Published: 27 April 2021
Version: 1.2 November 2021Print this document
About this supporting information
This document contains information to assist applicants submitting a stage 1 and 2 application form to the Health and Social Care Delivery Research Programme. Applications for funding are made online through the NIHR REsearch Awards Lifecycle Management System (REALMS). You must register or log-in to the NIHR (REALMS) to complete and submit your application.
Please also ensure that you have read the application form guidance notes fully and referred to the NIHR HSDR Programme webpage. We have endeavoured to cover all necessary information relating to the application form through these resources. Incorrectly completed applications may be rejected.
The following additional supporting information is available on the HSDR webpage:
- HSDR Programme page / aims and scope
- HSDR Tips for success in applying
- Latest funding opportunities for Health and Social Care Delivery Research
The following information can be found on each individual funding call opportunity:
- Word version of Stage 1 / Stage 2 application form as appropriate
- Checklist for applicants to describe intervention and context features in HSDR research proposals
- Standards for Reporting Implementation Studies: the StaRI Checklist of items to be reported
Other information / links
Researchers in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales are eligible to apply for funding under this programme. Researchers in Scotland may apply to the researcher-led work-stream but are not eligible to respond to the commissioned work-stream and should contact the CSO to discuss funding opportunities for healthcare delivery-type research.
Within the United Kingdom anyone who considers that they can carry out high-quality research is likely to be eligible. If you have any concerns regarding your eligibility to apply, we advise that you contact us before completing an application.
NIHR programmes welcome applications that are within the programmes' remits from all sectors. Applicants are strongly advised to consider establishing partnerships with other relevant sectors or organisations to demonstrate they have the full breadth of expertise to carry out their proposed research in their applications to NIHR programmes. Applicants should always check individual call specification documents for any additional eligibility requirements.
NIHR proposal resubmission policy
NIHR does not prohibit the submission of research project applications that were previously unsuccessful but applicants will be encouraged not to re-apply until they have re-worked their application and responded to the feedback provided. If they do re-apply their application will be treated as a new application and considered on its merits at the time.
We have an obligation to keep data secure and to use it appropriately. To fulfil our obligations under law and as a result of our contract with the Department of Health, we adopt various procedures to use and protect data. This will impact on how we deal with you and your joint applicants.
The Department of Health, (DHSC) NIHR is the Data Controller under the Data Protection Act 1998 ('the Act'). Under the Data Protection Act, we have a legal duty to protect any information we collect from you. You should be aware that information given to us might be shared with other DHSC NIHR bodies for the purposes of statistical analysis and other DHSC NIHR research management purposes.
NIHR also reserves the right to share, in confidence, details of your application with other approved research funding organisations outside NIHR in order to coordinate research activity in the UK.
Information collected from you will not be passed to any third party outside the NIHR except specifically as detailed above without your consent except where we are under a statutory obligation or entitled to do so by law. Applicants may be assured that DHSC NIHR is committed to protecting privacy and to processing all personal information in a manner that meets the requirements of the Act.
Data security - data about you
Personal information will be held on a database in the NIHR password-protected network that is available only to NIHR staff. Your details and those of your joint applicants will be retained by NIHR on behalf of the Department of Health to facilitate the running of the HSDR programme. If your application is successful at any stage of our process your name, and the details of the sponsoring organisation, will appear on the HSDR website. In addition, once funding has been agreed and the contract signed, your details will appear in other literature as a grant holder and will be passed to the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) for inclusion in their publicly available databases of research projects.
Your name and those of your joint applicants will be added to our mailing list. This means that you will be sent updates on all the programmes. We may also send you separate literature about the HSDR programme and related events in medical/health research. If you have any questions, or if you would prefer not to receive routine and/or general communications, please contact us at: email@example.com.
Previous history of the application
If this HSDR application is a resubmission for which you previously received feedback, please explain what you learned and how the application has improved. If this HSDR application is pending a decision from another funder, please give details of the funder, and the expected decision date.
Research Design Service
Applicants are recommended to seek advice from suitable methodological support services, at an appropriate stage in the development of their research idea and application. It is advisable to make contact at an early a stage as possible to allow sufficient time for discussion and a considered response.
The NIHR Research Design Service can advise on appropriate NIHR programme choice, and developing and designing high quality research grant applications (Research Design Service | NIHR).
Clinical Trials Unit support
Clinical Trials Units are regarded as an important component of many trial applications and can advise and participate throughout the process from initial idea development through to project delivery and reporting. However, they may not be essential for all types of studies. If you feel this is the case, please justify the reasons on your application.
If you are looking for a CTU to collaborate with in your application, then the following sources can provide more help:
NIHR CTU Support Funding (CTU Support Funding | NIHR) provides information on units receiving funding form the NIHR to collaborate on research applications to NIHR programmes and funded projects.
The UKCRC CTU Network provides a searchable information resource on all registered units in the UK, and lists key interest areas and contact information.
The NIHR expects the active involvement of patients and the public in the research it supports, including research undertaken as part of an individual training award. NIHR recognise that the nature and extent of active patient and public involvement is likely to vary depending on the context of each study or award. The term involvement refers to an active partnership between patients, members of the public and researchers in the research process. This can include, for example, involvement in the choice of research topics, assisting in the design, advising on the research project or in carrying out the research.
In this section it is important that you describe in as much detail as possible how patients and the public have been involved in the development of the application as well as plans for involvement in the proposed research. Please note that this section does not refer to the recruitment of patients or members of the public as participants in the research.
Further information and resources can be found on the NIHR website. This includes a detailed definition of patient and public involvement in research, briefing notes for researchers on how to involve patients and the public and payment guidance for researchers and professionals. The NIHR Research Design Service provide advice on developing research applications including involving patients and the public and the James Lind Alliance has a step-by-step guide on involvement in research identification and priority setting.
Ethics / regulatory approvals
Guidance on the application process for ethical and other approvals can be found on the HRA website. Please note that if your study is led from England and involves the NHS in England you should apply for HRA approval.
If you are using patient information from an existing database, you should check whether the patients have given their consent for their data to be included in that database for research purposes, or if not whether the database is exempt under Section 251 of the NHS Act 2006. Where exemptions are not already in place, approval to use confidential patient information without consent must be requested from the HRA who make decisions with advice from the Confidentiality Advisory Group. (CAG)
To take advantage of the growing utility of routine data (such as HES, GP records etc.), we would encourage investigators, where appropriate, to ask study participants to consent to long term follow up (e.g. beyond the outcomes to be collected in the funded trial) using routinely collected data, and appropriate linkage to allow this data to be best used.
Information on the responsibilities of key research stakeholders including Sponsors, Chief Investigators and Research Teams are summarised in the UK policy framework for health and social care research.
Reasonable costs and value for money
The HSDR programme accepts that some variance in costs is likely to occur between the Stage 1 and Stage 2 applications. The HSDR programme will carefully scrutinise all Stage 2 application costs and any variance from the first stage. All costs need to be fully justified by the applicants to reassure that the study offers good value for money for the NHS and social care services.
There are no fixed limits on the duration of projects or funding, and proposals should be tailored to fully address the research problem. Research costs are the costs of the research activity itself. These include data collection, analysis, other activities needed to answer the research questions, trial registration (if required) and the salary and indirect costs of staff employed to carry out the research.
Information for estimating costs
If you are unsure of how to attribute the costs between research and NHS support and treatment costs, please refer to the following guidance on ‘Attributing the costs of health and social care Research and Development (AcoRD)’.
Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) should determine the Full Economic Cost (FEC) of their research using the Transparent Approach to Costing (TRAC) methodology. For HEIs, up to 80% of FEC will be paid, provided that TRAC methodology has been used.
For applications where the contractor is an NHS body or provider of NHS services in England, up to 100% of direct costs will be paid.
Requirements for systematic reviews to be registered with PROSPERO
Applicants undertaking systematic reviews should note the commitment of NIHR to register them in the PROSPERO database. PROSPERO was developed by the NIHR’s Centre for Reviews and Dissemination (CRD) and is the first online facility to register systematic reviews for research about health and social care from all around the world. Access is completely free and open to the public. PROSPERO registration is a condition of NIHR funding for eligible systematic reviews.
UK Biobank is a major national health resource, and a registered charity in its own right, with the aim of improving the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of a wide range of serious and life-threatening illnesses – including cancer, heart diseases, stroke, diabetes, arthritis, osteoporosis, eye disorders, depression and forms of dementia. UK Biobank recruited 500,000 people aged between 40-69 years in 2006-2010 from across the country to take part in this project. They have undergone measures, provided blood, urine and saliva samples for future analysis as well as detailed information about themselves. The health of members of this large cohort will be followed over the coming years and the participants have consented to be approached about health research.
Applicants are encouraged to consider whether Biobank may be able to provide suitable data for their study. We do not want to discourage establishment of new collections of participants and their data where this is necessary to address the research questions under consideration, our aim is to avoid applications for funding to set up Biobank-like cohorts where the use of Biobank would prevent wasteful duplication of Biobank-like activities.
NIHR carbon reduction guidelines
The NIHR is committed to playing a role in helping to meet the UK Net Zero carbon targets. The NIHR would therefore encourage all applications to consider, where feasible, addressing issues of environmental sustainability including their impact and appropriate outcomes within the remit of the applying programme. Advice can be obtained from the NIHR Carbon Reduction Guidelines.
In line with the government’s transparency agenda, any contract resulting from this tender may be published in its entirety to the general public. Further information on the transparency agenda is available.
Guidance for using the electronic online Stage 1 application form To Access the Application form for Stage 1 applications only
Select the call to which you wish to apply for on the funding opportunity page on our website. From within the call details page press the ‘Click here to apply’ button to access the Stage 1 application form. This also provides call specific supplementary information e.g. the commissioning brief or specification document. This will direct you to the NIHR REALMS login page. If you already have a username (email address) and password, enter these details or, if you have not yet registered, complete the short registration process. You will then be directed to the confirmation page for the specific call. If this is the correct call, click on the ‘Apply Now’ button and this will start the application process.
Applying for a funding opportunity creates a task called ‘Pending Application’. This task will be available for you to complete until 1pm on the closing date as indicated on the research call and on your task list.
The ‘Pending Application’ task can be accessed at any time until you either submit the application (using the Submit button in the application) or the call closes.
Clicking on the relevant Pending Application link takes you to the online Application where you can complete your application information.
Additional guidance will be available on most screens as you progress through your application.
The NIHR REALMS can always be accessed directly, on your homepage all your applications will be listed.
To submit a Stage 1 application
In order to submit a Stage 1 application to the programme you must:
- Complete all mandatory fields as indicated with a red asterisk *. When you click the ‘Info Still Required’ button at the bottom of the online application page a list of outstanding information (hyperlinked to relevant section/question) will be displayed at the top of the application screen.
- For primary research you should upload a flow diagram (single-side of A4), as a separate .pdf file, for submission with your application form. This should illustrate the study design and the flow of participants (if appropriate). If the project consists of more than one work package, consider a diagram that conveys the sequence and timing of research packages as well as how the work packages are linked. Applicants should also describe complex interventions and controls as accurately and fully as possible within their diagram. If proposing an RCT, we advise you refer to the CONSORT statement and website for guidance.
Alternatively, you may find the EQUATOR Network website useful. The .PDF file must be submitted along with your application form.
- Submit a list of references used throughout your proposal, using either Vancouver or Harvard reference conventions (maximum 1 sides of A4).
- Upload any other requested documents e.g. cover letter, collaborative documents, as dictated by the specification of the call.
Giving others access to the form
- Co-applicants: Access to your application is through your user login to the NIHR REALMS. This should not be shared. The Stage 1 application does not require co-applicants to complete this form however as lead applicant you must ensure they are aware of being involved in the study team. If you want to share your form with your co-applicants, please create a PDF of the form and send it to them. Options to create a PDF are available on the Home page and the Review and Submit page. Where appropriate to the study a Joint Lead Applicant can be added to the application (stage 1 and stage 2) and full access can be given.
Guidance for using the electronic stage 2 application form
To access the application form for Stage 2 applications only
If you are applying for a new call e.g. an Evidence Synthesis, you can select the call to which you wish to apply for on the funding opportunity page on the NIHR website. From within the call details page press the ‘Click here to apply’ button to access the Stage 2 application form. This also provides call specific supplementary information e.g. the commissioning brief or specification document. This will direct you to the NIHR REALMS login page. If you already have a username (email address) and password, enter these details or, if you have not yet registered, complete the short registration process. You will then be directed to the confirmation page for the specific call. If this is the correct call, click on the ‘Apply Now’ button and this will start the application process.
Applying for a funding opportunity creates a task called ‘Pending Application’. This task will be available for you to complete until 1pm on the closing date as indicated on the research call and on your task list. If you have been shortlisted from a Stage 1 form:
The ‘Pending Application’ task can be accessed at any time until you either submit the application (using the Submit button) or the call closes.
Clicking on the Pending Application link takes you to the application’s main page where you can complete your application information (clicking on this link will not submit an incomplete application).
Additional guidance will be available on most screens as you progress through your application.
The NIHR REALMS can always be accessed directly, on your home page all your applications and other tasks will be listed.
To submit a stage 2 application
In order to submit a Stage 2 application to the programme you must:
- Complete all mandatory fields. When you click the ‘Info Still Required’ button at the bottom of the application a list of outstanding information (hyperlinked to relevant section/question) will be displayed at the top of the application screen.
- Submit a Detailed Research Plan, which should:
- Have a font size of 11 Arial
- Not exceed 20 A4 pages
- Have a header containing your allocated project reference number if known
- Have a footer showing your page numbers
- Be converted to a .PDF version before uploading it
- Submit a flow diagram (single-side of A4), as a separate .pdf file, for submission with your application form. This should illustrate the study design and the flow of participants (if appropriate). If the project consists of more than one work package, consider a diagram that conveys the sequence and timing of research packages as well as how the work packages are linked. Applicants should also describe complex interventions and controls as accurately and fully as possible within their diagram. If proposing an RCT, we advise you refer to the CONSORT statement and website for guidance. Alternatively, you may find the EQUATOR Network website useful. The .pdf file must be submitted along with your application form.
- Submit a CTU letter of support if appropriate to the study. This is not a mandatory upload.
- Submit a list of references used throughout your proposal (maximum 3 sides of A4).
- Submit a completed Schedule of Events Cost Attribution Tool (SoECAT).
- Upload any other requested documents e.g. cover letter, collaborative documents as dictated by the specification of the call.
Giving others access to the Stage 2 form
Including Joint lead applicant / co-applicants in your Stage 2 application
Access to your application is through your NIHR REALMS user login. This should not be shared. The Stage 2 application is designed as a collaborative submission. As the lead applicant, you can nominate a Joint lead applicant / co-applicants to provide their personal information via the Applicant Detail Form and collaborate on sections of the application. You select the type of access they have to the application. As a result of the nomination, your joint lead applicant / co-applicants will be invited via email to login to the REALMS, accept their role and complete their application tasks.
If your application includes Joint lead applicant / co-applicants, you will not be able to complete and submit your application until the co-applicant has provided the information that we require from them.
Once you have completed the details for each co-applicant you should click on the ‘Save’ button before clicking on the ‘Invite’ button. This will then prompt an email to be sent to each co-applicant with a task for them to approve involvement with the project in question and provide the necessary personal information via the Applicant Detail Form.
Stage 2 Application, depending on the access permissions granted by the lead applicant, allows the Joint lead applicant / co-applicant to read and/or amend any details in the application. It is the responsibility of the lead applicant to ensure that the Joint lead applicant / co-applicants complete all the tasks generated.
Enter co-applicants details accurately as we will use these to contact them (the exact email address used as their REALMS username is essential to ensure they receive the automatic communication as part of the application process).
Please make sure that you:
• Allow sufficient time for your Joint lead applicant / co-applicants to complete both parts of their task in the online form before the application deadline.
Completing the form
In line with other UK health researchfunders, NIHR have implemented a researcher identification scheme –ORCiD. In order to submit your Stage 1 and Stage 2 application, you (and Joint Lead Applicant / Co-applicants) are required to obtain a free unique ORCiD ID number and enter this onto your REALMS user profile contact information. You will only have to do this once, however if you add any additional information to ORCID, you will then need to synchronise this with your REALMS account by going to My Profile>ORCID>Re-import Data. The requirement for an ORCID ID is mandatory for all applicants except PPI co-applicants. However, if a PPI co-applicant has an ORCiD account and wishes to add this to their REALMS contact profile they can.
To do this go to the ‘Profile’ tab on your REALMS Home page and click on the ORCID link in the left navigation bar to import your profile. On the next screen either add or register for an ORCiD ID by clicking on ‘Create or connect your ORCID iD’ which will redirect you to the ORCiD website, where you will be able sign in or register for an ID number.
Once logged in to ORCID and following acceptance of T&Cs, you will need to click on the 'Continue to import your ORCID Data' button which will update your profile with your ORCID ID number, along with other associated ORCID data (e.g. any publications and grants you have allowed ORCID to make visible to the public or trusted parties). Grants and Publications drawn from ORCID in this way will be available for you to use in populating the relevant sections of your application. The ORCID ID number is a mandatory requirement. More information about ORCiD is available.
Saving your form
As you work through the application, you are asked to ‘Save Draft’. This will save all the information you have submitted so far. You can save the form at any point and leave the application prior to submission. The save draft button is always located at the bottom of each page of the application. The pending application task will remain on your home page until complete and submitted or the deadline for the application has passed, at which point it will appear as either a Submitted Application or Past Application task.
It is important to remember to ‘Save Draft’ as you go through the form before navigating away from the page.
There is a security time out set on REALMS so that after 60 minutes of inactivity, the user will be logged out of the system. It is advisable therefore to save your work at regular intervals using the save draft button on any page. The NIHR REALMS will give you a warning that you are due to be timed out 10 minutes before it times you out. If this message is displayed, you should close the pop-up.
Leaving the application task
You can leave your application task at any time. As long as you have saved any new information you have entered for the application, you can navigate to your home page or log out of the NIHR REALMS system.
If you encounter any problems with the NIHR REALMS system, you should contact the programme funding support team via email.
Space restrictions when entering text
You should be aware that there are character limits set for each text box within the application form. For larger text areas these are indicated with ‘xxxx characters left’ at the bottom of the text entry box. Please note that the system does provide a spell checker. Carriage returns and spaces are counted as characters.
The form counts all blank space as a part of the content of each box, so if you are short of space it will help if you delete extra carriage returns and place any bulleted lists into paragraph format.
You may wish to include URL links to your application or refer to URL links in a body of your text. You are advised not to use any URL shortening service such as ‘tiny.cc’ when completing your application. This type of shortening service is associated with hacking and spamming (as it promotes the sending of links that are unclear where they are pointing).
Review and Submit Application
Please ensure that before you submit your application, you have completed the required fields and saved a version of your form. You must submit your application form and flow diagram / references where required, by the stated deadline before 1pm. We are unable to grant any time extensions and the deadline will be strictly observed. You should therefore plan your application carefully. We will not enter into negotiations for extensions.
Stage 1 and Stage 2 applications must be submitted electronically.
Submit your application using the ‘Submit’ button at the bottom of the form. Clicking on the ‘Info Still Required’ button will take you to a list of outstanding / incomplete required application information. Each item listed is an active link that will take you to the relevant application question / field.
We strongly advise applicants at this point to check that all sections are completed and the correct documents have been uploaded into the system as they cannot be altered once submitted.
You will then receive an automated confirmation email from the HSDR programme. If you do not receive an email please contact us immediately as there may be an issue with your submission.
Seven days prior to the closing date you will receive an email reminder that you have an open application (i.e. not submitted).
If, after carefully reading all the instructions, you still have difficulties completing your application, please visit the HSDR Programme webpage which contains additional supporting information and resources.
If your particular query or problem is not addressed, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please be aware that while every effort is made to answer queries, if the query is made very near the closing date, the HS&DR Programme may not be able to provide a considered response. When emailing us please include details of the call which you are responding to, and the name of the lead applicant.