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Global Health Research Programmes - Core Guidance for Applicants


Published: 02 June 2020

Version: 6 - August 2023

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About the Core Guidance

The NIHR Global Health Research (GHR) 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 (OECD) Development Assistance Committee (DAC) list.

The NIHR GHR programme uses UK International Development funding (Official Development Assistance (ODA) budget) from the UK Government. The overall principles and guidance on ODA eligibility requirements are outlined in the ODA Guidance for Applicants and Peer Reviewers.

This core guidance covers the key principles of NIHR GHR funding. The guidance is structured to help research teams applying to NIHR GHR programme calls, whether they are new applicants or existing award holders.

Career Development Awards, such as NIHR Global Research Professorships, will also follow the principles outlined in this document.

This document should be read alongside each programme’s specific call guidance for details of specific eligibility requirements, scope and remit.

You can find call-specific guidance through our funding opportunity page.

Further reading and links to other helpful resources are mentioned throughout this core guidance. The Resources and Further Reading section at the end of this document lists these helpful materials.

How many applications can I make?

Applicants may submit one or more distinct applications to NIHR GHR calls in parallel. Submissions of revised applications in response to prior committee feedback are eligible where these meet the call remit and specification. We reserve the right to reject similar applications submitted in parallel to more than one call.

Submissions to more than one NIHR Global Health Research call

We will not accept identical or substantially similar applications to multiple NIHR GHR calls.

You need to take into account the specific remit of each funding call and decide which opportunity to apply for, according to the aims and call criteria. Where multiple applications across calls are submitted, any applications proposing similar research themes, geographies, or teams will be carefully scrutinised to ensure there is no overlap. If overlap is identified, only the application that is most advanced through the funding process will be considered. Other applications will not be taken further.

Please note NIHR also undertakes overlap checks against the funded portfolio and across other major funding bodies.

Similar applications will only be considered by two NIHR GHR programmes concurrently (at the same time) if:

  • the aims and research proposals are substantially different
  • the successful delivery of one project is not dependent on the other
  • where similar teams are proposed, that individuals can deliver at the full-time equivalent (FTE) proposed for both awards

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.

Each NIHR contract is managed separately and independently, even where a new contract supports the continuation or expansion of prior project work. There is no automatic transfer of contracted activities or funds between consecutive contracts without prior agreement with us. For example, an application for funding the next phase of a near-completion project (extending the research into new areas or geographies) is treated independently and requires a separate contract.

Higher Education Institutions or Research Institutes submitting multiple applications to the same NIHR GHR call

Where multiple applications are submitted by the same Higher Education Institution (HEI)/Research Institute to the same call, Lead Applicants should be equally balanced between genders. Organisations should consider:

Structure of the Team

We expect the team to include one or more Lead Applicants, depending on the NIHR GHR programme and call, plus a proportionate and manageable number of Co-applicants and Collaborators.

Lead Applicants

Lead Applicants are researchers employed at an eligible LMIC- or UK-based HEI or Research Institute. They should be able to lead and manage a substantial programme of global health research.

We will review applications proposing a (Joint) Lead Applicant holding an honorary contract with a (Joint) Lead organisation to ensure they meet the call eligibility criteria.

(Joint) Leads must provide details of all other institutional affiliations as part of the application. Where applicants hold part-time roles in different organisations, it is expected that applications made as Lead Applicant will be made from only one institution, generally where the substantive FTE is held. This principle applies across GHR funding calls and ongoing awards.


Co-applicants are 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 and accountability for its successful delivery.


Collaborators, which includes consultants and service level providers, provide specific expertise on particular aspects of the project. They may form part of the wider project team but are not accountable for the delivery of the project.

Expertise of the Team

Applications should clearly describe the track record and expertise of the proposed interdisciplinary project team in the relevant area, including publications, award income and influence on health practice and policy. You should make clear the particular contribution that each of the named Lead Applicants, Co-applicants, and Collaborators will make towards the research project.

We strongly encourage diversifying leadership, and encourage the development of leaders based in LMICs. We welcome leadership models where less experienced Lead Applicants managing projects or programmes are mentored and supported as (Joint) Leads. Please provide details of the mentoring and support arrangements to be put in place.

Institutional Eligibility

HEIs and Research Institutes

For NIHR GHR programme calls, the contracting institution must be an HEI or Research Institute. An eligible LMIC or UK Research Institute is defined as a not-for-profit research organisation with a:

  • demonstrable track record in obtaining funding for research through competitive processes, and delivering successful outcomes from this funding
  • track record in building and strengthening research capacity including Masters, PhD, and other formal training
  • ability to manage internationally competitive awards through research support functions to include finance, intellectual property (IP), and procurement
    • this includes the capacity to transfer funds to partner organisations in different countries and, if relevant, knowledge of any national restrictions on transferring funds to other country partners

  • capacity to track all expenditure, complete quarterly financial reports, manage virements between budget headings, and respond to audit requests

Affiliated Organisations (LMIC and UK)

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 Research Institute is an independent entity with:

  • the capacity to employ staff, own assets, manage finances, and take direct ownership of contractual obligations
  • strong local research governance and research support services
  • a legal framework in place locally for conducting research and training
  • integration into the local health system
  • legal independence from any affiliated organisation proposed as a joint lead

In applications proposing joint leadership between an LMIC-based 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.

Please contact the relevant NIHR programme lead to discuss any queries. We will request confirmation of the need for a collaboration agreement between joint lead institutions to assure their legal independence from each other.

The contracting organisation must be able to sign an ODA research contract with the UK Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) directly, not via an intermediary or “parent” institution based in a HIC. Funding is usually expected to flow directly to the contracting organisation named in the application. Funding from the contracting joint lead organisation to the non-contracting joint lead organisation should flow directly, not via an intermediary or “parent” institution based in a HIC. In situations where funding through an intermediary or “parent” institution based in an HIC is considered unavoidable, please discuss with us prior to submission and provide justification within the application.

Non-health Research Organisations

Organisations not focused on health research, such as an institute of engineering, can act as (Joint) Leads, Co-applicants or Collaborators, provided their expertise is relevant to the plans and their work will fall within the remit of the call.

Non-Governmental Organisations and Charities

Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and charities are eligible to apply as (Joint) Lead Applicants, provided they fulfil the expected characteristics of a Research Institute outlined above. NGOs that do not fulfil these characteristics may be eligible to join the application as a Co-applicant or Collaborator.

Commercial organisations

Commercial organisations cannot be a (Joint) Lead on an application. They may be Co-applicants or Collaborators via a service-level agreement, if you can clearly demonstrate the benefit a commercial organisation would bring to the research programme, that their contributions are compliant with ODA eligibility criteria, and that they provide value for money. In addition, a company’s commercial model must be:

Government agencies

Government agencies 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, and executive agencies of the UK Government

NHS Trusts, arms-length bodies or executive agencies of the UK Government cannot be (Joint) Leads on an application, but may be eligible as Co-applicants or Collaborators where there is clear justification for their involvement.

Multilateral Organisations

Multilateral Organisations cannot be a (Joint) Lead on an application. However, these organisations may be included in applications as Co-applicants or Collaborators.

Non-LMIC Co-applicants or Collaborators

Non-LMIC Co-applicants or Collaborators are eligible, provided that:

  • ODA eligibility criteria are met overall
  • there is clear justification for their involvement
  • these resources and expertise cannot be found within LMICs

Where some elements of the research are not undertaken in an ODA-eligible LMIC (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 direct and primary benefit of the research to ODA-eligible LMICs.

Equitable and Sustainable Partnerships

Partnerships proposed in applications may be based on existing or new collaborative relationships. You should describe your approach to ensuring equity in partnerships, and demonstrate how the partnerships will deliver and sustain research and capacity strengthening goals.

In line with the International Development (Gender Equality) Act 2014 and the UK Equality Act 2010, as well as NIHR principles, there should be a clear commitment to EDI within applications. We expect EDI considerations to be strongly reflected throughout the application and across all aspects of the research lifecycle. The approach to equitable and sustainable partnerships is assessed at the application stage, as well as then monitored and evaluated throughout the lifetime of a funded award.

Considerations for achieving EDI aims:

  • there should be clear evidence of inclusion processes being in place, with no disadvantages relating to gender, sex, disability, or any other protected characteristics, as defined in the UK
  • all parties listed as a 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
  • all parties should be part of the leadership structure
  • proposals should include input from researchers across all collaborating partner organisations, representing the range of countries, nationalities, ethnicities, career stages, and disciplines involved in the research
  • 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 scale and complexity of the work plans and partnerships and that funds will:
    • be distributed equitably between partners
    • mainly be spent in the LMICs where the work is taking place
    • strongly underpin research and capacity strengthening within those LMICs
  • the roles and contributions of all members working as part of the partnership must be clearly stated within the application and must provide demonstrable contributions to the project and support equitable and sustainable collaboration
  • give full consideration to the additional complexity of managing large collaborations:
    • will the number of proposed Co-applicants and Collaborators introduce undue complexity in project setup and management?
    • will there be sufficient funds available to support all partners to make a demonstrable contribution?
    • is the range of expertise in the team justified and appropriate for delivery of the proposed programme?

(Joint) Lead institutions are expected to provide institutional support throughout the lifetime of the award. This means the employing institutions must agree to provide the space, facilities, and time for their staff to deliver on the proposed research plans.

On our website, we have published further guidance to support developing and sustaining Equitable Research Partnerships between LMICs and the UK.

Training and Capacity Strengthening

We are 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.

We use the UK Collaborative on Development Research (UKCDR) definition of Research Capacity Strengthening (RCS): ‘Enhancing the ability and resources of individuals, institutions, and/or systems to undertake, communicate, and/or use high quality research efficiently, effectively, and sustainably’.

You must include an RCS component in your application. For NIHR GHR Programmes, the objectives and priorities for RCS identified by or with local stakeholders should support or develop sustainable solutions to key national problems within ODA-eligible LMICs.

You should include and cost activities that will:

  • strengthen and sustain the capacity of individual researchers and teams
  • support research management capacity at institutional level, including project and financial management

RCS activities might include:

  • 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 (CEI)
  • development of skills such as grant writing, writing for publication, communication and influencing skills, time management and team working
  • finance management, research management, data management, legal compliance and assurance training
  • institutional systems for coaching, mentoring, or peer-mentorship

We strongly encourage opportunities for career development, particularly for early career researchers based in LMICs. Opportunities for career development could include involvement in:

  • co-design, analysis and dissemination of research
  • leadership of work packages within the team, with the provision of any necessary mentoring support

You should demonstrate an understanding of the national and local context. Applications should work collaboratively and effectively with local stakeholders to ensure the research project supports existing research capacity and increases sustainability in LMICs where the work is taking place.

Funding for studentships

Eligible studentship costs

We will fund full studentship costs for LMIC national students who are registered at an HEI in an ODA-eligible LMIC or a HIC. All studentships will be considered, including but not limited to, Masters and Postdoctoral degrees.

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.

You should refer to our GHR finance guidance for further detail on Studentships.

Ineligible HIC studentship costs

Student fees or stipend costs for HIC national students are not eligible, regardless of their location or programme of study.

Studentship funding requirements

When applying for funding for studentships, you should consider that:

  • funded studentships should not continue beyond the end of the award: where PhDs are included as part of formal training plans, you will need at least four years to allow time for recruitment and completion of training within the funded award period
  • English language training is an eligible cost, provided that clear justification and a strong value for money argument are given
  • applications should include 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 their formal training plan


We fund stipends for LMIC national students, regardless of whether they are registered at an HEI in an ODA-eligible LMIC or a HIC, so long as additional support or salary is not received from another source during the period of the training course, and that the course has of a minimum duration of 12 months.

You should refer to our GHR finance guidance for further detail on Stipends.

NIHR Academy membership

The NIHR Academy is responsible for the development and coordination of NIHR academic training, career development and research capacity development. Everyone who receives funding or support from an NIHR GHR Programme to develop their academic career automatically becomes a member of the NIHR Academy and eligible for career development and training support, including Global Health Professorships, Short Placement Award for Research Collaboration (GHR SPARC) and Global Health Research Cohort Academic Development Award (GHR CADA) awards.

Training leads

Your application should include a named Training Lead who will develop and lead a training plan for your NIHR Award. This Training Lead will coordinate and lead career development activities across the Award, and act as the liaison point for events and opportunities with the NIHR Academy. They will be expected to be an active member of the NIHR Global Health Training Forum to coordinate and maximise training opportunities for all Academy members.

Programme Management and Governance

Complex programmes of global health research need significant levels of management to ensure successful delivery. It is an NIHR requirement that a full-time programme manager is appointed to manage the research contract.

You 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 start to finish across all countries and institutions. These may include:

  • contracting
  • due diligence
  • assurance and audit
  • procurement
  • data management
  • risk management (including financial, reputational and legal)
  • quarterly financial reporting
  • monitoring, evaluation and learning
  • impact tracking
  • communication management
  • compliance with ethics frameworks

It is important to ensure the right programme management and governance support is in place for all Co-applicant and Collaborating institutions (LMIC and non-LMIC), not only the contracting institution.

Named Project Leads

We recommend the inclusion of one or more named leads within projects to coordinate activities for:

  • training
  • Community Engagement and Involvement (CEI)
  • monitoring, evaluation and learning
  • data management and governance

All NIHR-funded research projects are required to adhere to the NIHR position on sharing of research data.

Independent Strategic Advisory Group

You should clearly describe the proposed governance structure, which should include an external advisory group and its proposed membership if known at the application stage. This advisory group should advise on strategy and progress, oversee programme risks, and meet annually at a minimum. The group should have an independent Chair, be gender balanced, and have a range of members with relevant expertise from the partner countries involved in the programme.

Risk Management and Assurance

To make effective arrangements for financial reporting, risk management and assurance, you should:

  • consider the financial systems and financial management capacity of all collaborating institutions
  • assess the level of risk within the partner countries, and tailor assurance, monitoring processes, and resources
  • ensure all partners are resourced to meet the requirements for managing and reporting on ODA funds

Co-applicants and collaborators are encouraged to perform a Good Financial Grants Practice (GFGP) self-assessment to understand current areas of weakness in the finance management and systems, and, as required, increase their financial and risk management capability through specific capacity strengthening activities. You can include costs associated with these activities - refer to the published Finance Guidance for applicants associated with the call.

You should identify any known or anticipated risks to delivering the research programme in the ODA-eligible LMIC(s). These may be specific project-related risks faced as a contractor, or those faced in the implementing context by ODA-eligible country researchers or communities.

The UK Government is committed to align all new bilateral ODA to the goals of the United Nations (UN) Framework Convention on Climate Change Paris Agreement in 2023. Consideration of climate and environmental risks is important to:

  • ensure programming investments are optimised for the future climate and environment
  • to raise resilience and adapt to potential impacts of climate and environment variability and change

Details on the following must be included in applications:

  • Financial assurance,ODA compliance,monitoringandauditingofexpenditureintheODA-eligible countries
    • you should describe arrangements for due diligence, the allocation and transfer of funds to country partners from the host 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
    • you 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
  • Safeguarding
    • you should describe the arrangements for safeguarding of study participants and project/programme staff
    • the contracting institution must 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
    • robust procedures must be in place for the reporting of suspected misconduct, illegal acts or failures to investigate, including contractors, timely reporting to us of all serious incidents, and the outcome of investigations by contractors, or downstream Co-applicant and Collaborator organisations involved in managing the associated NIHR GHR award(s)
    • refer to our Policy on Preventing Harm in Research and Guidance on Safeguarding
  • Climate and environment
    • you should describe whether any part of your programme is susceptible to environmental and climate risks and/or would have the potential to accelerate climate change
      you should consider the following areas to ensure that risk and impact to the environment is most efficiently minimised and mitigated:
      • pollution
      • waste efficiency
      • water resources
      • biodiversity
      • land degradation
    • in terms of susceptibility to climate-related risk, you should consider the following hazard categories:
      • biological (e.g. epidemics, infectious disease)
      • geophysical (e.g. earthquakes, tsunami)
      • climatological (e.g. extreme weather conditions, wildfires)
      • hydrological (e.g. floods)
      • meteorological (e.g. cyclones)
    • refer to our guidelines on Carbon Reduction

Delivery Chain Risk Maps

You 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 to the end beneficiaries.

The DCRM should include:

  • the names of all downstream delivery partners, their functions, and relationships between the partners
  • detail of the funding distributed to each delivery partner
  • high-level risks involved in programme delivery, mitigating measures and associated controls, including:
    • fiduciary and other risks associated with managing ODA funds down the delivery chain
    • consideration of the potential for fraud, bribery, corruption or terrorist financing
    • dependency on key partners and the coherence and value for money of the overall supply chain for the project/programme

DCRMs are expected to be regularly reviewed and updated at least annually. For more information on the format and content, please see the NIHR DCRM guidance.

Risk Registers

Funded NIHR GHR 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
  • illustrate the impact and the likelihood of their occurrence
  • outline steps to mitigate risks and the residual risk after mitigation

Risk registers should be reviewed regularly over the lifetime of the project and are a required submission alongside annual progress reports.

Research Contract and Collaboration Agreements


Please review our resources for contracting awards, including the current ODA research contract and our due diligence assessment template. We will perform due diligence on the contracting institution prior to contracting.

Contracted institutions should:

  • have controls in place relating to the flow of funds that are proportionate to the risks and amounts of money involved
  • take due regard to value for money and propriety of expenditure​

It is the responsibility of the contracted institutions to provide funding to downstream collaborators for their expenditure on the project in a timely manner. Systems and resources should be in place to ensure this can be achieved by the time work commences.​​​

Before any transfer of money from the contracting institution to the collaborating institution(s), we expect that proportionate due diligence assessments will be undertaken by the contracting institution on the project partners/collaborators. Details of due diligence assessments conducted by the contractor on all partner or collaborating organisations must be shared with us.

For organisations not previously funded by the NIHR GHR programme, additional eligibility and due diligence checks may be undertaken in addition to standard checks before contracting.

Collaboration Agreements

To avoid potential delays in transferring funds after the contract start date, we recommend that any downstream Collaboration Agreements between the contracting institution and collaborating organisations are:

  • developed with partners as soon as possible after a successful funding decision has been communicated, in parallel to finalising the research contract with NIHR
  • Signed by collaborators promptly after the NIHR contract starts

Development of Collaboration Agreements between the contracting institution and collaborating organisations may take longer than expected and realistic time requirements for this activity should be built into project timelines (we estimate a minimum of three months). This will reduce potential for delays in transferring funds after the contract start date. Draft Collaboration Agreements will need to be submitted to us for review and approval.

Collaboration Agreements should include detail about:

  • flow down and adherence to the terms of the ODA research contract to partners/collaborators
  • roles and responsibilities of each partner, approach to communication, and leadership structure
  • authorship and use of findings, including IP
  • 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.

Intellectual Property: Background and Foreground IP

To support timely study setup once funding has been awarded, please consider the Background IP, Foreground IP, Arising Know How and Research Data. For definitions of these terms, please refer to the ODA research contract.

You should describe, if relevant, any potential barriers (e.g. local laws) to the publication of the results or Research Data. If your project has commercial potential, please outline your strategy (or pathway to impact) with reference to the ODA research contract terms (e.g. to increase the availability of medicines and health-related technologies at affordable prices and build new businesses and/or business growth in the relevant LMIC). Please add relevant details under the Success and Barriers section of the Detailed Research Plan.

During the contracting process, we will ask successful research teams to clarify the following in relation to IP:

  1. 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 B of the ODA research contract with reference to clause 25.1.5 (a) of the contract
  2. the proposed ownership arrangements of the Foreground IP, Arising Know How and Research Data:
    1. you should consider who is best placed to use, disseminate and/or commercially exploit the relevant IP and/or database to maximise the opportunities to deliver patient benefit
    2. there should be licence 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

Joint IP

We do not recommend joint ownership of Foreground IP, Arising Know How, or Research Data arrangements. We prefer 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 IP or data is used, disseminated, and/or exploited, creating 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, you should provide a clear justification in the application.

Regulatory Approvals/Compliance

Research requiring ethical approval must have appropriate approvals in place before it can start. This will usually be required in both the LMIC and UK (as well as any other country involved in the research).

You should ensure that all plans for research follow:

Research performed in partner countries needs to be undertaken in line with UK regulations and to a standard no less stringent than those applicable in the UK.

You need to be able to provide your plans for ethical review of the proposed activities in the relevant countries (LMIC/non-LMIC). You should anticipate that securing ethical reviews in the relevant countries can take some time and this should be factored into your work plans.

As part of our contract monitoring, we need evidence of ethics approvals. If there are no plans to obtain an ethical review, please provide detailed reasons for this.

Where the research involves under-represented and at-risk individuals or groups in vulnerable situations (an example being children under the age of 18 or individuals lacking capacity to consent), you should describe how you will manage their involvement within the Ethical Consideration section of your Detailed Research Plan.

Dissemination, Outputs and Anticipated Impact

You should describe the planned outputs of your research, how and to whom they will be communicated. You will need to highlight the proposed short-, medium- and longer-term impacts of your research. Impact is defined as the demonstrable contribution that research makes to society and the economy, of benefit to individuals, organisations and nations.
Please consider the following:

  • intended outcomes of the research
  • the contribution your research evidence will make to the society and economy in the relevant area
  • plans for engagement with policy makers, health practitioners, communities and the public at an early stage with consideration of EDI
  • pathways to improving health and wellbeing in ODA-eligible countries by 2030 (in line with Sustainable Development Goal 3)

If successful, you need to submit a clearly defined Theory of Change to outline how the funded activities are expected to lead to impacts on policy and practice. Your Theory of Change should be developed collaboratively, including key stakeholders, within six months of the start of the award.

When creating your Theory of Change, you should consider:

  • how and when relevant stakeholders (policy makers, practitioners, public) will be engaged (from research design, implementation, and analysis, to reporting and dissemination)
  • underlying potential risks
  • any external factors (social, political, economic, environmental, technological, legal, demographic, cultural context, other funders' activities) which may, positively or negatively, influence the
  • success of the programme in achieving these impacts
  • the sustainability of impacts - in terms of individual and institutional capacity strengthening initiatives, and whether there is an appropriate exit strategy involving effective transfer of ownership
  • the published NIHR Global Health Research Portfolio Theory of Change and the scheme -specific Theory of Change

It is recommended that an experienced lead for Monitoring Evaluation and Learning (MEL) is appointed within the team to support this process. This could include helping to develop the Theory of Change, identifying and collecting relevant indicators to monitor and measure progress, creating process/impact evaluation, ensuring processes are 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 GHR portfolio must be published immediately, free of charge, and made openly accessible to all. When an Open Access payment is applicable, we will pay reasonable fees required by a publisher to effect publication in line with the NIHR Open Access policy. You should refer to the NIHR Open Access publications funding guidance for further information. Open Access publication costs do not need to be predicted or incorporated into budgets at the time of application.

Reporting requirements

Type and frequency of reports

Funded NIHR GHR awards are required to submit the following to us:

  • quarterly finance reports and financial forecasts (submission quarters are 1 April to 30 June, 1 July to 30 September, 1 October to 31 December, 1 January to 31 March)
  • regular milestone updates and reports
  • annual progress report
  • emerging publications and outputs, including detail in relation to the sex/gender and country location of the authors
  • at the end of the award:
    • a final report summarising the research findings, contextual learning, publications and impact
    • a synopsis report of research findings that will be published in the NIHR Global Health Journal
    • a final expenditure statement (FSTOX)
    • an asset disposal plan clearly outlining the final intention for assets purchased with NIHR funds

You should make sure the correct resources are requested so that all of the above can be delivered.

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion

Embedding inclusion in everything we do is one of the NIHR’s key operating principles. This requires active involvement of everyone within the NIHR people framework.

ODA funds provided by the NIHR must comply with the requirements of the International Development Act 2002, International Development (Gender Equality) Act 2014 and the UK Equality Act 2010.

You should particularly consider the risks of perpetuating gender inequalities in the context of your work, proactively monitor risks, and take corrective measures where applicable.

The Equality Act 2010 is the main piece of legislation in the UK which relates to EDI. The Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED) forms part of the Equality Act and requires organisations to consciously think about the aims of the PSED as part of decision making processes. This supports the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) in meeting its legal duty. The protected characteristics in UK law are:

  • age
  • disability
  • gender reassignment
  • marriage and civil partnership
  • pregnancy and maternity
  • race
  • religion or belief
  • sex
  • sexual orientation

Discrimination relating to any of these characteristics is prohibited in the UK.

We collect and analyse data on the diversity of applicants. Currently, you are required to provide information related to the categories of age, disability, ethnicity and sex when submitting your application. As part of our ongoing commitment to promoting inclusion, we are reviewing the most applicable data collection categories for global health. You can help us by sharing your equality information when we ask for it as this helps us to build a more complete picture of our applicants, where we have gaps, and how we might improve. We are committed to ensuring your privacy is protected. We handle your data responsibly - adhering to the NIHR’s privacy policy as well as GDPR - and this information will not be used to make decisions about funding.
We also monitor how equality, diversity and inclusion have been considered at the award level throughout the lifetime of the research awards. This includes considerations at the researcher level, as outlined under the Equitable Partnerships section, and how you are engaging with the relevant communities (including sub-groups) to ensure that those with protected characteristics (as defined in the UK) are equal beneficiaries of the research findings.

EDI and study participants

Every person eligible to take part in research should be offered the same opportunity, regardless of geographical location and protected characteristics as defined in the UK. This ensures that we are actively addressing health disparities.

You are expected to include information in your application about how diversity data will be collected on study participants. In addition, you should demonstrate how EDI has been considered and addressed in your proposal. This should include steps taken to ensure the research sample is representative of the population the study is targeted at and that it considers marginalised groups. You need to explain the ways in which a diverse research participation population will be recruited and explain the rationale for any exclusions.

We recommend that you undertake an Equality Impact Assessment (EIA) at the outset as this process to help actively consider, understand and determine how what you do may affect groups of people differently. Addressing the needs of all groups of people prevents discrimination and works towards reducing health disparities. Additionally, you should demonstrate that all potential recruiting locations have been considered and the research is deliverable in those areas.

Success Criteria for and Barriers to Proposed Work

Success Criteria

You should clearly describe the critical path of the research programme, equitable partnership development and capacity strengthening plans. Plans must provide a summary of the key milestones broken down by quarters over the first 12 months, and annually thereafter, with the indicators that will be used to demonstrate the successful attainment of these milestones. These must include all the key milestones set out in the Timetable section of the Detailed Research Plan as these will be used to monitor overall project progress.

We recommend that research teams use the SMART methodology when developing objectives with clearly defined success measures. Plans should be supported by a GANTT chart, to be provided as a mandatory upload.

Barriers to proposed work

You will need to describe any challenges and risks that you may face across the research lifecycle (equitable partnership development, capacity strengthening, collaboration agreements, money transfers, research setup, delivery, dissemination and uptake of findings). You should also consider challenges faced by the collaborating institutions in partner countries, and look to highlight any specific challenges and risks associated with your research plan.

You should include any critical dependencies, especially around specific authorisations, ethical approvals, legal frameworks, access to data, technology, materials, or other inventions that are subject to any form of IP protection (such as copyright, design rights, or patents). You will also need to include 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). You 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 GHR Programmes, alongside equitable partnerships and strengthening the LMIC research ecosystem at all levels. We expect global health research to be undertaken in collaboration with the communities who are most likely affected by the research outcomes, and that those who are marginalised should have a meaningful voice in the full range of the research (for example, in the design, delivery and dissemination of research). CEI may be known as patient and public involvement and engagement (PPIE) in some settings.

Patients, carers 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. Other examples of community stakeholders that could be involved include:

  • community leaders
  • opinion leaders
  • NGOs and civil society
  • service commissioners and providers
  • policy makers and lawmakers

There is no standard model for CEI. You should plan for and undertake meaningful, ethical and inclusive CEI and demonstrate that the planned CEI approach is appropriate and effective in the local context and for the study design. CEI practices should be built in 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. You should ensure that those in the community who are most affected by the health issue(s) or thematic area under consideration should be actively involved in decision-making. You 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. You are encouraged to use the UNICEF Minimum Standards for Community Engagement, which promote principles such as participation, empowerment and ownership, inclusion, two-way 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 strategic 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 needs significant human resource input and organisational support. As such, you should include realistic timeframes and costs for CEI in your application. 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.

We recommend that research teams recruit into or assign a member of the project team with relevant experience and expertise in CEI to act as CEI lead to coordinate and oversee activities.
You may also find it helpful to refer to MESH, a collaborative, open-access online 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

Eligible costs for NIHR Global Health Research programmes include but are not limited to:

  • research staff engaged in proposed research
  • research support staff supporting proposed research
  • travel, subsistence, meetings and conference registration
  • equipment
  • consumables
  • community engagement and involvement
  • equality, diversity and inclusion considerations
  • dissemination, excluding open access publication costs
  • risk management and assurance
  • training and development including LMIC student fees/stipend
  • other direct costs specific to the research
  • other legitimate and reasonable indirect costs such as HR, finance

For full details on what costs can be requested and NIHR funding rules, see the GHR Finance Guidance for Applicants.

All costs should be fully justified; these will be scrutinised as part of the assessment process and the Funding Committee reserves the right to award only part of the funds requested.

Justification of Costs

Justification for all resources requested should be provided in the appropriate part of the NIHR GHR application form. We will review and query costs that are not eligible or do not provide value for money.

Value for Money

You must clearly and concisely demonstrate how the costs included in your application provide value for money and substantiate why a cost is necessary. Within the justification of costs section, we require evidence of good value for money, which we must consider to be the optimal use of resources to achieve the intended outcome whilst mitigating the impact of any restrictions or constraints.

Value for money goes beyond achieving the lowest initial price and includes consideration of Economy, Efficiency, Effectiveness, and Equity. In your proposal, you should consider what these mean in the context of your research:

  • economy: Are you 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 you convert inputs into outputs? (Outputs are results delivered by us or our agents to an external party. You will 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, you do not exercise direct control over outcomes)
    equity: the extent to which the outputs of our interventions are equitably distributed

UK Aid Direct has issued technical guidance in their Value for Money guide.

Resources and Further Reading

About the Core Guidance (Section 1)

Equitable and Sustainable Partnerships (Section 6)

Training and Capacity Strengthening (Section 7)

Risk Management and Assurance (Section 9)

Research Contract and Collaboration Agreements (Section 10)

Regulatory Approval / Compliance (Section 11)

Reporting requirements (Section 13)

Community Engagement and Involvement (section 15)

Justification of costs (Section 17)