Global Health Research Programmes - Core Guidance
About the Core Guidance
The NIHR Global Health Research portfolio supports applied health research for the direct and primary benefit of people in low-and middle-income countries (LMICs) on the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) Development Assistance Committee (DAC) list, using UK Aid from the UK government.
The below core guidance covers the key principles supported by NIHR Global Health Research funding. The guidance is structured as to specifically help research teams applying to NIHR Global Health Research programme funding calls, such as Global Health Research Units, Global Health Research Groups, Research and Innovation for Global Health Transformation (RIGHT), the Global Health Policy and Systems Research (Global HPSR) calls and the Global Health Research Centres programme.
This document should be read in conjunction with each programme’s specific call guidance for details of specific eligibility requirements, scope and remit.
Career Development Awards such as NIHR Global Research Professorships will follow the principles outlined in this document, but due to the nature of these awards focusing on individuals, applicants should refer to the specific scheme guidance on research training and development.
Call specific guidance is published on the NIHR funding opportunity page.
Whilst there are similarities in some of the core aims for the NIHR Global Health Research funding calls (high quality programmes of research, responsive to LMIC-led needs, embedded plans for capacity and capability-strengthening), there are also fundamental differences. When considering where to apply, applicants need to take into account the specific remit of each funding call and decide which opportunity to apply for, according to their own aims and goals.
NIHR will not accept the same or substantially similar applications across multiple NIHR Global Health Research calls.
NIHR will accept applications from the same or similar teams across more than one NIHR Global Health Research call where the aims and research proposals are substantially different. If a team is submitting applications to more than one call, each application should be clearly distinct. Although proposals may be complementary, the successful delivery of one proposal must not depend on the other. Where multiple applications across calls are submitted, any applications proposing similar research themes and geographies will be carefully scrutinised to ensure there is no overlap.
Other points for applicants to note:
- This guidance applies to existing NIHR award holders and new applicants.
- NIHR strongly encourages diversifying leadership models, but will accept applications where there is a strong rationale for the same leadership team, and where there is clarity the (Joint) Leads will have capacity to successfully run two large scale programmes of research concurrently.
- Contracts will be awarded and managed separately and independently of each other.
- NIHR reserves the right to reject an application if it is deemed too similar to another received in another NIHR Global Health Research call.
- NIHR Global Research Professorship award holders are eligible to be part of applications to multiple calls, provided there is no duplication of requests for costs.
Research Expertise and Structure of Team
Depending on the NIHR GHR Programme and call specification, proposed research teams and partnerships may be required to have a single Lead Applicant or two Joint Lead Applicants and depending on the research plans, a proportionate and manageable number of Co-Applicants and Collaborators (including service level providers).
- Lead Applicants are normally researchers employed at an eligible LMIC or UK-based HEI or research institution, with appropriate reputation and standing within their employing organisations and have demonstrable ability to lead and manage a substantial large-scale programme of global health research.
- Co-applicants are those individuals with responsibility for the day-to-day management and delivery of the project who form your project team or consortium. Co-Applicants are expected to share responsibility for its successful delivery.
- Collaborators are those who provide specific expertise on particular aspects of the project and form part of your wider research team. They do not share in the responsibility for the delivery of the project.
For NIHR Global Health Research programme calls, the 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)
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 Lead).
Researchers at LMIC-based academic research institutes that is affiliated with a UK or other High-Income Country (HIC) HEI are eligible to apply as (Joint) Lead, provided that the LMIC academic research institute meet the characteristics outlined above, maintains its scientific independence from the UK/other HIC HEI, and is considered an entity of its own. These institutions are expected to have strong local research governance and research support services; have a legal framework in place locally for conducting research, training and be appropriately integrated into the local health system. It is expected that these organisations are fully operational in the LMIC, with capacity to employ staff, own assets, manage finances and take ownership of contractual obligations.
Non-health research organisations, e.g. an institute of engineering, can act as Co-applicants or Collaborators, provided their expertise is relevant to the plans and their work will fall within the remit of the call.
Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs)/charities are eligible to apply as (Joint) Lead Applicants, provided they fulfil the expected characteristics of a Research Institute outlined above. NGOs who don’t fulfil these characteristics may be eligible to join the application as a Co-applicant or Collaborator.
Commercial organisations or governmental agencies cannot be a Lead on an application. However, these organisations may be included in applications as Co-applicant or Collaborators or via service level agreement, providing it is clear what benefit a commercial organisation or governmental agency would bring to the research programme. In addition, a company’s commercial model must be compatible with the conditions laid out in the NIHR research contract and NIHR’s policies around funding indirect costs. It is important that any applicant organisation is aligned with NIHR’s principles including open access to research.
NHS Trusts, arms-length bodies or executive agencies of the UK Government are not eligible to act as (Joint) Lead applicants but may be eligible as Co-applicants or Collaborator where there is clear justification for their involvement.
Applications proposing non-LMIC Co-Applicants or Collaborators are eligible provided Official Development Assistance (ODA) eligibility criteria are met, there is clear justification for their involvement and that these resources/expertise cannot be found within LMICs. Where some elements of the research are not undertaken in an ODA-eligible country during the course of the award (including where a country graduates from the DAC list during the lifetime of the award or there is a need for specialist expertise) the application must clearly state the reasons for this with due consideration to the benefit of the research to ODA-eligible countries.
Applicants should clearly describe the track record/expertise of the proposed interdisciplinary research team in the relevant area, including publication outputs, award income and influence on health practice and policy. Applications should make clear the particular contribution that each of the named Lead Applicants/ Co-applicants will make towards the research programme, and as necessary, and the planned contribution by Collaborators.
Equitable and Sustainable Partnerships
Partnerships proposed in applications may build on existing relationships or represent the development of a new collaborative relationship. Applications should describe the approach to ensuring equity in partnerships and demonstrate how the partnerships will be able to deliver and sustain their research and capacity strengthening goals in the countries involved.
In line with the International Development (Gender Equality) Act 2014 and the Equalities Act 2010, as well as NIHR principles, NIHR expects equity, diversity and inclusion considerations to be strongly reflected in programme leadership, decision-making, capacity strengthening, governance, appropriate distribution of funds, ethics processes, data ownership, and dissemination of findings. All proposals should consider input from and equitable representation of researchers, for example, from countries involved in the research, of different genders, at all career stages, and from multiple disciplines. There should be no disadvantages relating to areas of diversity, such as gender or disability or any other protected characteristics. As well as being assessed as part of the application process, the approach to equitable partnerships will be monitored and evaluated throughout the lifetime of funding.
Examples of how to achieve the above aims include:
- All parties listed as Lead or Co-applicant within the research team must have significant input to the research and its management (from the co-design stage through to dissemination), and should form an integral part of the leadership structure. Research partnerships should clearly demonstrate gender parity, diversity and inclusion within the leadership, research prioritisation and design, research and capacity building activities and promote mutual benefits for all partners.
- All funded partnerships must have a strong underpinning research ethic based on mutual respect and understanding for different cultural, ethnic, social and economic beliefs and practices.
- The budget should be driven by the complexity and level of ambition for the work plans and partnerships. The NIHR expectation is that funds will be distributed equitably between partners, and that the flow of funds will reflect where the majority of work is taking place and strongly underpin capacity strengthening within LMICs.
- The roles and contributions of all members working as part of the partnership must be clearly stated within the application and reflect meaningful and quality collaborations. Full consideration should be given to additional complexity of managing large collaborations. Applicants should consider:
- Will the number of proposed Co-Applicants (and Collaborators) introduce undue complexity in the management and set up arrangements within the available timeframes?
- Will there be sufficient funds available to support all partners to make a meaningful contribution?
- Is the size and breadth of expertise in the team justified and appropriate for delivery of the proposed programme?
Contracting organisations will confirm institutional support through sign-off of the application on electronic submission. A letter of support from the contracting organisations is therefore a non-mandatory upload, but may be included to demonstrate any additional contributions to be provided if the application is successful.
Applications must include a signed letter of support from the non-contracting Joint Lead organisation (where applicable).
A limited number of letters of support from Co-applicants and other major contributors can also be submitted.
The support letters should be signed by an appropriate senior individual at the respective institution, confirming support for the application and the agreement of the employing institutions to undertake the research and willingness to provide the space, facilities and time for their staff to be able to deliver on the proposed research plans.
To help you further guidance is available to support developing and sustaining Equitable Research Partnerships. Applicants may find the following resources useful:
- A Guide for Transboundary Research Partnerships (Swiss Commission for Research Partnerships with Developing Countries (KFPE)
- The UKCDR report on Building effective and equitable research collaborations
- Co-Design as Collaborative Research Connected Communities Foundation Series
- NIHR Guidance on co-producing a research project, March 2018
- UKRI – KFPE workshop report: Working in Effective Partnerships to Address Sustainable Development Goals
Training and Capacity Strengthening
The NIHR is committed to strengthening individual and institutional health research capacity for the long term to support sustainability and the research eco-system as a whole.
Applicants must include a research capacity strengthening (RCS) component in their application. The NIHR recognise that there is no single agreed definition of RCS but highlight the UK Collaborative on Development Research (UKCDR) definition of RCS as ‘Enhancing the ability and resources of individuals, institutions, and/or systems to undertake, communicate, and/or use high quality research efficiently, effectively, and sustainably’. For NIHR Global Health Research programmes, the objectives and priorities for RCS identified by/with local stakeholders should support or bring sustainable solutions to key national problems within LMICs. Teams should consider and cost activities that will build both researcher capacity and support wider finance and research management capacity.
Funds can be requested for a range of activities, for example:
- Full or partial formal training posts (including but not limited to BSc, MSc, MPhil, MRes, PhD, Post docs);
- Training in technical research skills and personal development skills, such as, but not limited to, grant writing, writing for publication, communication and influencing skills, time management, team working etc.;
- Other wider institutional capacity strengthening activities such as finance management, research management, data management, legal compliance and assurance training;
- Institutional systems for coaching, mentoring and/or peer-mentorship.
These activities can be delivered through a range of mechanisms, such as through courses, workshops, exchanges and other relevant training activities.
NIHR strongly encourages opportunities for career development, particularly for early career researchers based in LMICs, for example, through involvement in co-design, analysis and dissemination of research, and leadership of work packages within the team.
Applications should demonstrate an understanding of the national and local context and work collaboratively and effectively with local stakeholders to ensure the research programme supports existing local research capacity and increases sustainability.
NIHR will fund full studentship costs for LMIC students based in ODA-eligible countries. All studentships will be considered, including but not limited to MScs and PhDs.
NIHR will also fund student fees for LMIC students based in ODA-eligible countries but registered at an institution in a High-Income Country (HIC). In cases where the application includes LMIC student fees at a HIC institution, it is expected that the relevant 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.
Please note: HIC studentship fees or stipend costs are eligible only for ODA-eligible students. Student fees or stipends for HIC students registered at an HIC institution would not be eligible, regardless of the programme of study.
It is expected that studentships are co-terminus with the award. Therefore, where PhDs are being included as part of formal training plans, funding awards should be for a minimum of 48 months to allow time for recruitment and completion of training within the funded award period.
English language training in the context of all studentships is an eligible cost, provided clear justification and a strong value for money argument are given.
Details must be provided on the planned numbers of each type of formal training post, how these posts will be advertised in open competition and how individuals will be supported to develop a formal training plan.
Funded NIHR Global Health Research programme Awards will be expected to have a named Training Lead who will develop and lead a training plan for the NIHR Award. This individual will co-ordinate and lead career development activities across the Award, and act as the liaison point on training with the NIHR Academy. They would also be expected to be an active member of the NIHR Global Health Training Forum to coordinate and maximise training opportunities within the funded NIHR cohort.
Individuals funded > 25% by the NIHR to undertake a formal NIHR training/career development award become NIHR Academy Members and are eligible for the career development and training support provided by the NIHR Academy.
Applicants may find the following resources useful:
- ESSENCE Seven Principles for Strengthening Research Capacity in Low-and Middle-Income Countries (2014)
- UKCDR Research Capacity Strengthening Tools, Resources and Guides.
Programme Management and Governance
Complex programmes of global health research require significant levels of management to ensure successful delivery. It is a NIHR requirement that a full-time programme manager is appointed to manage the research contract, and sufficient resources are included and costed to manage the regular programme and financial reporting processes.
Applicants should clearly describe programme management and governance arrangements which should represent international best practice. Sufficient resources should be allocated to manage the programme/work streams from initiation to completion. This includes but is not limited to: contracting, due diligence, assurance and audit, procurement, data management, risk management (including financial, reputational and legal risks), quarterly financial reporting, monitoring, evaluation and learning, impact tracking, communication management, and compliance with ethics frameworks.
It is important to ensure the right programme management and governance support is in place for all collaborating institutions (LMIC, and non-LMIC), not just the contracting institution.
In addition to having a named Training Lead and lead for Community Engagement and Involvement (see relevant sections), NIHR recommends that applicants consider having named leads for Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning, and Data Management.
Applicants should clearly describe the proposed governance structure, which should include an external advisory group with proposed membership if known at this stage. This group should, as a minimum, have an independent Chair, be gender balanced, and have a range of members and key stakeholders with relevant expertise from the partner countries involved in the programme, as appropriate. The advisory group should advise on strategy and progress, oversee programme risks, and meet annually at a minimum.
Approach to Risk Management and Assurance
To make effective arrangements for financial reporting, risk management and assurance, applicants should consider the financial systems and financial management capacity of all collaborating institutions involved in the research, the level of risk within the partner countries, and tailor assurance and monitoring processes and resources appropriately. Applicants should ensure all partners are sufficiently resourced to meet the requirements for managing ODA funds.
Partner institutions are encouraged to perform a Good Financial Grants Practice (GFGP) self-assessment and, as required, work to towards an appropriate level of GFGP accreditation to increase their financial and risk management capability. Applications can include costs associated with these activities - see the relevant programme/call Finance Guidance.
Applicants should identify any known or anticipated risks which may be faced in delivering the research programme in the ODA-eligible partner country/(ies). These may be specific programme/project-related risks faced as contractor, or those faced in the implementing context (e.g., by ODA-eligible country researchers or clinicians).
- Charity Commission’s guidance on how to manage risks when working internationally
- Good Financial Grant Practice (GFGP) standard online assessment tool
Applicants should describe plans for:
a) Financial assurance, ODA compliance, monitoring and auditing of expenditure in the ODA-eligible countries
- Applicants should describe arrangements for due diligence, the allocation and transfer of funds to country partners from the contracted institution and the financial processes, controls and audit measures in place to monitor and ensure appropriate use of funds, including any specific subcontracting arrangements for compliance auditing.
b) Fraud, bribery and corruption
- Applicants should describe the arrangements or governance mechanisms in place to prevent fraud, bribery and corruption and to ensure compliance for the duration of the Award.
- Applicants should describe the arrangements for safeguarding of study participants and project/programme staff. The contracting Institution will be expected to take all appropriate measures to prevent actual, attempted or threatened sexual exploitation, abuse or harassment by their employees or any other persons engaged and controlled by the Award to perform any activities within the Research Contract, and adopt robust procedures for the reporting of suspected misconduct, illegal acts or failures to investigate
- The following resources may be useful:
- NIHR Safeguarding Guidance
- NIHR Policy on Preventing Harm in Research
- UKCDR Guidance on Safeguarding in International Development Research
- DFID Enhanced Due Diligence: Safeguarding for external partners
Delivery Chain Risk Maps
Applications should include a Delivery Chain Risk Map to show the overall structure of the partnerships/collaborations, the distribution of ODA funds to partners/collaborators; and the associated downstream risks and accountability for the risks down to the end beneficiaries.
The delivery chain risk map should depict:
- The name of all downstream delivery partners, their functions and relationships between the partners.
- Funding distributed to each delivery partner.
- High level risks involved in programme delivery, mitigating measures and associated controls. These should include fiduciary and other risks managing funds with downstream partners e.g. the potential for fraud, bribery and corruption.
These are expected to be regularly reviewed and updated at a minimum annually. For more information on the format and content, please see the following formatting and content guidance.
Further guidance on Delivery Chain Risk Maps can be found in the guidance for completing application forms.
Funded NIHR Global Health Research Awards will be expected to develop a project risk register as a contractual milestone. The risk register should identify any specific risks for the research programme and partnerships, it should illustrate the impact of the risks and the likelihood of their occurrence, steps to mitigate risks and the residual risk after mitigation. Risk registers should be reviewed regularly over the life-time of the project and are a required submission alongside annual progress reports.
Research Contract and Collaboration Agreements
You can view a copy of the current ODA research contract. You may wish to speak to your contracts department to determine the time requirements for contract approvals for this award. NIHR will perform due diligence on the contracting institution prior to contracting and you can look at an example of a due diligence assessment template.
Prior to any transfer of money from the contracting institution to the collaborating institution(s), NIHR expect that proportionate due diligence assessments will be undertaken by the contracting institution on the project partners. Copies of partners' completed due diligence forms will need to be shared with NIHR.
It is NIHR’s advice to ensure draft Collaboration Agreements are developed between the contracting institution and partners as soon as possible after a successful funding decision has been communicated. Development of Collaboration Agreements can be a lengthy process and realistic requirements for this activity should be built into project timeline. This will reduce potential for delays in transferring funds after the contract start date. Draft Collaboration Agreements will need to be submitted for review and approval by NIHR.
Collaboration agreements should include details on
- Flow down and adherence to the terms of the DHSC ODA Research contract to partners/collaborators.
- Roles and responsibilities of each partner, approach to communication and leadership structure
- Authorship and use of findings including intellectual property
- Data management plan for accessing and sharing data by partners
- How the project will resolve any problems
- Transparent budgets and payment schedules to each partner
Further guidance on Collaboration Agreements will be provided to successful applicants. In the absence of an approved and signed Collaboration Agreement, the contracting institution will be transferring funds to partners at their own risk or will need to make any relevant payments on behalf of partners until an NIHR approved Collaboration Agreement signed by the partner(s) is in place.
Background and Foreground IP
The guidance in this section is provided to support timely study set up once funding has been awarded. For definitions of Background Intellectual Property (IP), Foreground IP, Arising Know How and Research Data, please refer to the NIHR ODA Research contract.
In their application, research teams need to describe at high level the considerations for Intellectual Property in the barriers to proposed work field under the Success and Barriers section of the Detailed Research Plan.
During the contracting process, in relation to intellectual property, the NIHR will ask successful research teams to clarify the following:
- That it will have permission to use any Background IP for the purposes of the research and, if necessary due to complicated ownership arrangements, complete schedule C of the NIHR GHR research contract with reference to clause 24.1.5 (a) of the contract;
- The proposed ownership arrangements of the Foreground IP, Arising Know How and Research Data. The parties should consider who is best placed to use, disseminate and/or commercially exploit the relevant intellectual property and/or database to maximise the opportunities to deliver patient benefit. There should be license arrangements with collaborators (usually contained within the Collaboration Agreement signed for a project) for research and teaching purposes and/or in the support of the development, promotion or provision of health care or for any other purpose that is not a Commercial Use.
With respect to joint IP, please note that the NIHR does not recommend joint ownership of Foreground IP, Arising Know How and/or Research Data arrangements preferring that the research team agrees the IP ownership arrangements at the application stage as above. This is because owning the IP jointly can lead to delays about how the IP/data is used, disseminated and/or exploited and thus create a potential barrier to delivering patient benefit. Normally, giving Collaborators appropriate licensed rights to use Foreground IP, Arising Know How and Research Data is sufficient to avoid the need for joint IP. If specific circumstances for a proposed project mean that joint ownership of Foreground IP, Arising Know How and/or Research Data may be appropriate, please provide a justification in your application.
Regulatory Approvals and Compliance
Research requiring ethical approval must have the appropriate approvals in place, usually in both the LMIC and UK (any other country involved in the research) before it can commence. Applicants should ensure all plans for research follow the UK Policy Framework For Health and Social Care Research, the Concordat to support Research Integrity, and the UK HRA guidance Governance Arrangements for Research Ethics Committees, and that research performed in partner countries is conducted in accordance with regulations and to a standard no less stringent than those applicable in the UK. Applicants should provide their plans for ethical review of the proposed activities in the relevant countries (LMIC/non-LMIC). Applicants should anticipate that securing ethical reviews can be a long process in their work plans. NIHR will seek evidence of positive ethics approvals as part of NIHR's standard contract monitoring. If there are no plans to obtain ethical review, the reasons for this must be provided.
Where the research involves vulnerable individuals or groups (e.g. children under the age of 18 or individuals lacking capacity to consent), applicants should describe how they will manage their involvement in the Ethical Consideration section of their Detailed Research Plan
Applicants may find it useful to refer to the following online resources:
- MRC guidelines for the management of global health trials
- The Wellcome Trust’s guidelines on research involving people living in low and middle income countries
- The Health Research Authority (HRA)
- HRA tool to help you decide whether you need ethical approval
- The MRC guidance on ethics and approvals.
Dissemination, Outputs and anticipated Impact
Applicants should 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.
In their proposals applicants should consider the following:
- intended outputs of the research;
- likelihood of significant contribution to the evidence base in the relevant area;
- plans for engagement with policy makers, health practitioners, communities and the public at an early stage;
- pathways to improving health and wellbeing in ODA-eligible countries by 2030 (in line with Sustainable Development Goal 3).
Successful applicants will be required to submit a clearly outlined Theory of Change developed collaboratively with key stakeholders, as a contracted deliverable within 6 months of the start of the award. This should outline how the funded activities are expected to contribute to a chain of results that lead to the intended scale up of impacts on policy and practice. To include consideration of:
- how and when relevant stakeholders (policy makers, practitioners, public) will be engaged (from research design, implementation, analysis, to reporting and dissemination);
- underlying assumptions/risks;
- any external factors (social, political, economic, environmental, technological, legal, demographic, cultural context, other funders' activities) which may (either positively or negatively) influence the success of the programme in achieving these impacts;
- the sustainability of impacts (e.g. individual and institutional capacity strengthening initiatives, is there an appropriate exit strategy involving effective transfer of ownership?).
It is recommended that an experienced lead for Monitoring Evaluation and Learning (MEL) is appointed within the team to give consideration to requirements for MEL. This could include developing the Theory of Change, identifying and collecting relevant indicators to monitor progress against a baseline, designing and conducting a process/impact evaluation, and ensuring that there are processes in place to capture emerging lessons and feed these back into research activities.
Funded NIHR Global Health Research Awards will be required to submit the following to NIHR:
- Quarterly finance reports and financial forecasts
- Interim milestones and deliverable reports
- Annual detailed progress report
- Emerging outputs, including detail in relation to the gender and country location of the authors
- At the end of the award, a final report summarising the research findings, contextual learning and impact for publication will be required
Applicants should ensure sufficient resources are requested to enable all of the above to be delivered.
Equality Diversity and Inclusion
Official Development Assistance (ODA) funds provided by NIHR must comply with the gender equality and other requirements of the International Development Act. Under the International Development (Gender Equality) Act 2014, development assistance should be provided in a way which is likely to contribute to reducing inequality between persons of different gender. The OECD-DAC Network on Gender Equality states that as a minimum, projects need to ensure a ‘do no harm’ approach – that is, projects consider the potential risks of unintentionally perpetuating gender inequalities in the context of their work, proactively monitor risks, and take corrective measures if applicable.
In addition, NIHR has a legal obligation under the Equalities Act 2010, the Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED), to have due regard to the need to ‘advance equality of opportunity between persons who share a relevant protected characteristic’, to ‘eliminate discrimination, harassment, victimisation and any other conduct that is prohibited by or under this Act’ and ‘foster good relations between persons who share a relevant protected characteristic and persons who do not share it.’ The protected characteristics are: age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation.
Following from this, NIHR will monitor how equality, diversity and inclusion have been considered at the award level throughout the lifetime of the research awards. This will include both considerations at the researcher level (as outlined in the Equitable Partnerships section) and how the research team are engaging with the relevant communities (including relevant sub-groups) to ensure that those with protected characteristics are equal beneficiaries of the research findings.
All NIHR-funded research projects are required to adhere to the NIHR position on sharing of research data.
The following sources may be helpful:
- RDI Network (2020) Enhancing Research Impact in International Development: A practical guide for practitioners and researchers. Authored by Nichole Georgeou and Charles Hawksley.
- Ellen Harries, Lindsay Hodgson and James Noble (2014) Creating your Theory of Change: NPC’s practical guide
- Isabel Vogel (2012) Review of the use of ‘Theory of Change’ in international development
- FCDO guidance on disability inclusion, gender equity and beneficiary accountability in UK Aid.
Success criteria for and barriers to proposed work
Applicants should clearly describe the critical path of the research programme, equitable partnership development and capacity strengthening plans, quarterly for the first 12 months, then annually thereafter, outlining how the research team will demonstrate successful attainment of these milestones each year. These should relate to the milestones set out in the Research Project Timetable section of the Detailed Research Plan and will be used to monitor project progress. NIHR recommends that research teams use the SMART methodology when developing objectives with clearly defined success measures. This narrative should be supported by a Programme/Project GANTT chart/schedule, to be provided as a mandatory upload.
Barriers to proposed work
Applicants should describe any known or anticipated challenges and risks which may be faced in research set up, delivery and uptake, equitable partnership development and capacity strengthening, and consider challenges faced by the collaborating institutions in partner countries. Applicants should outline the specific challenges and risks particularly associated with their research plans rather than describe general challenges.
Applicants should remember to include any critical dependencies - especially around specific authorisations, ethical approvals, access to data, technology, materials or other inventions that are subject to any form of intellectual property protection (e.g. copyright, design rights, patents) or rights owned by another organisation(s) that are critical to the delivery of the research in the LMIC setting as well as to the uptake of any likely output or innovation directly in the LMIC(s). Applicants should identify appropriate actions that would reduce or eliminate each barrier or its impact and what residual risks remain after mitigation.
Community Engagement and Involvement
The NIHR encourages active and participatory Community Engagement and Involvement (CEI) (more commonly known in the UK as ‘Patient and Public Involvement and Engagement’) that empowers communities and fosters co-production of research.
Patients and the general public within a given community, especially vulnerable groups who are at the greatest risk, will normally be the key group included in CEI activities. Community stakeholders such as community leaders, opinion leaders, non-governmental organisations and civil society, service commissioners and providers, policy and lawmakers are examples of other stakeholders who can be involved.
There is no standard model for CEI. Applicants should demonstrate that their CEI approach is appropriate and effective in the local context and for their study design. Applicants should ensure that those in the community who are most affected are empowered to contribute towards decision-making in researching potential solutions to identified issues. Applicants should map out and describe stakeholders in their community, outline how they have been involved in developing the research proposal, and state what influence or change has happened as a result of their engagement and involvement. Applicants should demonstrate how they will engage and involve communities utilising the draft UNICEF Minimum Standards for Community Engagement which encourage:
- Empowerment and ownership
- Bi-directional communication
- Adaptability and localisation
- Building on local capacity
Community Engagement and Involvement of key stakeholders should be evident in informing the design, methods and research outcomes as well as in managing, monitoring, evaluating and disseminating the research, where this is relevant to the study design.
The research team should ensure that there is interdisciplinary expertise that will facilitate partner and stakeholder coordination and integration of community engagement and involvement throughout the research cycle. Appropriate local Co-Applicants or Collaborators, and community members must be involved in leading and delivering CEI activities. The team, and those that are actively engaged and involved in the programme, should co-produce and agree an appropriate CEI strategy and plan as well as training and support to facilitate effective CEI.
CEI requires time for relationship building, transparency, reflection and flexibility and often involves an iterative and deliberative participatory approach, which requires significant human resource input and organisational support. As such, applicants should include realistic costs for CEI in their applications. Funded programmes will have their CEI activities monitored against their plans for the duration of the research lifecycle. CEI contributions will be included in our final overall impact assessment at the end of the study.
NIHR recommend that research teams assign a member of the project team to act as CEI lead to co-ordinate and oversee activities.
Applicants may find the following information and resources helpful:
- NIHR Community Engagement and Involvement Resource Guide
- UNICEF Minimum Quality Standards and Indicators for Community Engagement
- Guidance on payments and budgeting for involvement
Applicants may also find it helpful to refer to Mesh, a collaborative open-access web space that provides resources, encourages networking and shares good practice to bridge the gap between the research community and the general public in low-and middle-income countries.
Finance - Eligible costs
Eligible costs for NIHR Global Health Research programmes include but are not limited to:
- Research staff engaged in relevant research
- Research support staff supporting relevant research
- Travel, subsistence, meetings, conferences
- Community engagement and involvement
- Dissemination, including open access publication costs
- Risk management and assurance
- Training and development
- External intervention costs
- Other direct costs specific to the research
- Other legitimate and reasonable indirect costs (e.g. HR, finance)
Costs for awards will be scrutinised as part of the assessment process and the Funding Committee reserve the right to award only part of the funds requested.
All costs should be fully justified, NIHR will challenge costs that it does not consider appropriate or does not consider providing value for money.
Justification of Costs
Justification for all resources requested should be provided in the appropriate part of the NIHR GHR Budget template submitted as an upload with the application.
Value for Money
The NIHR requires evidence of good value for money within the justification of costs and considers this to be the optimal use of resources to achieve the intended outcomes. ‘Optimal’ being considered as ‘the most desirable possible given expressed or implied restrictions or constraints’. Value for money goes beyond achieving the lowest initial price and includes consideration of Economy, Efficiency, Effectiveness, and Equity (as appropriate) and what these mean in the context of a research proposal:
Economy: Are we buying inputs of the appropriate quality at the right price? (Inputs are things such as staff, consultants, raw materials and capital that are used to produce outputs).
Efficiency: How well do we convert inputs into outputs? (Outputs are results delivered by us or our agents to an external party. We exercise strong control over the quality and quantity of outputs).
Effectiveness: How well are the outputs from an intervention achieving the desired outcome? (Note that in contrast to outputs, we do not exercise direct control over outcomes).
Equity: the extent to which the outputs of our interventions are equitably distributed.
Applicants may find the following resource useful: