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Guidance for applicants to join NIHR as a member of a research programme committee 2023


Published: 22 February 2023

Version: 4.0 - March 2023

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Background information

The NIHR funds health, public health and social care research that leads to improved outcomes for patients and the public, and makes the health and social care system more efficient, effective and safe.  We work closely with stakeholders across the system to ensure we address the challenges they face and are responsive to their research needs.

Our annual recruitment round seeks to appoint new members to prioritisation and funding committees for the following research programmes (further details can be found in Appendix A):

What are NIHR Committees?

To enable delivery of the NIHR research programmes, we support a number of different committees, including prioritisation and funding committees. These are composed of independent individuals with the broad spectrum of knowledge, skills and experience needed to get a well-rounded view of research needs and research assessment. We seek input from patients, members of the public, academics, subject experts, clinical staff, service managers, health, social care and public health professionals.

These committees are essential to our research programmes as they provide independent input, assessing research briefs and proposals, and as such are the cornerstone to ensuring that only the highest quality research is funded.

What do NIHR Committee members do? 

Our committees serve different functions, so the nature of the tasks undertaken varies depending on the purpose of the specific committee. In general terms they help to ensure that research is high quality, scientifically robust, represents good value for money and meets the needs of patients, the NHS and the wider public.

Prioritisation committee members read topic documents and research briefs, critically assess the documents and contribute to the development of research questions. Some prioritisation committees also review stage 1 research proposals.

Funding committee members read, critically assess and prioritise research proposals.

Meetings are either held face to face in London, or virtually using Microsoft Teams. Some committees meet for one day, three times a year, with advance preparation of around a day’s work each time. Others meet for two days, three times a year, with a corresponding amount of advance preparation. There may also be additional face-to-face meetings and teleconferences. The time commitment varies, but is around 6 to 12 days per year.

How are committee members appointed?

Members are usually appointed via open advert for a fixed period of time. In some instances, for example when particular areas of knowledge, skills or experience are required to support the work of a particular committee, an individual may be directly appointed by the Programme Director.

Applications to become a committee member will be considered for the best match between the skills and expertise the committee needs to recruit, and the knowledge and experience of applicants.

Successful applicants may only serve on one NIHR committee at a time and usually have a period of tenure of three years.

In order for the committees to run smoothly and make robust decisions, we need our committee members to commit to full attendance. We appreciate that unexpected events come up and some absence may be necessary, but committee members must be prepared to prioritise committee meetings over foreseeable diary clashes. Please think carefully about this commitment before applying. We will reimburse locum costs where these are incurred for committee attendance and supported by an invoice/receipt.

Equality, diversity and Inclusion

Committee membership is open to people from across the United Kingdom and we welcome applications from all sections of the community.

The NIHR is committed to creating a diverse and inclusive culture, as outlined in our EDI strategy 2022-2027. We want everyone to realise their full potential and make a positive contribution. We encourage applications from people from all backgrounds and communities. We are committed to having leadership and teams that are made up of diverse skills and experiences. To find out more, visit our equality, diversity and inclusion page.

We recognise that CVs are an important tool in understanding a person’s knowledge, skills and experience, but conventional formats can be limiting. To address this, NIHR is piloting narrative CVs in some funding and recruitment applications. Based on the Royal Society’s Résumé for Researchers the narrative format will allow applicants to demonstrate a broader range of activities and contributions. This will help ensure we’re drawing on a variety of backgrounds, perspectives and experiences in our decision making and research. Find out more about NIHR's commitment to exploring a shared approach towards a narrative CV

We will endeavour to make reasonable adjustments to remove barriers to this post in the application process. If you have any access needs or require any support throughout the application process, please contact the programme liaison stated in the advertised role. If appointed, we will also work with you to identify adjustments to carry out the role.

As part of our recruitment process, we monitor all applicants data and you will be asked to complete an anonymous equality, diversity and inclusion reporting form. You can be sure we will deal with your data responsibly.

Other information

Committee members are asked to subscribe to our mailing list to receive email updates, newsletters and information about calls for proposals. Members can unsubscribe from our mailing list at any time.

The names of members are published on our website under the relevant research programme.

Role description, responsibilities, and Terms and Conditions

Committee member role and responsibilities 

  • To act in accordance with the agreed committee Terms of Reference (ToR). An offer to become a member will include details of its ToR. Typical Terms of Reference are shown in Appendix B and a sample Funding Committee ToR in Appendix C. For links to details of specific programmes’ committees, please see Appendix A.
  • To prepare for meetings by reading the agenda papers and research applications in advance and raising any issues for clarification with programme staff. The agenda and associated papers are lengthy documents and will require considerable preparation.
  • From your professional perspective, undertake a detailed review of research topics, briefs and/or applications along with other papers, as required by the role, and provide feedback and contribute to general discussion of the merits of each at the meeting. For some committees, submit reviews by the stated deadline via the Management Information System (MIS) or REsearch Awards Lifecycle Management System (REALMS).
  • To regularly attend meetings and to be an active member of the committee.
  • To contribute to discussions and decision-making that take place during meetings, drawing on overall knowledge and experience, and with consideration of the papers provided.
  • To participate in appropriate training, development and support activities (likely to be the equivalent of one day per year).
  • To declare any conflict of interest in accordance with the protocols of the committee and as instructed by the Chair.
  • To maintain the confidentiality of agenda papers, discussion and decisions made.
  • To liaise promptly with programme staff regarding all administrative matters relating to the meeting, for example, submission of required paperwork, expense forms, commitment to meeting dates and confirming attendance.
  • To inform NIHR of any changes to contact details and to update member profile regularly (e.g. annually when prompted by programme staff).

  • In addition, forprioritisation committees:
    • If allocated a research topic or brief to present at the meeting, members are asked to prepare in advance by spending a short amount of time reading around the subject, and asking colleagues with relevant expertise for their views on the importance of the topic.
    • To endeavour to submit a minimum of two research suggestions a year to the programme.

Terms and Conditions 

Duration of role

Successful candidates will be advised of their term of office at the time of appointment. In most cases it is likely to be three years; though in some cases there may be an option to extend for a further two years. Members may not serve on more than one NIHR committee simultaneously.  A maximum overlap of one meeting of each prioritisation or funding committee is permitted.


Members (other than chairs) are not paid to undertake the role, however they can claim reasonable expenses associated with their committee work (e.g. travel costs within the UK) in accordance with our policy.

Support for members

Support is available from programme staff at any time. Programme staff will work with new members to ensure an appropriate induction programme is in place.


If members are unable to attend a meeting, they should still undertake assessment of their allocated committee topics, research briefs or applications to ensure that their views are represented at the meeting. If a member is unable to attend three consecutive meetings (unless due to exceptional circumstances) they may be asked to tender their resignation so that a new member may be appointed.

Declarations of interests/conflict of interests

All members are required to declare if they have any interest that might be in conflict with their committee member role, for example whether they are connected to an application to be discussed as either an applicant or co-applicant. We will ask any member with a conflict of interest relating to applicants to leave the room for that agenda item. Members should declare any other conflict of interest such as if an individual is known personally, or if the member could gain financially if the research was funded. If there is a potential conflict of interest, the risk should be raised with the programme staff or meeting Chair immediately. In addition, NIHR committee members are required to complete and sign a declaration of interests form when they join; this information is to be reviewed and updated at least annually thereafter.

Continued Professional Development (CPD)

In discussion with the relevant professional body, members may be able to claim CPD points. Where appropriate, NIHR will provide written confirmation of a member’s contribution.

Peer review

The contributions and perspectives of external peer reviewers inform the decision-making process in committee meetings. Serving committee members are not asked to undertake reviews (outside their normal committee duties) during their period of tenure, but will be invited to join the NIHR Reviewer Community on completion of their term.

Generic person specification 

For NIHR prioritisation committees, candidates should have experience at a senior level within their area of expertise, and/or extensive management or clinical experience within the NHS, social care or public health.

For NIHR funding committees, candidates should have experience at a senior level within their area of expertise, and have a significant record of research and publication, and/or extensive senior management or clinical experience within the NHS, social care or public health.

Role criteria - knowledge, skills and experience


Applicants must have:

  • Relevant clinical, healthcare, social care or public health background.
  • Knowledge and understanding of the importance of, and need for, health and social care and/or public health research.
  • Current or recent experience of working in or with the UK health and social care sectors at a senior level.
  • Experience at a senior level in their field of expertise.
  • Relevant professional qualifications and registrations.
  • Work-based or professional knowledge or experience relevant to the remit of the programme (See Appendix A).
  • Academic background and track record of research achievement and leadership, if appropriate (not required for PHR Prioritisation Committee vacancies).
  • For HTA Funding Committee member opportunities - experience of peer review for the HTA Programme.
  • For PHR Prioritisation Committee member opportunities - experience / understanding of influencing the wider determinants of health. The emphasis is on commissioning research on the most important population health issues and allocating resources to studies that have the most potential to impact at scale, whether through targeted or broader population-level interventions.

Applicants must be able to:

  • Understand, review and summarise information from long documents.
  • Confidently and constructively take part in meetings and group discussions.
  • Clearly communicate and share feedback and thoughts.
  • Use a computer-based management information system and be computer literate.


  • Knowledge and experience of peer review processes.
  • Experience of peer review for the NIHR Programmes.
  • Knowledge and experience of NHS, social care or public health R&D, including research methods.

Application process

To apply for a role you need to undertake the following steps:

  • Review the advert, role description and person specification (sections 2 and 3 of this document) and the additional information provided in Appendices A, B and C.
  • Complete and submit the online application form. Please note there is no option to save your progress on the form. 
  • In addition to your application form, you may provide an up to date and relevant summary curriculum vitae (two to four pages) and any additional relevant information such as a summary publications list. Alternatively you may provide ORCID details in your application.
  • Submit your application by the close date stated on the website.
  • On submission of your application you will receive an on-screen message confirming our receipt of your application. If you do not see an on screen confirmation message please contact us. We do not routinely send email confirmations of receipt.
  • As part of our recruitment process, we monitor all applicants data and you will be asked to complete an anonymous equality monitoring form. After the closing date, you will receive an email from the NIHR EDRS – Equality and Diversity Recording System, asking you to complete the form. You can be sure we will deal with your data responsibly.
  • If you have any queries regarding your application please contact in the first instance.

Appendix A

Research programmes and their committees

The descriptions below give an outline of the remit of each research programme for which committee members are currently sought. 

Efficacy and Mechanism Evaluation (EME) Programme

The Efficacy and Mechanism Evaluation (EME) programme funds ambitious studies evaluating interventions that have the potential to make a step-change in the promotion of health, treatment of disease and improvement of rehabilitation or long-term care.

The EME Programme looks to attract studies with novel methodological designs that deliver results more efficiently, reduce the study timeline, and maximise the knowledge gained. The translational research it supports covers a wide range of new and repurposed interventions, such as diagnostic or prognostic tests and decision-making tools, therapeutics or behavioural therapies, medical devices, and public health initiatives delivered in the NHS.

More information on the programme is available on the Efficacy and Mechanism Evaluation Programme page.

Health and Social Care Delivery Research (HSDR) Programme

The Health and Social Care Delivery Research (HSDR) Programme aims to produce rigorous and relevant evidence to improve the quality, accessibility and organisation of health and social care services.

The HSDR programme funds evaluative research that has the potential to improve health and social care services. Research may be primary (qualitative and/or quantitative), secondary and evidence syntheses. Typical projects are mixed-methods studies with a clear focus on the organisation and quality of care. There should also be a focus on the experience of patients, staff and service users. Projects will often include an analysis of routine and linked data on service use, activity and outcomes.

More information on the programme is available on the Health and Social Care Delivery Research Programme page.

Health Technology Assessment (HTA) Programme

The Health Technology Assessment (HTA) Programme funds research about the clinical and cost-effectiveness, and broader impact of healthcare treatments and tests, for those who plan, provide or receive care from NHS, and social care services.

HTA research is undertaken where some evidence already exists to show that a technology can be effective, and this needs to be compared to the current standard intervention to see which works best.

More information on the programme is available on the Health Technology Assessment Programme page.

Public Health Research (PHR) Programme

The Public Health Research (PHR) Programme funds research to generate evidence to inform the delivery of non-NHS interventions, intended to improve the health of the public, and reduce inequalities in health.

The primary aim of the programme is the evaluation of practical interventions. We will fund both primary research (mainly evaluative, but also some preparatory research) and secondary research (evidence synthesis); precise methods will need to be appropriate to the question being asked, and the feasibility of the research.

More information on the programme is available on the Public Health Research Programme page.

Appendix B

Typical Terms of Reference for committees

For specific information relating to a particular programme and its committees, please follow the links in Appendix A or visit the programme’s webpage.

Each committee works with the respective Programme Director, and/or the Chair of the committee, and the programme staff. In summary, the responsibilities of committees can include:

  • Responsibility for the management and oversight of the scientific portfolio within the programme remit.
  • Considering strategic initiatives which will bring value to the scientific community by improving access to the programme and increasing the submission of high quality applications.
  • Creating an optimal portfolio of research projects for the programme.
  • Supporting the identification, development and evaluation of potential research questions for a commissioned workstream.
  • Evaluating and prioritising Stage 1 research proposals for a researcher led workstream.
  • Advising on research priorities following an open call for proposals.
  • Providing guidance to applicants of short-listed Stage 1 proposals to assist the development of Stage 2 proposals.
  • Considering the importance of proposed research, along with the scientific merit, rigour, quality, and value for money of proposals taking into account the following
    • The clarity of the stated research objectives.
    • Whether the proposed study design will achieve the stated objectives in an appropriate, feasible and ethical manner.
    • Whether the successful completion of the study would lead to a reduction in uncertainty in that area of health research.
    • Whether the proposed project would result in greater clarity of health-related outcomes which may affect patients, the public or systems, and/or other benefits for the wider NHS/ public health community.
    • Whether the proposed team is capable of undertaking the suggested research.
    • Whether the requested costs and timescales are justified (N/A for prioritisation committees).
  • Making funding decisions, or in some cases recommendations to the Programme Director, on Stage 2 proposals. 

Appendix C

Sample Funding Committee ToR

Selection Committee Terms of Reference (NIHR Programmes)


These Terms of Reference (ToR) apply to all Funding/Selection committees making decisions for and on behalf of NIHR programmes.

Authority and purpose

To consider applications submitted to the respective NIHR programme and to ultimately, make recommendations for funding to the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) or other authority as required. The Funding/Selection Committee will also advise the programme secretariat of actions that might be taken in response to matters that arise over the course of individual awards. e.g. applicant responses to committee requests for clarification of ‘fund with changes’, variation to contract requests, project closure. The Selection Committee may, when required, provide comment and guidance on the assessment processes utilised, and on the natures of the respective NIHR Programme.


With the exception of the Global Health and Policy Research Programmes, whose committees report directly to DHSC, all committees report to a Programme Director. The Programme Director is responsible to the DHSC


The primary role of each committee is to consider applications submitted to the respective NIHR programme, to make shortlisting decisions where the process requires this and ultimately to make recommendations for funding to DHSC (or other appropriate authority), taking into consideration the remit and assessment criteria of the respective funding programme.

For funding calls with two stages, the Committee will shortlist at stage 1 and provide a ranked list of applications and recommendations for funding to DHSC at stage 2.

For one stage funding calls, the Committee will agree a ranked list of the single stage applications and recommendations for funding to DHSC.

All funding recommendations will be reviewed by DHSC and the final outcome approved by DHSC (or other appropriate authority), taking account of the ranked list of funding recommendations, current programme portfolio, NIHR priorities and the available budget.

In order to fulfil its remit, each committee will operate in accordance with these ToR and programme specific Guidance for Committee Members that details the responsibilities of committee members, the Chair, the Programme Director and the Programme Secretariat for a specific funding programme.


Chair/Co-Chairs/HTA Deputy-Chair will be appointed following an open selection process (see Policy for all NIHR Honorary Appointments). The Chair/Co-Chair/HTA Deputy-Chair will vote/score at committee meetings.

Committee Members/Deputy Chair will be appointed following an open selection process/invited appointment. Committee members/Deputy-Chair will vote/score at meetings.

Members must have a minimum of at least a two year break before they are eligible to return to the same committee as a full committee member

No individual should be a standing member of more than one NIHR committee at one time other than in very exceptional circumstances when no other person is available to cover the role.

Members are not appointed as representatives of organisations or bodies but as individuals with specific expertise. As such they must not send deputies.

If any committee member fails to attend committee meetings or to provide written comments, without good cause or giving sufficient notice, the Programme Secretariat reserves the right to terminate the tenure with immediate effect following consultation with the Chair and/or Programme Director.

Co-opted Members: Individuals may be co-opted to supplement the regular committee for individual meetings, should particular skills or knowledge be required. Co-opted Members have the same rights and responsibilities as regular members whilst their skills are required. Co-opted Committee Members should not be confused with the role of advisors who do not have voting rights and are at committee meetings purely in an advisory capacity.

Associates: Optionally, subject to consideration of equity amongst members by the research programmes, Committee Members may nominate an Associate Committee Member to assist them with reviewing applications and preparing for meetings. Nominations will be sent to the Funding Committee Chair and Programme Director for approval. Associate Committee Members cannot deputise at meetings and their tenure runs concurrently with the nominating Committee Member.

The Programme Director may attend committee meetings but will not vote. They may comment on applications but should not influence the funding decision. The Programme Director may chair some items and will then have the same role as the Committee Chair but will not vote on any items, please refer to clause 9.3.


Chair/Co-Chair/HTA Deputy-Chair: Normally three years in the first instance with a view to extension to five years after review at the end of year two.

Committee members: The term of office for committee members will be three years, with an option to extend for a further two years at the discretion of DHSC/Programme Director in consultation with the Programme Secretariat.

For the Global Health Research programme, tenures are managed by call/competition cycles.

Secretariat support

NIHR will provide the secretariat function. This will include timely circulation of meeting documents, preparation of feedback for applicants, drafting of summary minutes detailing attendance, conflicts of interest, shortlisting decisions and funding recommendations.

NIHR secretariat will advise on the process of assessment of applications.

NIHR will produce and make available a public version of the Committee Meeting minutes on the NIHR website detailing funding decisions and committee membership.

NIHR will undertake eligibility, competitiveness and remit checks of submitted applications prior to committee meetings and will scrutinise finances, intellectual property arrangements and undertake overlap checks against other NIHR funded research and other relevant portfolios for shortlisted stage 2 applications.

Location, timing and method of meeting

Funding/Selection Committee meetings will be face to face or virtual as advised by the NIHR secretariat and in line with the NIHR approach agreed at the time.

Quorum arrangements

Under normal circumstances, a committee meeting will be quorate if two-thirds of the members attend. However, where an emergency situation arises that severely limits the ability of members to attend, a committee meeting may be quorate if half of the members attend. Emergency situations include adverse weather/travel conditions and unexpected sickness or last minute absence affecting several committee members on the day.

Quoracy at a per item level for a meeting is not specified. The secretariat oversees matters of quorum and will advise where less than 50% of the members are present for each proposal discussion. The Programme Director or Chair has discretion to agree to lower numbers of committee members being present on a case by case basis.

In the absence of the Chair, meetings will be chaired by the Deputy Chair or a committee member chosen in consultation with the Programme Director/Chair and secretariat. This may apply to individual agenda items, in particular where the Chair is conflicted on an application. From time to time a Programme Director/Co-Chair, Deputy Chair or Committee Member may chair an item (e.g. if the Chair and Deputy-Chair are both conflicted).

Code of Practice

During the assessment of applications, the highest standards need to be maintained to ensure a fair and robust assessment process in the allocation of public money. These include impartiality, openness; accountability; and acting in the best interests of the NIHR

All Committee members will be asked to agree to abide by the NIHR policies and principles, with regard to equality, diversity and inclusion, unconscious bias, preventing harm in research, confidentiality and conflicts of interest.


Please refer to the NIHR Confidentiality and Disclosure Guide for further information.

Conflicts of Interest

A potential conflict of interest arises when a Committee member has a potential personal vested interest in a decision of the Committee or when a Committee member could gain indirectly from the decision of the Selection Committee .

The NIHR Conflicts of Interest Policy provides guidance on what the NIHR considers a conflict of interest and should be referred to by Committee Members throughout the review process.

The Programme Secretariat will operate mechanisms for recording members’ interests on a regular basis and for dealing with potential Conflicts of Interest (CoIs) during the conduct of its business and will endeavour to avoid CoIs that can be identified from its own data records. However, full and final responsibility for identifying and reporting CoIs will rest with the individual. Committee members are required to provide details to the Programme Secretariat of any CoIs that occur during each funding call. If in doubt advice should be sought from the Programme Secretariat and/or the Chair.

CoIs must be raised by committee members where there is any form of relationship between the member and an applicant as detailed in the NIHR Conflicts of Interest Policy.

Committee members failing to disclose potential COIs may be in breach of the Fraud Act 2006. The Programme Secretariat reserves the right to reconsider committee member tenures if CoIs are not raised by individual committee members but are later realised.

Agreement to comply with the funding committee ToR and COI requirements is required on commencement of committee membership and renewed annually through the completion and return of the annual declaration of long term predictable interests. The register information will be publicly available on the NIHR website and will be updated on an annual basis, or available on request to support the transparency agenda.


The Committee will accept observers (representatives of interested or relevant organisations) at the discretion of the Programme Director/Chair and Secretariat. Representatives do not vote and those observers that are representing their organisation can send a deputy. Observers may include:

  • DHSC representatives.
  • Representative from each of the Devolved Administrations.
  • NIHR staff
  • Representatives from the Clinical Research Network (CRN) and Research Design Service (RDS)
  • Representatives from charities and funding bodies where joint funding is being considered or to support strategic coherence of funding
  • Potential new Committee Members

Review and Approval

These ToR will be reviewed at least once every two years and approved by Centre Executive Board

Any changes to these ToR must be brought to the attention of current committee members. Responsibility for communicating and implementing any changes lies with the respective Programme Secretariat.