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


17 June 2019


3.0 - March 2022


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 usually 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.

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, and positive community. Equality, 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.

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.

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. 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.

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

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

  1. 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. For links to details of specific programmes’ committees, please see Appendix A.

  2. 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. 

  3. 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).

  4. To regularly attend meetings and to be an active member of the committee.

  5. 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.

  6. To participate in appropriate training, development and support activities (likely to be the equivalent of one day per year).

  7. To declare any conflict of interest in accordance with the protocols of the committee and as instructed by the Chair.

  8. To maintain the confidentiality of agenda papers, discussion and decisions made.

  9. 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.

  10. To inform NIHR of any changes to contact details and to update member profile regularly (e.g. annually when prompted by programme staff).

  11. In addition, for prioritisation 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 between two and four 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.

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 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.

Expert review: The contributions and perspectives of external reviewers inform the decision-making process in committee meetings. Serving committee members are not asked to undertake reviews 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:

  1. Review the advert, role description and person specification (sections 2 and 3 of this document) and the additional information provided in Appendices A and B.
  2. Complete and submit the online application form, and then complete the anonymous equality, diversity and inclusion reporting form when prompted.
  3. 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.
  4. Submit your application by the close date stated on the website.
  5. 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.
  6. 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 our website.

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 our website.

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 our website.

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 our website.

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 website.

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.