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Guidance for Public Health Research trainee committee membership applicants



Guidance for Applicants 2019

Information for applying to join NIHR as a trainee member of a research funding programme committee.

Background information

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

This recruitment round seeks to appoint Public Health Specialty Registrars to a number of one year trainee membership opportunities on our Public Health Research (PHR) programme prioritisation committee.

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.

The above programme 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 the research funding programmes, including the recruitment process for committee members.

What are NIHR Committees?

To enable delivery of the NIHR research funding 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 funding 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. The PHR Prioritisation Committee also reviews and prioritises Stage 1 research proposals.

Meetings are usually held in London. The PHR Prioritisation Committee meets for one day, three times a year, with advance preparation of around a day’s work each time.

How are trainee committee members appointed?

Trainee members are appointed via online application. Membership is open to people from across the United Kingdom. We embrace diversity and are committed to equality of opportunity. We welcome applications from all sections of the community.

Successful applicants may only serve on one committee at a time and only for a tenure of one year. Trainee members will be allocated a mentor who will be an existing experienced committee member.

The level of responsibility given to trainee committee members will be at the discretion of each individual committee Chair, and will depend upon the confidence and experience of the trainee.

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 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).
  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 NETSCC 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:
    1. 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 importance of the topic. 
    2. To endeavour to submit a minimum of two research suggestions a year to the programme. 

Terms and Conditions

Duration of role: Trainee membership is for the period of one year.

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: Trainee members are allocated a mentor who is an existing experienced committee member. Support is also 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, NETSCC will provide written confirmation of a member’s contribution.

Expert review: The contributions and perspectives of expert reviewers inform the decision-making process in committee meetings. Serving committee members are not asked to undertake expert reviews during their period of tenure, but will automatically join the NIHR Reviewer Community on completion of their term (an opt out will be offered).

Trainee committee member person specification

Person specification - knowledge, skills and experience

Applicants must be:

  • Current Public Health Specialty Registrars

 And have:

  • Knowledge and understanding of the importance of and need for health and/or public health research.
  • Relevant clinical/healthcare or public health background; current or recent experience of working in or with the UK health and social care sectors. For some roles an academic background may be appropriate.
  • Relevant professional qualifications and registrations.
  • Work-based or professional knowledge or experience relevant to the remit of the programme: PHR - evaluation of non-NHS interventions intended to improve public health and reduce inequalities in health.
  • Some experience of assimilating a large volume of written information and condensing it into a succinct critical appraisal of the information provided.
  • Some experience of participating in formal meetings, and ability to present reports and contribute to group discussion.
  • Ability to communicate efficiently and effectively and to provide constructive feedback.
  • Computer literate, and willing to use a computer-based management information system.
  • Discretion in handling confidential information.

Desirable knowledge, skills and experience

  • Some 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 or public health R&D.

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 appendix A.
  2. Complete the online application form, and equal opportunities monitoring form (optional) 
  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 or evidence of reviewing. 
  4. Submit your application by the close date stated on the website.
  5. 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 application please contact in the first instance.If you feel you are too experienced to apply for a trainee membership you may be interested in applying for one of the other NIHR committee membership roles currently being advertised.

Appendix A

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.