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Guidance for applicants to join the NIHR as a member of the Evidence Synthesis Programme Advisory Group


Background information

The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) funds health and social care research and translates discoveries into practical products, treatments, devices and procedures, involving patients and the public in all our work.

As the most integrated clinical research system in the world, we drive research from bench to bedside for the benefit of patients, the public and the economy. More information on the NIHR can be found on our about us webpage.

Our recruitment round seeks to appoint new members to the Evidence Synthesis Programme Advisory Group (ESPAG) who will also participate in the NIHR Incentive Award and Evidence Synthesis Programme Grants annual calls as a Commissioning Committee member. Please see our website page for more information about the programme. The person specification can be found in Appendix A.

The ESP is managed by the NIHR Evaluation, Trials and Studies Coordinating Centre (NETSCC) based at the University of Southampton. NETSCC is a team of managers, academics, clinicians, researchers and support staff that oversee the management and delivery of six research programmes (please refer to Appendix B), including the recruitment process for advisory group and committee members. Other key activities that NETSCC leads on, or manages, on behalf of the NIHR, are:

What are NIHR Advisory Groups and Committees?

To enable delivery of the NIHR research programmes, we support a number of different advisory groups and committees, including ESPAG. 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 groups and 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.

How are Advisory Group and Committee members appointed?

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

Membership is open to people from across the United Kingdom and we welcome applications from all sections of the community. NIHR is committed to a supportive, inclusive, caring, and positive community. We warmly welcome those of different cultures, ages, ethnicities, and beliefs. Diversity and inclusion are fundamental to our values and vital to our success. We are currently looking to diversify and enrich our committees. We particularly welcome applications from disabled candidates and candidates from an ethnic minority background as they are currently under-represented. After submission of your application you will be asked to complete an anonymous equality, diversity and inclusion reporting form.

We strive to host inclusive and accessible events that enable all individuals to engage fully. We will do everything we can to meet individual committee member’s needs. To make a request or for inquiries about accessibility, please contact the programme liaison stated in the advertised role.

Applications to become a 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 advisory group or committee at a time. The tenure for this position is three years beginning in June 2021.

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 ESPAG members are published on the ESP section of our website.

Role description, responsibilities, and Terms and Conditions

Advisory Group and 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. For links to details of specific programmes’ committees, please see Appendix B.
  • 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 can be 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).
  • To regularly attend meetings and to be an active member of the advisory group or 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 NETSCC of any changes to contact details and to update member profile regularly (e.g. annually when prompted by programme staff).

Terms and Conditions

Duration of role: The tenure for this position is three years and there may be an option to extend for a further three years. Members may not serve on more than one NIHR committee simultaneously.

Payment: 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.

Attendance: If members are unable to attend a meeting, they should still complete any work that is asked of them 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 advisory group or 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 advisory group and 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, NETSCC will provide written confirmation of a member’s contribution.

External peer review: The contributions and perspectives of external peer reviewers inform the decision-making process in Evidence Synthesis Programme Commissioning Committee meetings. Serving committee members may be asked to undertake reviews during their period of tenure and will be invited to join the NIHR Reviewer Community on completion of their term.

Application process

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

  • Review the advert, role description and person specification (Appendix A) and the additional information provided in Appendix B. If you have any queries about the role please contact Rob Squire at
  • Complete the online application form, and then complete the anonymous equality, diversity and inclusion reporting form when prompted.
  • In addition to your application form, 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.
  • Submit your application by the close date stated on the website.
  • Once your application has been submitted you will receive an on-screen message confirming receipt of your application. If you have any queries regarding your submitted application please contact in the first instance 

Appendix A

Person specification 

For the ESPAG, candidates should be:

Ref: ESP/21/01 - UK social care employees/scientists with a breadth of experience and knowledge of UK social issues. It is also desirable for applicants to have a network of colleagues within the academic and social care sectors that can be called upon for advice, if required.

Ref: ESP/21/02 - Current NHS employees with a good understanding of the evidence synthesis/systematic reviews landscape with a breadth of experience and knowledge of UK health issues. It is also desirable for applicants to have academic expertise, or a network of colleagues within the academic sectors that can be called upon for advice, if required.

Person specification - knowledge, skills and experience


  • In-depth knowledge and understanding of the importance of, and need for, health and social care and/or public health research.
  • Relevant social care (ESP/21/01) or clinical/healthcare (ESP/21/02) background; current or recent experience of working in or with the UK health and social care sectors at a senior or academic level.
  • Relevant professional qualifications and registrations, and/or experience at a senior level in field of expertise.
  • Work-based or professional knowledge or experience relevant to the remit of the programme.


  • Knowledge and experience of peer review processes.
  • Up to date knowledge of developments within NHS, social care or public health R&D including research methods.
  • Experience of NHS, social care and public health R&D.

Appendix B

Research programmes and their committees

The descriptions below give an outline of the remit of each research programme. Occasionally an applicant’s expertise may be of interest to another programme, and in this case, applicants may be contacted by any of the programmes.

Evidence Synthesis Programme (ESP)

The Evidence Synthesis Programme identifies, evaluates, combines and summarises information from a range of sources to provide decision makers with the best possible information about the effects of tests, treatments and other interventions used in health and social care.

For further details please visit the ES Programme webpages.

Efficacy and Mechanism Evaluation (EME) Programme

The 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. Within these studies EME supports research to improve the understanding of the mechanisms of both diseases and treatments.

The programme supports translational research evaluating a wide range of novel or re-purposed interventions. The interventions may include diagnostic or prognostic tests and decision-making tools, drugs or biological compounds, psychological treatments, medical devices, and public health initiatives delivered within the NHS.

For further details please visit the EME Programme webpages

Global Health Research (GHR) Programme

The NIHR Global Health Research Portfolio uses UK aid to fund high quality applied health research and training in areas of unmet need. Our research is for the direct and primary benefit of people in low and middle income countries (LMICs).

For further details please visit the GHR Programme webpages.

Health Services and Delivery Research (HS&DR) Programme

The HS&DR Programme funds research to produce evidence to impact on the quality, accessibility and organisation of health and social care services. This includes evaluations of how the NHS and social care might improve delivery of services. The programme will enhance the strategic focus on research that matters to health and social care, including research on implementation and a range of knowledge mobilisation initiatives.

For further details please visit the HS&DR Programme webpages

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, which is immediately useful for those who plan, provide or receive care from NHS and social care services. HTA research is undertaken when there is evidence to show the technology is efficacious but there is uncertainty around its clinical and cost-effectiveness in a real life health or social care setting in comparison to the current best alternative(s). There may also be uncertainty around its place in the existing care pathway.

For further details please visit the HTA Programme webpages.

Public Health Research (PHR) Programme

The PHR Programme funds research that evaluates public health interventions, providing new knowledge on the benefits, costs, acceptability and wider impacts of non-NHS interventions intended to improve the health of the public and reduce inequalities in health. The scope of the PHR Programme is multidisciplinary and broad, covering a range of public health interventions.

For further details please visit the PHR Programme webpages.