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HSDR Programme: Tips for applicants


Published: 12 June 2019

Version: 1.0 June 2019

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Importance to the NHS

Make a clear case for why the research is needed by the NHS, how it will change practice and improve health. This might include:

  • justifying how the research will lead to an improvement over existing ways of working;
  • demonstrating how the research is likely to impact on existing knowledge;
  • considering how the findings could be transferred to other contexts or conditions;
  • making sure you have discussed it with NHS professionals working in the area, and that you know what their research needs are;
  • analysing and describing the links to current NHS plans and strategies;
  • demonstrating there is a gap in NHS knowledge around the proposed research question.

If you are responding to a commissioned call, you must make clear how your proposal addresses the requirements set out in the brief.

Assessing the problem to be investigated

Make sure you have identified the problem clearly and in detail before starting on further research into how to tackle it. This may be possible through a literature review, or may require some preliminary research.

Carry out a detailed review of the existing evidence; ensure this is summarised clearly in the proposal and that the proposed work builds on it.

Ensure that you know about all existing, relevant data sources. There may be data already collected that can be used, instead of collecting data afresh.

Planning your study

HSDR funds research projects, not programmes of work or ongoing work. You must have clearly defined research questions.

Provide clearly defined objectives for your work. Describe how the planned methodology is likely to achieve these objectives.

Provide a clear description of your methodology and why you have chosen to use it – including at outline stage. Give as much detail as you can.

Provide a rationale for sample sizes (whether qualitative or quantitative) explaining why this number has been chosen and how it will lead to robust results. Provide power calculations where relevant.

Include a realistic data collection plan, with consideration of the skills needed from the team, recruitment and timetabling, as appropriate.

Be clear about the study design you plan to use: for example, whether you are planning a trial, a pilot, a feasibility study or another type of research. Ensure the involvement of a Clinical Trials Unit for support where relevant, and use other sources of support (such as your local RDS).

If your research involves an intervention, describe it as clearly as possible even if it is at the development stage.

Make a clear case for why your research offers value for money. Is there the potential for future cost savings in the NHS? Are there cheaper ways of getting the same results?

Ensure your study is accurately costed.

Define key terms clearly. Use plain English as far as possible – avoid jargon and acronyms.

Ensure that your timetable is realistic to carry out the planned work. There should be flexibility to cope with unexpected problems.

Put suitable project management arrangements in place, including a designated project manager.

Refer to the How to apply for funding page on the website for other sources of information and advice.

The research team

Make sure the team includes all relevant expertise – you may need to think about including clinical representatives, methodologists, economists, NHS managers, patient and public representatives and others. Their involvement should be at an appropriate level, whether part of a steering or advisory group or the research team.

Ensure appropriate public involvement. Even if your proposal is technical in nature and opportunities for public involvement are not obvious, think about how the work affects or could affect patients and the public and identify ways of involving them.