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HPSR Researcher-led Frequently Asked Questions - Webinar 8th June 2021


Published: 01 July 2021

Version: July 2021 v1

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Is this a one stage or two stage application?

This is a one stage application.

Do applications to the Global HPSR Researcher-led call have to fulfil Official Development Assistance (ODA) eligibility?

Yes, all applications to Global HPSR Researcher-led call must fulfil ODA eligibility. A full OECD DAC list of ODA-eligible countries can be found here.

Does NIHR have a preference for which ODA-eligible countries it funds? Are Upper Middle-Income Countries eligible to be part of the Global HPSR research consortium e.g. Brazil and India?

All countries on the OECD’s Development Assistance Committee (DAC) list are eligible for Global HPSR Researcher-led call funding; these include least developed, Low, Middle-Income and Upper-Middle Income (LMIC) countries and territories eligible for ODA, as defined by the OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC) list. Applications should provide clear details of how the research will meet ODA eligibility criteria.

What is the FCRA and how will this impact funding for research projects in India?

The Indian government has recently updated the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) which relates to payments to organisations in India. These organisations should follow the latest Indian government guidelines to confirm whether they require a FCRA license and that they have the appropriate measures in place to receive funding.

It is the applicant’s responsibility to ensure that any organisations in India involved in the research proposal, whether as Lead Applicants, Joint Lead Applicants, Co-Applicants or Collaborators, are fully compliant with the requirements of the FCRA. They should also ensure that the FCRA license is valid until beyond the end of the proposed contract period.

Will a Joint Lead without a prior track record of research be considered eligible? Is it a requirement to have a prior record of collaboration between applicants?

Joint Lead Applicants must have sufficient standing within their organisations and have demonstrable ability to lead and manage a large-scale programme of global health policy and systems research. Arrangements for more junior researchers to act as a Joint Lead (i.e. those who may have led work packages in previous awards) may be considered with appropriate plans for mentoring and senior support in place.

The Global HPSR Researcher-led call programme is designed to create and nurture both new and/or existing partnerships between Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) or Research Institutes in Low- and Middle-Income Countries (LMICs) on the DAC list and the UK where applicable. Both Joint leads must show a track record of excellence in collaborative research partnerships. There is no prerequisite that Joint Leads or Co-applicants within the research consortium have worked together previously. Proposed leadership models should clearly demonstrate that the consortium members will work together effectively and equitably over the lifetime of the award.

Are previous applicants of the MRC Applied Global Health Research Board grants eligible to submit proposals?

All applications must be tailored to ensure they meet the full scope of this NIHR Global HPSR researcher-led call and the key criteria for funding; applications which do not clearly meet the scope and funding criteria will be rejected.

Structure of Global HPSR Researcher-led call Consortium

Can you clarify the different eligibility criteria for Lead Institutions, Co-applicant institutions and Collaborators?

Detailed guidance on the structure of the research team and definitions of Joint leads, Co-applicants and Collaborators please see this section of the Global Health Research Programme’s core guidance.

What is an eligible contracting and/or Joint lead institution?

An eligible contracting institution must be a HEI or Research Institute. An LMIC or UK Research Institute is considered to be a not-for-profit research organisation likely possessing the following characteristics:

  • Demonstration of a significant track record in obtaining funding for research through competitive processes, and delivering successful outcomes from this funding
  • Demonstration of a track record in building and strengthening research capacity; this would likely include supporting individuals through a range of formal training positions (i.e. Masters, PhD, postdoctoral, etc.)
  • Demonstration of the ability to manage large awards supporting research and/or research capacity strengthening, through established research support functions (e.g. finance, intellectual property etc).

Can Joint Lead applicant be entirely LMIC-based i.e. with no UK-based partner? Can all Co-applicants from LMICs)?

Yes, in this call you can have two Joint Leads both based in LMICs. It is possible to include Co-applicants which are all from LMICs or to include both LMIC and UK Co-applicants. Non-LMIC Co-applicant Institutions may be included where it is justified that the expertise cannot be provided by an LMIC Institution. Each named Joint Lead or Co-applicant Institution must be a different HEI/Research Institute. Research may be based either within one single LMIC or across multiple LMICs on the DAC list. Please refer to the overview diagram contained in the webinar slides (19.00 mins).

Can both Joint Leads be from the same LMIC institution?

No, the spirit of the call is to build research capacity, partnerships and share knowledge as widely as possible. Applicants wishing to include more than one individual based within the same institution should include these members as Collaborators and provide details on their contributions within the detailed research plan.

Can a Joint Lead be based in the USA or other HIC rather than the UK?

No, a Joint Lead Applicant must be a Principal Investigator employed by a Higher Education Institution (HEI) or Research Institute based in either an LMIC (on the DAC list) or within the UK. Non-LMIC or HIC based research institutes may be included as co-applicants or collaborators; however, justification should be provided for their inclusion and why the specified expertise is not available within an LMIC.

Can one LMIC/or UK institution be a Joint Lead/or a Co-applicant on more than one application? Can different teams from the same LMIC institution submit multiple applications?

Yes, but there is a maximum limit of two applications submitted per institution (LMIC or UK), it is the Joint Lead Institution’s responsibility to check they are compliant with the remit. Applicants should carefully consider the number of applications on which they act as a Joint Lead or Co-applicant, as involvement in too many applications may affect the ability of institutions to fully deliver on multiple concurrent programmes. Where there are applications from the same institution, each must be distinct in their aims, objectives; it is the responsibility of applicants to ensure they do not breach the Institutional limit for submitting no more than two applications. Joint Lead Institutions can be a Co-applicant Institution on one other application to this call. An individual within an institution cannot be named as a Joint Lead Applicant on more than one HPSR Researcher-led call application.

If both leads are from different LMIC institutions, are we allowed a UK Co-applicant?

Yes, UK institutions and other HIC institutions can be Co-applicants, but involvement of other HIC partners will need to be clearly justified on why this expertise is not available in an LMIC institution.

Can there be co-directorship/two leads from Low- and Middle-Income Country (LMIC) participants, to share the lead in two institutions?

Under this Global HPSR Researcher-led call, the Joint-Lead position cannot be shared between two LMIC institutions.

Is it three Co-applicants or three Co-applicant institutions? Is it a requirement that there are five institutions, or is it up to five institutions, but it could be less?

It is three Co-applicant institutions. There is a maximum limit of five institutions (two Joint leads and up to three co-applicants) allowed. At a minimum there may be three different institutions in a consortium as appropriate to the research plans. Institutions may be based in one LMIC or multiple LMIC countries as appropriate to the research. Other individuals (not the named Co-applicant) and based within the Co-applicant institution may be included as Collaborators.

Regarding an additional three Co-applicant research institutions, can they come from the same LMIC, or must they come from different LMICs? Can three people from the same institution be Co-applicants?

The Co-applicants may be based in the same or in different LMICs, and where justified be based in non-LMICs. Each Joint Lead and Co-applicant must be a different institution.

Three individuals from the same institution cannot be included as Co-applicants but may be listed as Collaborators. Please refer to the Global HPSR remit and guidance and Global Health Research Programmes core guidance for further details on applicant eligibility.

A few team members are not affiliated with an HEI/Research Institution (e.g. due to retirement) but are active and valuable members of the team who will lead in specific roles. Can they be a Joint Lead? If not, what specific affiliations are necessary for them to qualify as Joint Lead?

Partners cannot be Joint Lead, Co-applicants/Collaborators on the project unless that are appropriately affiliated with an HEI/Research Institute. It is suggested that at a minimum such individuals should have an affiliation with an eligible HEI or Research Institute for example hold an honorary contract in order to fulfil these criteria. NIHR will carefully review applications proposing a Joint Lead Applicant holding an honorary contract with a Joint Lead organisation to ensure they meet the call eligibility criteria (both for the Joint Lead institution and the individual proposed as the Joint Lead).

Will NIHR support collaborations and partnership building with other funders and organisations to upscale projects?

The Global HPSR programme does not support joint funding of awards with other funders. The NIHR Global Health Partnerships funding calls support the only joint funding activity for the NIHR GHR programme. HPSR award holders may seek funding for complementary aspects to their funded HPSR awards with other funders. Please approach NIHR for advice in advance where this may apply to a funded award.

Can NGOs and/or charities be Joint Leads? Would you recommend LMIC NGO partners who facilitate community engagement and research co-development throughout the project be listed as Co-applicants or Collaborators?

NGOs and charities can be Joint Lead partners if they fulfil the criteria for an eligible Research Institute (see Q8). NGOs that do not meet the criteria for an eligible Research Institute may still be included as either Co-applicants or Collaborators depending on their role within the team.

Can a Ministry of Health or other Governmental agency be a Joint Lead applicant?

A Ministry of Health or governmental agency can only be a Co-applicant or Collaborator but cannot be a Joint Lead applicant in this call.

Can an LMIC hospital be a Joint Lead applicant?

Yes, they can if they are able to show a track record of excellence in record of managing large research projects through collaborative research partnerships and meet the criteria for an eligible Research Institute (see Q8).

Can the contract be split between UK and LMIC partners? With both serving as contracting organisations in a single application.

No, NIHR require one contracting institution to hold a single research contract. Please look at who is best placed to hold the DHSC research contract and agree which institution will be the main contractor and be willing/able to disburse payments to other partners within the consortium. A copy of the latest ODA research contract is available on our website.

General Research Scope and Remit

Can I apply for research that will be hosted in the UK but have field work done in a Low-and Middle-Income Country (LMIC) without a presence in any LMIC institution?

No, this would be ineligible and out of scope for funding under this Global HPSR Researcher-led call.

Are qualitative and creative methodologies welcome in this call?

Yes, we welcome a range of research approaches as part of any applied health research programme which strengthens and addresses gaps in health policies, services and systems in LMICs.

Does this funding support pre-clinical research work in addition to health policy?

The Global HPSR programme only supports applied health policy and systems research; pre-clinical research is out of scope unless there is strong justification for its inclusion within the research application and how this will ultimately support the strengthening of health policies, services and systems in LMICs.

If the pre-clinical work includes animal modelling including mice and non-human primates, would this call fund such research in addition to capacity strengthening?

NIHR only fund applied health research which does not include preclinical or basic research involving animals, animal tissue or both.

Does the call fund interventions?

We will fund development and costs of interventions in Global HPSR where these are part of an embedded research programme. System wide interventions are in scope and these may be based on formative research where these will lead to strengthening health policy, services and systems to improve health outcomes in LMICs. Wider elements of health systems such as governance and impacts of wider determinants of health across different levels (micro, meso and macro) and research addressing issues of equity are welcomed. A breakdown of the intervention costs will also be required.

What is the balance of the Community Engagement and Involvement (CEI) component in this call versus the focus it has been given in the NIHR RIGHT portfolio - is it considered as crucial to application success?

CEI is a core element to this call and across all the NIHR GHR programmes. It is one of the key criteria for funding and NIHR expect to see strong and meaningful CEI engagement which targets vulnerable and hard to reach populations within the LMIC context(s) throughout the research lifecycle from identification of priorities through to dissemination of research findings.

What is considered to be appropriate Community Engagement and Involvement in a Global HPSR Researcher-led call application?

To ensure that the research is appropriate, as well as scientifically and ethically sound, relevant community groups and organisations from Low- and Middle-Income Countries (LMICs) must be involved in a meaningful way to help guide the research from its design phase through to the dissemination of research findings.

There is no standard model for appropriate community engagement and involvement (CEI) as Global HPSR Researcher-led call applications vary immensely. Please refer to NIHR CEI resources on engaging and involving communities in your research and to section 12 of the core guidance for full information on NIHR’s expectations for Community Engagement and Involvement, including how applicants should demonstrate how they will engage and involve communities utilising the draft UNICEF Minimum Standards for Community Engagement.

Applications should provide evidence of active engagement with research participants and communities with a particular focus on engaging vulnerable and/or high-risk groups as well relevant policy and evidence user stakeholders. It is expected that CEI plans will outline plans for meaningful and sustained engagement.

Research Capacity Strengthening

Can you clarify eligible costs for PhD students for this Global HPSR Researcher-led call? Are student stipends part of the award or additional support?

NIHR will fund the full costs for formal academic training courses for those students based in ODA-eligible countries, who are registered to attend a Low- and Middle-Income Country (LMIC) or High-Income Country (HIC) institution for these studies. Further information on training and development costs is available here.

Can a studentship be the main focus of an application?

No, a studentship can only form a part of the research capacity strengthening component of any applied health policy and systems research application. NIHR will cover the fees and stipend costs for LMIC-based students but a studentship cannot be the sole activity of an HPSR researcher-led application.

Is there a limit in proportion of the budget that can be used for training and studentships?

Applications should include research and capacity strengthening work, addressing identified needs which support health policy, health services and health system strengthening in LMICs. There is no limit on the proportion of these costs provided the balance between research costs and training and studentship costs is well justified.


Are the key criteria for funding equally weighted?

Yes, NIHR Funding Committee’s will assess applications against all the key criteria for funding; these are all equally weighted.

Can collaborators’ staff time be included in the budget along with the budget for Co-applicants?

Yes, costs associated with collaborators should be included in the budget in line with the advice in the Global HPSR finance guidance.

In terms of sustainability, is there likely to be any opportunity for successfully funded Awards to apply for longer term support from NIHR?

Individual Global HPSR Researcher-led awards are funded for 4 years; teams would then need to apply for new funding, in open competition.

How much money is available to applicants in the Global HPSR Researcher-led call? Is there a minimum threshold?

Through this call, awards up to £4 million maximum (typical range £1-4 million) for a period of up to 4 years are available for eligible research. Smaller awards within the range which are proportionate to the scale of research ambition are welcomed. The amount and duration of funding requested should be fully justified according to the nature of the proposed research. See the detailed Global HPSR Researcher-led - Finance Guidance for further information.

Are UK and Low- and Middle-Income Country (LMIC) overheads/indirect costs eligible costs in a Global HPSR Researcher-led call application? Is there a ceiling on overhead costs?

Examples of permissible indirect costs/overheads can be found in the Global HPSR Researcher-led Finance Guidance.

UK HEIs may request indirect costs and estates that form part of Full Economic Costing (FEC). These are calculated on the number of full-time equivalent researchers/staff working on the programme. 80% of these costs will be funded. Indirect costs will be scrutinised as part of Value for Money assessment and therefore these costs must be fully justified as to why they are and how they will contribute to the overall research. UK HEI indirect costs cannot be claimed on shared or support staff costs.

ODA-eligible LMIC institutions may include actual and real costs of undertaking the research in low-resource settings. Indirect costs can be claimed and should be charged in proportion to the total amount of staff effort (research and support staff) requested on the application for funding.

There is no specific threshold on the percentage of indirect costs for LMIC HEIs/Research Institutions, but we do ask for justification of the indirect elements of the budget and shared resources be proportioned according to need.

Can costs be included for work that is to be decided during the project - does this need to be a percentage of the budget as for other GHR programmes?

This is not possible. All requested research costs must be clearly outlined and identified in project costings and should be based on the applicant’s best estimates. They cannot be proportioned a percentage of the total budget. It is not permitted to include costs categorised as ‘contingency’ or 'miscellaneous.' During active awards it is possible to request and justify virements between agreed budget lines, which must be approved by NIHR.

Would you fund capacity building for research infrastructure as well as researchers e.g. research finance and administration?

Yes, we will fund research, finance, and administrative support costs as part of building research capacity to help address identified gaps and capacity strengthening needs identified in LMICs.

Is primary data collection an eligible cost? If so, is there a limit on the share of this data collection in the overall budget?

Yes, this is an eligible cost and there is no limit on the percentage share of this cost on the overall budget, it is dependent upon your research proposal and should be costed in proportion to these plans.

Are interventions that strengthen health system functions (e.g. governance, leadership, community engagement) eligible for funding? Will it be acceptable to suggest the long-term health outcomes of such work — as such outcomes would be unlikely within 4 years?

Yes, interventions improving health system functions and infrastructure are eligible for funding. Long-term outcomes are acceptable but NIHR also need to see how short-term outcomes will contribute to these. We would expect to see pathways to impact and for applicants to clearly outline what is achievable during and beyond the lifetime of the project.

Will budgets be adjusted by the Funding Committee, if they feel that the proposed budget is higher or lower than the proposed project?

The committee may ask for adjustments in relation to their suggestions, such as the need to include more time, particular expertise or research aims. Applicants will be asked to address suggestions and to keep these within the overall budget limits.

How much variation can there be between the budget at Intent to Submit stage and the budget at full application?

We understand that the budget may well be an estimate at the Intent to Submit stage but would prefer minimal variation between the budgets at the Intent to Submit and the full application stage. An estimate of the total budget is a requirement for submission of the Intent to Submit, please do keep all budgets within the maximum funding limits.

Can LMIC students be trained in the UK/HIC and will they be eligible to receive stipend and fees support?

NIHR will fund student fees and cover the stipend for LMIC students based in ODA-eligible countries but registered at an institution in the UK/HIC. In cases where the application includes LMIC student fees at a HIC institution, it is expected that the relevant Joint Lead Applicant will negotiate with the HIC institution for reduced fees for the LMIC candidate. Application for funding should show evidence of fees being reduced. Further information on training and development costs is available here.

Can we request indirect costs for students?

UK HEIs should determine the Full Economic Costing (FEC) using the TRAC (Transparent Approach to Costing) methodology. NIHR will fund 80% of FEC.

Indirect costs for LMIC organisations can be requested for research trainees. Stipends for research trainees should be included within the Salaries section of the application form and LMIC indirect costs should be calculated as a proportion of staff effort.

Are stipends funded at a rate of 100% or 80%?

Where stipends are included within the UK HEI budget/costing (i.e. these costs will be paid by the UK HEI for LMIC trainees), then stipends will be funded at a rate of 80% FEC. Where stipends are included within the LMIC Joint Lead / Co-applicant / Collaborator’s budget/costing or within non-UK HIC budgets, then 100% of these costs will be funded for LMIC trainees. Please refer to the full Finance Guidance for the Global HPSR researcher-led call.

What are the guidelines for costing salaries (e.g. if subcontracting, would UK HEI FEC costs be admissible), and under which LMIC partner’s other direct costs should costing salaries be included if the UK HEI is not the contracting lead?

All staff costs should be calculated on the basis of actual estimated costs. These should include basic salary cost, geographical weighting and other allowances payable by the employer (e.g. pension, national insurance, apprenticeship levy) as well as all agreed increments. Inflation should not be included.

Costing for all costs must be provided by collaborating/partnering organisations (UK HEIs, which will be funded at 80% FEC).

All salaries including those for collaborating/partnering organisations should be listed within the Salaries section of the application form and assigned to the relevant organisation using the drop-down box. All other costs must be entered in their respective sections.

How do we adjust for the inflation of staff salaries?

Staff costs should be based on current salary scales and include estimated increments. Once your programme is contracted, retrospective pay awards cannot be claimed. Estimated uplifts for inflation should not be included, however, agreed multi-year pay awards may be included.

How do we account for the exchange rate?

Please see the NIHR exchange rate guidance for further information.

Costings should be done in the local currency first and then converted to GBP. Exchange rates used (as well as date and source of exchange rate) should be provided as part of the online submission. Please include the date and exchange rate used for costing.

Fluctuations are expected but if large variations are experienced please contact NIHR during the active award.

Is it possible to exceed the limit of £1000 for the purchase of IT equipment (i.e. laptops, computers, servers)?

Costs of computers and laptops are normally restricted to a maximum of £1000 each including associated software and VAT. A statement of justification must be included for any purchase of high specification equipment above this limit and how the equipment will be of direct and primary benefit to the LMIC/s.

Can we rent equipment?

Equipment can be rented but we ask that value for money is ensured and prices are negotiated/ are sustainable for future use i.e. factor in maintenance costs.

If researchers from an LMIC travel to the UK as visiting scholars or as a post-doc, and they are already on the project with a %FTE, can their travel costs be added to the budget (including resources for their maintenance in the UK during the period they remain in the UK university)?

Travel and subsistence costs of collaborative working visits and engagement with potential stakeholders can be requested. You may also request travel and subsistence costs of your programme advisory groups, steering committees, data monitoring and ethics committees. Travel and subsistence in relation to programme meetings, training and dissemination activities can also be claimed.

It is expected that salaries and stipends cover living costs and routine travel. Additional costs such as conference attendance, international travel as well as research expenses can be included in addition to stipends and salaries.

Can we use per diems to cost subsistence when travelling internationally?

Per diems for travel and subsistence are not permitted. All expenditure must be supported by receipts or invoices. Please refer to the full Finance Guidance for the Global HPSR researcher-led call.

If a UK organisation is the contracting organisation, are advance payments to LMIC partners by the UK contracting organisation acceptable e.g. for set-up costs?

Funding can only be dispersed on a need basis and cannot be provided in advance of need. Payments in advance of need may be made at the contractor's risk but will usually require collaboration agreements to be agreed and in place. Once contracts/collaboration agreements are in place set up phases can be planned to support payments in line with need.

Application process

Which sections are to be covered in the intent to submit application?

For more information on the intent to submit, please refer to our application guidance notes.

Can the LMIC PI submit the Intention to Submit or does it have to be the HEI PI?

The lead contracting institute must submit both the intention to submit and main application, this can be either a LMIC or the UK institution Joint Lead who will be managing the contract and distributing funds (i.e. the contracting institution).

How many Global HPSR Researcher-led call awards will be made?

All NIHR Global Health Research funding is awarded on a competitive basis and based on quality and resource availability. The number of successful applications is not predetermined. For more information on selection process, please refer to the Global HPSR Researcher-Led Awards Call remit and guidance.

Who is the chair of the Global HPSR Researcher-led call funding committee?

The Chair of the Global HPSR Researcher-led call Funding Committee is Professor Dame Anne Mills.

How will the Funding Committee members be selected? Will the committee include Low- and Middle-Income Country (LMIC) representation?

Funding Committee members are appointed via an openly advertised recruitment process. For Global Health Research Funding Committees, we appointed members with experience from a wide range of geographical locations and contexts, particularly from applicants from countries listed on the OECD DAC-list. In line with the International Development (Gender Equality) Act 2014 and the Equalities Act 2010, as well as NIHR principles, NIHR embraces diversity and is committed to equality of opportunity. Where particular areas of knowledge, skills, or contextual experience in LMIC countries are required to support the work of a particular committee, some members may be directly approached and appointed by the NIHR.

What is a research abstract?

The research abstract is the scientific description of the research application; a plain language summary of this is also required as part of the application submission.

Will feedback be provided for unsuccessful applications? Feedback is essential for researchers to reflect on what they could have done better for future applications.

Full feedback and including reviewer comments will be provided to those applications that are in remit and for Funding Committee review.

If high numbers of applications are received, a triage stage may be required involving a shortlisting review by the Funding Committee. In such instances, we have advertised that we will not be able to provide feedback to unsuccessful applications where a Triage stage is required.

What is REALMS? Is it possible to save draft applications on the REALMS online system before submitting the final version?

REALMS is the new application and information management system used for HPSR awards. Yes, it is possible to save draft versions of the application on the REALMS online system prior to submitting the finalised version.

Is this a recurring call?

This is the first Global HPSR Researcher-led call. We have not set out any plans for future calls. As we develop the portfolio future funding opportunities will be published on the NIHR website. A full list of NIHR GHR programmes can be found here.