
- Diversity and Solidarity in Global Health – Lancet Global Health (2021)
- The EDCTP Knowledge hub – Data management portal
Guidance for applicants on equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) for study participants
Every person eligible to take part in research should be offered the same opportunity of taking part in that research regardless of geographical location and protected characteristics as defined in the UK.
All NIHR applications are expected to include information about how diversity data will be collected.
In addition, applicants should demonstrate how EDI has been considered and addressed in their proposal, including steps taken to ensure the research sample is representative of the population the study is targeted at and will consider the most marginalised groups. Applicants need to explain who they are planning to recruit to ensure inclusivity of study participants and justify and explain any exclusions, for example by completing an Equality Impact Assessment. Additionally, applicants should demonstrate that all potential recruiting locations have been considered and the research is deliverable to those areas.
The following links, toolkit and guidance, related to learning within the UK, on increasing inclusion and participation of under-served groups may be helpful:
- A practitioner’s guide for public involvement in research – the Race Equality Framework (a UK based framework)
- NIHR INCLUDE Ethnicity Framework - aims to improve trial delivery for under-served groups in UK
- Improving inclusion of under-served groups in clinical research: Guidance from INCLUDE project (UK based guidance)
- NIHR INCLUDE Guidance (COVID-19 specific)
- NIHR promoting Equality, Diversity and Inclusion
Success criteria for and barriers to proposed work
Applicants should clearly describe the critical path of the research programme, equitable partnership development and capacity strengthening plans, quarterly for the first 12 months, then annually thereafter, outlining how the research team will demonstrate successful attainment of these milestones each year. These should relate to the milestones set out in the Research Project Timetable section of the Detailed Research Plan and will be used to monitor project progress. NIHR recommends that research teams use the SMART methodology when developing objectives with clearly defined success measures. This narrative should be supported by a Programme/Project GANTT chart/schedule, to be provided as a mandatory upload.
Barriers to proposed work
Applicants should describe any known or anticipated challenges and risks which may be faced in research set up, delivery and uptake, equitable partnership development and capacity strengthening, and consider challenges faced by the collaborating institutions in partner countries. Applicants should outline the specific challenges and risks particularly associated with their research plans rather than describe general challenges.
Applicants should remember to include any critical dependencies - especially around specific authorisations, ethical approvals, access to data, technology, materials or other inventions that are subject to any form of intellectual property protection (e.g. copyright, design rights, patents) or rights owned by another organisation(s) that are critical to the delivery of the research in the LMIC setting as well as to the uptake of any likely output or innovation directly in the LMIC(s). Applicants should identify appropriate actions that would reduce or eliminate each barrier or its impact and what residual risks remain after mitigation.
Community Engagement and Involvement
Community Engagement and Involvement (CEI) is a core principle in NIHR Global Health Research Programmes, alongside equitable partnerships and strengthening the LMIC research ecosystem at all levels. The NIHR expects global health research to be undertaken in collaboration with the communities who are most likely affected by the research outcomes; that those who are marginalised should have a meaningful voice in the full spectrum of the research - in the design, delivery and dissemination of research.
Patients and the general public within a given community, especially vulnerable groups who are at the greatest risk, will normally be the key groups included in CEI activities. Community stakeholders such as community leaders, opinion leaders, non-governmental organisations and civil society, service commissioners and providers, policy and lawmakers are examples of other stakeholders who can be involved.
There is no standard model for CEI. Applicants should plan for and undertake meaningful, ethical and inclusive CEI and demonstrate that their planned CEI approach is appropriate and effective in the local context and for their study design. CEI practices should be integrated throughout the research cycle and be evident in informing the design, methods and research outcomes, as well as in governance and managing, monitoring, evaluating and disseminating the research. Applicants should ensure that those in the community who are most affected by the health issue(s) or thematic area under consideration should be empowered to contribute towards decision-making. Applicants should map out and describe stakeholders in their community, outline how they have been involved in developing the research proposal, and state what influence or change has happened as a result of their engagement and involvement. Applicants are encouraged to utilise the UNICEF Minimum Standards for Community Engagement which promotes principles such as participation,empowerment and ownership, inclusion, bi-directional communication, adaptability and localisation and building on local capacity.
The research team should ensure that there is interdisciplinary expertise that will facilitate partner and stakeholder coordination and integration of CEI throughout the research cycle. Appropriate local Co-applicants or Collaborators, and community members must be involved in leading and delivering CEI activities. The team, and those that are actively engaged and involved in the programme, should co-produce and agree an appropriate CEI strategy and plan as well as training and support to facilitate effective CEI.
CEI requires time for relationship building, transparency, reflection and flexibility and often involves an iterative and deliberative participatory approach, which requires significant human resource input and organisational support. As such, applicants should include realistic costs for CEI in their applications. Funded programmes will have their CEI activities monitored against their plans for the duration of the research lifecycle. CEI contributions will be included in the final overall impact assessment at the end of the study.
NIHR recommends that research teams assign a member of the project team with relevant experience and expertise in CEI to act as CEI lead to co-ordinate and oversee activities.
CEI useful resources
- NIHR Community Engagement and Involvement tools and resources website
- NIHR vision and goals for community engagement and involvement in global health research
- NIHR Community Engagement and Involvement Resource Guide (this link will open a .PDF document)
- UNICEF Minimum Quality Standards and Indicators for Community Engagement (this link will open a .PDF document)
Applicants may also find it helpful to refer to Mesh, a collaborative open-access web space that provides resources, encourages networking and shares good practice to bridge the gap between the research community and the general public in low and middle income countries.
Finance - Eligible costs
- Research staff engaged in relevant research
- Research support staff supporting relevant research
- Travel, subsistence, meetings, conferences
- Community engagement and involvement
- Risk management and assurance
- Training and development
- External intervention costs
- Other direct costs specific to the research
- Other legitimate and reasonable indirect costs (e.g. HR, finance)
Costs for awards will be scrutinised as part of the assessment process and the Funding Committee reserve the right to award only part of the funds requested.
All costs should be fully justified, NIHR will challenge costs that it does not consider appropriate or does not consider providing value for money.
Applicants should refer to the relevant call-specific Finance Guidance for Applicants for full details and call-specific content.
Justification of Costs
Justification for all resources requested should be provided in the appropriate part of the NIHR GHR application form.
Applicants must demonstrate how the costs included in their application provide value for money, as described below. The justification must be clear, concise, and substantiate why a cost is necessary.
Value for Money
The NIHR requires evidence of good value for money within the justification of costs and considers this to be the optimal use of resources to achieve the intended outcomes. ‘Optimal’ being considered as ‘the most desirable possible given expressed or implied restrictions or constraints’. Value for money goes beyond achieving the lowest initial price and includes consideration of Economy, Efficiency, Effectiveness, and Equity (as appropriate) and what these mean in the context of a research proposal:
Economy: Are we buying inputs of the appropriate quality at the right price? (Inputs are things such as staff, consultants, raw materials and capital that are used to produce outputs).
Efficiency: How well do we convert inputs into outputs? (Outputs are results delivered by us or our agents to an external party. We exercise strong control over the quality and quantity of outputs).
Effectiveness: How well are the outputs from an intervention achieving the desired outcome? (Note that in contrast to outputs, we do not exercise direct control over outcomes).
Equity: the extent to which the outputs of our interventions are equitably distributed.
Applicants may find the following resource useful:
- A UK Aid Direct guide to Value for Money (this link will open a .PDF document)