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NIHR Global Health Policy and Systems Research (HPSR) Call 3 Stage 1 application form guidance


Published: 14 November 2022

Version: 1.0 - November 2022

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These are the Global Health Research HPSR Programme guidance notes for applicants submitting a Stage 1 application via the REsearch Awards Lifecycle Management System (REALMS).

The ‘Add New Ticket’ button towards the top of the screen can be used to raise a support ticket if you have any questions relating to the call or completion of the online application form.

Please regularly press the ‘Save Draft’ button, found towards the bottom of the screen to save your progress.

We would like to draw your attention to the 'Info still required' button at the bottom of the application page. We encourage you to click this before submitting your application - it will bring up a list of all the sections that still need completing and any errors the system has detected (if any) - these can then be corrected in good time before the submission date.

How to apply to Global HPSR Call 3

You must complete an online application via the REsearch Awards Lifecycle Management System (REALMS). The closing date for applications is Wednesday, 15 March 2023 at 1pm UK time.

  • Late applications will not be accepted. The system will automatically prevent applications from being submitted after the exact closing date and time.
  • It is the Applicants’ responsibility to allow sufficient time to submit an application.
  • Applicants can contact the NIHR Global HPSR team by emailing

A word template of the Stage 1 application form is available on the NIHR website (.DOCX - Word) for reference only.

Submissions to more than one NIHR Programme

NIHR will not accept the same or substantially similar applications across multiple NIHR Global Health Research Calls. See core guidance for more details.


It is mandatory for all applicants to register for an ORCiD identifier and to include this in their REALMS user profile.


Only registered users of REALMS can apply. Applicants new to REALMS should register as a new user. Once logged into your account the REALMS home page is the starting point to create applications, access applications where you are a co-applicant and to update contact information and professional details.

Managing my details

Lead applicants and co-applicants can manage their basic contact information and curriculum vitae (CV) through the ‘My Profile’ icon under ‘Menu’ on the REALMS home page.

Please note that only lead applicant CV details are mandatory at Stage 1 while basic contact information is required for co-applicants. At Stage 2, lead and co-applicant CV details are mandatory.

Creating an application

The lead applicant from the contracting organisation must initially create the new application. To start a new application, click on the ‘Applicant Portal’ icon on your homepage, then use the ‘Funding Opportunities’ icon to search for ‘Global HPSR Call 3 Projects’ or ‘Global HPSR Call 3 Consortia’. Here you will be able to view details of the call and/or press ‘Apply Now’ to start your application. The research team can collaborate with the contracting lead applicant to edit the content in the application by being invited to be a co-applicant through the co-applicant section of the application form.

The contracting lead applicant can use the ‘Add/Edit Co-Applicants’ button under the ‘Research Team’ tab to add Co-Applicants.

Completing an application

The application can be edited at any time by clicking on the different sections of the application form and making changes. Please ensure you ‘Save Draft’ when making edits.

Most questions are associated with contextual help buttons and clicking on them will open pop-up windows containing brief guidance notes that supplement the published guidance for applicants. It is strongly advised that applicants refer to the published guidance first and then use contextual help as they complete and review each question as contextual help is not designed to replace it.

The system will prevent your co-applicants accessing your application at the same time as you. This stops applicants and co-applicants inadvertently making changes to the same part of the application at the same time and overwriting each other’s work.

Please see the Application Form section below for the guidance on how to complete an application form.

Remember to save your work

You will be prompted to save your work if you leave the browser in application editing mode. We recommend you save your work regularly to minimise the risk posed by any local computer or internet problems. You can do this by clicking the ‘Save Draft’ button at the bottom of the screen. You can save and return to the application form as often as you like prior to submission.

Exiting and returning to work on your form

Should you wish to exit your form, you can return at any time; simply log in using your username and password and use the ‘Applicant Portal’ icon. You will then see a list of all the applications you are currently involved with and their stage in the submission process.

Validation and submission of the form

The lead applicant can review the progress of their application at any time by selecting the ‘Info Still Required’ icon, this will list all sections of the form that still need to be completed. You will not be able to submit your application until all the sections are complete.

Once the application has been completed and no further information is needed, the contracting lead applicant can submit the application by clicking on the ‘Submit’ button at the bottom of the application page.

Following submission

A programme specific reference number will be assigned to the application, which will appear at the top of your application screen. After the relevant competition round closes, the application will automatically enter the process of being considered for funding.

Application form

Before starting your application, please ensure you have selected the correct Funding Opportunity:

  • Global HPSR Call 3 Projects, or;
  • Global HPSR Call 3 Consortia

Summary information

Contracting organisation

Please give details of the organisation that will be the contractor if the project is funded. Your primary organisation will be shown by default. If this is not the contracting organisation search for the correct contracting organisation by typing the name of the organisation in the search box. If the organisation you require does not appear in the search box, you can request to add a new contracting organisation. New organisations need to be approved by the REALMS team prior to submission of your application. Please contact us if this request is being made within two weeks of the call close date.

Applicants must talk to their R&D offices, or equivalent, and follow their host organisation's application review and sign off procedures before submitting an application.

Research title (limit: 100 characters)

The project title should state clearly and concisely the proposed research. Any abbreviations should be spelled out in full. Although the system limit is 300 characters, HPSR Call 3 applications require a title of less than 100 characters.

Research type

Select the appropriate research type. If your proposed project includes any element of primary research, please select ‘Primary Research’. If you are carrying out new analysis/synthesis of existing data, select ‘Secondary Research’ or ‘Evidence Synthesis’ as appropriate. If you are not sure which category to select, choose the closest match to your project as this can be adjusted later.

Start month

Note this will be from first day of the month regardless of whether this is a working day or not. Please be realistic about your possible start date, taking account of the necessary contracting, and staff recruitment prior to starting your project.

Start year

Please be realistic about your possible start date taking account of the necessary contracting, and staff recruitment prior to starting your project.

Research duration (months)

Ensure you include sufficient time to complete all aspects of the research including applications for regulatory approvals (where required) and the final report.

End date

This field will automatically populate once you have saved the research duration information.

Estimated research costs

Enter the total amount of research costs requested. Please ensure that any costs attributable to UK higher education institutions (HEIs) are included here at 80% of the full economic cost, which is the rate at which these costs will be awarded. You should refer to the Finance guidance for further information.

Open Access costs

Applicants should no longer include open access costs as part of their stage 1 application estimated research costs.

As per the NIHR Open Access publications policy, all peer-reviewed research articles funded by the NIHR Global Health Research Portfolio must be published immediately with open access. When an Open Access payment is applicable, NIHR will pay reasonable fees required by a publisher to effect publication in line with the criteria of the NIHR Open Access policy. Applicants should refer to the NIHR Open Access publications funding guidance for further information. From 1 June 2022, Open Access publication costs do not need to be predicted or incorporated into budgets at the time of application.

Research team

Lead Applicant Research Background

Information on your name, Main and Other affiliated organisations and contact details will be automatically populated from your contact profile. Degrees and professional qualifications can be added to your contact profile. All UK and LMIC Lead Applicants must provide full details (name of institution, job position, department, affiliation type) of all positions held in addition to that held at their primary employing organisation, in their contact profile. Update your contact profile to complete any missing mandatory information or make any updates here - you can do this via the 'My Profile' icon on your home page, or in the application form by clicking the 'Update' button alongside your details in the Research Team section and then on the 'Update Contact Profile' button. You will need to update and validate your contact profile prior to your application submission.


Please note: All members of the research team are required to obtain a free unique ORCiD number and update your REALMS user contact profile with this before you can submit your application. By clicking the link ‘Create or connect your ORCiD’ within the ‘ORCID’ section of your user profile you will be taken to the ORCiD website where you will need to register or sign in. 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 number and other associated data (e.g., publications and grants) which can be used to populate your application. The ORCiD number is a mandatory requirement.

If additional publications and grants need to be added to an application, and you would like these available to select for other applications, you will need to update your ORCiD account first and the click 'Re-Import ORCiD Data' on your REALMS 'My Profile'.

Equality and diversity monitoring information

NIHR is committed to promoting equality, diversity and inclusion in research and asks applicants to provide equality and diversity monitoring information (age, sex, ethnicity and disability). By answering these equality and diversity monitoring information questions, you will help us to better understand the different groups of people that apply to us for funding and their experiences of the funding process – particularly the groups protected by UK equality legislation. Although it is mandatory to answer these questions, it is possible to select “prefer not to say” as a response, however, the more information you provide, the more effective our monitoring will be. This information will not be used to make decisions about funding.

Research team

The research team table will update automatically as members of the team are added.

For Joint Lead Applicants

It is a requirement for Global HPSR Call 3 Consortia that applications have Joint Lead Applicants. Global HPSR Call 3 Project applications may have Joint Lead Applicants or a Sole Lead Applicant (please refer to the Global HPSR Call 3 Remit and Guidance). Use the envelope button to add and then invite your Joint Lead Applicant to your application, if required.

Once the Joint Lead Applicant has accepted their invitation, they will appear in the Research Team table. Use the ‘Update’ button to enter following information:

  • Role (Limit 200 characters) – explain the role that the individual will be undertaking in the research, e.g., co-ordination and project management, analysis, methodological input etc.
  • Commitment – percentage of the applicant’s time that will be committed to this project (%FTE).
  • Organisation – the main organisation and any other affiliated organisations that you have already added will be listed by default. Enter the primary organisation for the purpose of this application.
  • Department – enter the primary department affiliated with.
  • Position held – enter the position/job title.

Please note that both Joint Lead Applicants (or the Sole Lead Applicant) will need to complete and validate their own Applicant Detail Forms before the application can be submitted. The Joint/Sole Lead Applicant must access/activate their REALMS account and do this themselves.


Use the ‘Add / Edit Co-Applicants' button to add any Co-Applicants and provide the necessary information, including contact details, organisation, role and commitment (%FTE). You should consult with Co-Applicants before adding them to the application. Do not include collaborators, who should be mentioned (if necessary) in the 'Research Plan' section of the on-line application form.

Co-Applicants are those individuals with responsibility for the day-to-day management and delivery of the project. Co-Applicants are considered part of the project team and are expected to share responsibility for its successful delivery. Collaborators normally provide specific expertise on aspects of the project but do not share the responsibility for delivery of the project.

Once added, Co-Applicants will appear in the Research Team table. They do not need to be invited to REALMS and no further information about them is required at Stage 1.

Community Engagement and Involvement Co-Applicants

We encourage the inclusion of Community Engagement and Involvement (CEI) Co-Applicants, where appropriate. We recognise and value the varied perspectives that Community representatives, members of the public, patients, service users and carers bring to a project as applicants.

Add Administrative contact

This facility allows you to provide an alternative contact(s) who will also have access to the application but will not be able to submit it when complete. The Lead Applicant must submit the completed application and will still receive all emails automatically generated through the system.
Use the envelope icon below to enter the administrative contact's details and invite them to participate in this application.

Application details

Location of research (ODA-Eligible countries)

Please select all ODA-eligible countries where the proposed research will be undertaken.

Plain English summary of research (limit: 3,500 characters)

The importance of a plain English summary

A plain English summary is a clear explanation of your research.

Many reviewers use this summary to inform their review of your funding application. They include clinicians, other practitioners and researchers who do not have specialist knowledge of your field as well as members of the public. If your application for funding is successful, the summary will be used on NIHR and other websites.

A good quality plain English summary providing an easy-to-read overview of your whole study will help:

  • those carrying out the review (reviewers and funding committee members) to have a better understanding of your research proposal
  • inform others about your research such as members of the public, health and social care professionals, policy makers and the media
  • the research funders to publicise the research that they fund.

If your plain English summary is not clear and of a good quality then you may be required to amend it prior to final funding approval.

It is helpful to involve patients/carers/service users/practitioners and members of the public in developing a plain English summary.


When writing your summary consider including the following information where appropriate:

  • aim(s) of the research
  • background to the research
  • design and methods used
  • Community Engagement and Involvement
  • dissemination

The plain English summary is not the same as a scientific abstract - please do not cut and paste from other sections of your application form to create the plain English summary.

Further guidance on writing a plain English summary is available on the NIHR website.

Research plan (limit: 20,000 characters)

Using the guidance and headings below (in the order presented), please use this section to clearly explain your proposed research. As this is the main part of your application which will be considered by the reviewing committee you should ensure that the information is accurate, succinct and clearly laid out.

Background and rationale

What is the problem being addressed?

Provide a clear explanation of the problem to be addressed, the impact on patients and the community as well as health and care services in ODA-eligible country(ies) and demonstrate where the evidence gap is.

Explain how your proposed research is within the remit of the NIHR Global HPSR programme and how it addresses the key aims of the HPSR Programme.

Why is this research important in terms of improving the health and/or wellbeing of the relevant populations and healthcare services in the ODA-eligible country(ies?)

It is essential that you clearly identify the applied health and care challenges faced by the ODA-eligible country(ies) relevant to the geographic and scientific area of your research proposal. Please outline the anticipated value or contribution the research will provide. Briefly describe:

  • The importance of the proposed research and its relevance to the priorities and needs of the ODA-eligible country(ies), including a statement of the significance of the research area (e.g. burden of disease).
  • The anticipated outputs, outcomes and impact of the proposed research on the health and wealth of patients, the community and health and care services in ODA-eligible country(ies); where possible, quantifying the potential benefits.
  • The anticipated timescale for the benefits to the ODA-eligible country(ies) resulting from the proposed research, and how this work will create an enduring impact/sustainable capacity or capability enhancement in the ODA-eligible country(ies).

Review of existing evidence - how does the existing literature support this proposal?

Explain why this research is needed now, both in terms of time and relevance. Briefly describe:

  • The need for research in this area, please include a summary of existing evidence and the rationale for the particular lines of research you plan to pursue.
  • How your proposed research would add distinct value to what is already known or in progress?
  • Work undertaken previously by the research team, which has led to the proposed programme (e.g. describe any pilot or feasibility data, or outcomes from an HPSR Development Award).

Applicants should be aware of ongoing research in this area and comment on any other research that might be deemed to overlap with the contents of the proposal. Applicants are advised to use both PubMed Central and Europe PubMed Central and include references to recent material on the topic area they are applying for.

Any applications that include primary research should include reference to the existing evidence and explain how this evidence has informed the proposed research. Where a systematic review already exists that summarises the available evidence this should be referenced, as well as including references to any relevant literature published subsequent to that systematic review. Where no such systematic review exists, it is expected that the applicants will undertake an appropriate review of the currently available and relevant evidence and summarise this in their proposal.

Aims and objectives

This section should be used to indicate the overarching aims/objectives of the research, outlining the key question(s), which the work will address and, where appropriate, the main hypothesis.

Research plan / methods

Provide an expert summary of the project plan of investigation (e.g., deliverables, methods, approach to community engagement and involvement (CEI), timescales), plus any additional points required to support statements made in the previous sections, and include any key references required to justify the points made (e.g., in the use of particular outcome measures or methods of analysis). References should be provided as an attachment (see section on Uploads). Please clearly outline the likely risks and challenges, as well as mitigating actions, in delivering the proposed work and any ethical considerations. The NIHR expects appropriate and relevant community engagement and involvement (CEI) ( i.e. patients/service users, carers and the public and other key stakeholders) in the research it supports. It is essential to set out your plans to involve CEI including the most vulnerable groups in the Stage 1 application. This is to emphasise the importance of involving relevant community groups and organisations from ODA-eligible country(ies) in an early and sustained manner throughout the research process. Your CEI plans will be formally assessed by the Global Health HPSR Funding Committee at Stage 2, however, at Stage 1, your approach to and planned CEI activities will be considered when assessing the proposed research. Information and resources to assist you can be found on the NIHR CEI webpages and core guidance.

In the 'Research Plan' section it is important that you identify all stakeholders and study participants who are relevant to your research proposal and must consider equality, diversity and inclusion (see NIHR Global Health Core Guidance - EDI section). For each stakeholder group be clear about how they benefit from your proposed research and, where appropriate, how they have been involved in the development of the application, as well as the plans for their involvement in the proposed research and dissemination.

If this application is a resubmission for which you previously received feedback, please explain what you learned and how the application has improved. Please provide the date of your last submission. If this application is pending a decision from another funder, please give details of the funder and the expected decision date.

Research expertise / structure of the team

Describe the skills, experience and expertise of the team that makes it well placed to carry out the proposed research. Please also list and explain the role of key collaborators or partners (i.e., those individuals who provide a substantial intellectual contribution and/or will play a role in delivering the programme of work). There should be a named person with appropriate skills and experience who is responsible for leading the CEI element within the project. This role should be an adequately costed and resourced research team member who is able to manage the CEI plans and related activities. For more information and guidance about NIHR’s CEI approach with resource guides and toolkits, and the activities a CEI lead may undertake please visit the CEI section of our website.

Dissemination, outputs and anticipated impact

Describe the planned outputs of the research, how these will be communicated and to whom, and detail the proposed short-, medium- and longer-term impact of the research. Impact is defined as the demonstrable contribution that research makes to society and the economy, of benefit to individuals, organisations and nations.
Approach to creating sustainable and equitable partnerships
Include details of your approach to, and plans to, create equitable partnerships within your programme/research team. If already established, please give clear details of the involvement of individuals and organisations based in the ODA-eligible country(ies) in the development of the research proposal and in undertaking the research.

Success criteria

Please set out the measurements of success you intend to use and the key risks to delivering this research and what contingencies you will put in place to deal with them. This section should identify appropriate actions that would reduce or eliminate each risk or its impact.

ODA Compliance Statement (limit: 2,500 characters)

Please provide a statement that demonstrates how the proposal meets key ODA funding requirements. It should address the following questions:

  • which country(ies) on the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) Development Assistance Committee (DAC) list of ODA-eligible countries will directly benefit
  • how the application is directly and primarily relevant to the development challenges of those countries
  • how the outcomes will promote the health and welfare of people in the country or countries on the DAC list


Applicants should only include uploads specified in the call details/commissioning brief, e.g., cover letter, collaborative documents. Any additional documents will not be considered by the funding committee during its review.


Attachment 1: references

One single-side A4 page, listing references used throughout your proposal is a mandatory PDF upload. Please use either the Vancouver or Harvard referencing conventions and include the DOI of the main related publication.

Other non-mandatory

Attachment 2: supporting document

If required, an additional supporting (single side of A4) document can be submitted with your application form (e.g. a flow diagram illustrating the study design and the flow of participants, Gantt chart, response to feedback from a previous submission, letter of support etc). If submitting a flow diagram, applicants should also describe complex interventions and controls as accurately and fully as possible within their diagram. If proposing a Randomised Controlled Trial, we advise you refer to the CONSORT statement for guidance. Alternatively, you may find the Equator website useful. The PDF file should be submitted along with your application form.

Attachment 3: previous NIHR GHR awards holder letter of support

If you are an existing or previous NIHR GHR award holder (in the role of joint lead applicant) you should include a letter of support (single side of A4) which highlights what that award achieved and how this has benefited the end user of the research.

Acknowledgements and conflicts

Potential conflicts

Please declare any conflicts or potential conflicts of interest that you or your co-applicants may have in undertaking this research, including any relevant, non-personal and commercial interest that could be perceived as a conflict of interest. If in doubt, you should err on the side of disclosure.

Agreement to terms and conditions

Please read the terms and conditions and tick the box in order to accept your role and complete your application.