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NIHR Global Health Research - Units Call 2 and Groups Call 3 - common application queries

 

Contents

NIHR Global Health Research Units – Call 2, and NIHR Global Health Research Groups – Call 3

Common application queries

To be read in conjunction with Call Guidance notes available on the call 2 webpage for Units and call 3 webpage for Groups

Last updated 26 August 2020

Contact us on nihrglobalhealth@nihr.ac.uk

Remit

Q: Can one project cover more than one topic e.g. child health, NCDs, infectious diseases, mental health?

A: Applications may include one or more research topics or may cover one or more broad thematic areas. The scale should be proportionate to the application aims (and will be different in terms of scope and scale between Global Health Research Units and Global Health Research Groups).

Q: The Call is inviting any field of applied research, but on the Call briefing webinar there was a highlight on NCDs.  Does it mean you will more likely fund NCDs than other fields?

A: The Global Health Research Units / Groups Calls are open researcher-led calls. Applications in any field of applied global health research for the direct and primary benefit of people in ODA-eligible country/ies will be considered. NIHR Funding is awarded based on the merit of the application.

Q: Will the Global Health Research Units and Groups Calls fund accident injuries research? Or should applicants apply to the RIGHT Call when it is launched in November 2020?

A: Applications in any field of applied global health research for the direct and primary benefit of people in ODA-eligible country/ies will be considered, including injuries and accidents research. The next funding Call for NIHR Research and Innovation for Global Health Transformation (RIGHT) (expected to launch in Autumn 2020) will focus on unintentional injuries, and urgent and emergency care. Applicants may wish to view the aims and eligibility criteria for the RIGHT programme and decide which is most suitable for their research ambitions. Funding will only be awarded through a single NIHR Call, overlap checks are performed across the NIHR and other funders. 

Q: Are environmental exposures and their effect on health outcomes within remit for this Call? Is agriculture, nutrition and health nexus also within remit for this Call?

A: Both the Global Health Research Unit and the Global Health Research Group Calls fund applied health related research for the direct and primary benefit of people in ODA-eligible country/ies – if the proposed research has this focus then it will be within remit. If potential applicants have specific queries relating to remit then please contact us on nihrglobalhealth@nihr.ac.uk.

Q: Is there an expectation to build in possible post-COVID-19 ways of managing partnerships? For example, face to face meetings are of course ideal, but it isn’t clear how possible these will be, especially in countries where the pandemic has not yet reached its peak, and if there are later waves in different countries?

A: In recognition that the COVID-19 outbreak is having a significant impact across global health systems, applicants should consider the context of COVID-19 where relevant to their research proposal, both in terms of project planning and the generalisability of outcomes.

Virtual meetings as well as other adaptations/ innovations to help mitigate and circumvent the various challenges as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic should be detailed in the ‘Detailed Research Plan’ section of the application.

Q: What is your position on the inclusion of COVID-19 related research? Is it discouraged as there are a lot of other COVID-19 related funding opportunities?

A: In recognition that the COVID-19 outbreak is having a significant impact across global health systems, applicants should consider the context of COVID-19 where relevant to their research proposal, both in terms of project planning and the generalisability of outcomes.

However, applications for research directly focused on COVID-19 should be submitted to COVID-specific funding calls, such as the Global Effort on COVID-19 (GECO) Health Research Call.

Q: Can the partnership appoint one or more deputy leads for a Global Health Research Unit?

A: Applications to both Global Health Research Units and Global Health Research Groups funding must be led by two Joint Lead applicants, one in a UK and one in a LMIC institution. Beyond this, applicants should describe how the structure of their team will work in the relevant section in the application from. Please review the guidance on Research Expertise / Structure of the Team.

Q: If I work in a single geography is that a concern? Or can I work globally and have lots of partners?

A: There are no set requirements from NIHR on the number or geographic spread of countries involved within a Global Health Research Unit or Group. Research teams can work with one LMIC country/partner, with several in a region or across the world. NIHR will not view an application in which a team is working with a single LMIC country any differently from a team who has several LMIC countries and partners provided clear justification for any chosen approach is described. Partnership plans depend on, and need to be proportionate to, the aims of the programme/project.

Q: Can funding for Randomised Controlled Trials be requested?

A: Yes, funds for pilot, feasibility, and Randomised Controlled Trials (RCTs) can be requested as part of wider programmes of work. The Global Health Research Units/Groups Calls will not fund single/individual trials or studies that are not embedded in a larger programme of work.

Q: How much research can be conducted in UK-based labs?

A: Research may be conducted in UK-based labs providing the direct and primary purpose of the research is to benefit LMICs. 

Q: Could the database for a project be housed in a country outside the UK that is not an LMIC?

A: Yes, it is possible to house a database in a country outside the UK, provided the standards of the UK data protection rules are met.

However, there may be restrictions depending on where the team are conducting the research, and whether/how data can be transferred outside of the country. Applicants should consider if there are data restrictions associated with the countries/partners they will be working with and clearly describe how they will manage these.

Q: Is it possible to apply for funding that builds upon an existing MRC/NIHR award?

A: Yes, it is possible to apply for funding that builds on previous research funded by the NIHR or other sources.

Q: How different/similar can or should a new Group / Unit be if we already hold NIHR funding for Global Health Research Units / Groups? Does the programme need to be radically different, or can it cover "obvious next steps”?

A: Applications for Global Health Research Unit or Group funding should demonstrate how they meet the aims and remit of the specific Call. Previously funded work (through NIHR or other funders) should be described in the application where it clarifies the rationale, however all applications will be assessed against the selection criteria. The Funding Committee will not consider any documentation other than those submitted as part of the application.

Q: If a research team applies for Global Health Research Unit funding and you think it is more appropriate for a Group award, will you award the smaller award or reject the application?

A: The application will be assessed against the selection criteria of the Call it has been submitted to, so applicants need to ensure they demonstrate how they meet the aims and remit of the specific Call. The Global Health Research Units Funding Committee will only consider applications to the Units Call and the separate Global Health Research Groups Funding Committee will only consider Groups applications. Applications will not be referred to the other Call’s Funding Committee.

Queries on the Global Health Research Units Call

Q: Does the limit of two Global Health Research Units per institution apply to each closing date or across the whole Call, or is it a limit of two in total across both closing dates?

A: The limit of two Global Health Research Unit applications per Joint Lead institution (in the UK and the LMIC) applies across both Call close dates (November 2020 and May 2021). Only two Unit applications from the same Joint Lead institution will be considered in total.

Queries on the Global Health Research Groups Call

Q: The Call guidance for Groups states that the first few months of the research project are for partners to agree on their research plan, however, in the application there is also a necessity to detail the methods. How is this detail possible if the plan isn’t agreed until early in the programme of work?

A: It is recognised that for newly forming Global Health Research Groups teams will not necessarily have identified their priorities within an area of applied global health research, but the plans for doing so should be described in the application. The Funding Committee will need to be convinced that the research prioritisation is needs-led and conducted in an inclusive and appropriate way. The application needs to demonstrate what plans will be put in place to ensure the research meets the Call aims and remit.

Q:  Could we apply to the Global Health Research Groups Call to build upon the work and partnerships that we have formed as a result of the NIHR Global Health Policy and Systems Research (HPSR) Development Award, keeping the research in the same field, but expanding the work that will be done?

A: Researchers may apply for Global Health Research Groups funding as the result of NIHR Global HPSR Development Award work. Collaborations formed in the Global HPSR Development Award can be developed through a Group award.

Funding / finance

Q: What should be the split between capacity building and conduct of research? 

A: There are no set guidelines as to the percentage breakdown of funding between research and capacity-building activities, however, applications must demonstrate how they meet the aims and remit of the Call with respect to both. Allocation of funds will be dependent on the aims and ambitions of the Global Health Research Unit or Group.

Q: Can you provide more information about the institutional contributions you are looking for from all institutions involved in an application?

A: Examples of institutional support can include (but are not limited to):

  • Support for partner visits, including provision of office and lab space, access to online institutional library services and databases, and access to training. 
  • Provision of space and resources for workshops
  • Access to training programmes including distance learning, and distance learning scholarships
  • Provision of central administrative project support
  • Matched funding for key team members or studentships
  • Contribution of other key staff time outside of the project team
  • Reduction in institutional overheads

 At a minimum, institutions must give clear agreement to participate in the study and to supply space, facilities and the time required for the researcher(s) to carry out the work activities outlined in the application.

Q: What is NIHR’s expectation around split of funding between the LMIC and the UK institutions?

A: There are no set guidelines as to the percentage breakdown of funding between partnering organisations. However, the proposed research must be ODA-eligible (directly and primarily of benefit to the LMIC) and it should be made clear in the application how funds will flow to the LMIC partner organisations. All costs must be fully justified and reflect the principles of equitable partnerships. The NIHR and the Funding Committee will carefully review the proposal costing to ensure it meets the need of the research programme and remit of the Call.

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. If a larger proportion of research funding is held with the UK institution and plans to be directed to the LMIC/s via a non-monetary form (i.e. the purchasing of equipment on behalf of the LMIC partner/s) this information needs to be clearly stated in the application form to ensure NIHR and the Funding Committee are aware of the plans.

Q: If we apply for Global Health Research Unit funding to access the longer five-year period of support but ask for funds in the Group range, i.e. £2-3m, would we disadvantage ourselves? 

A: The application will be assessed against the selection criteria of the Call it has been submitted to, so applicants need to ensure they demonstrate how they meet the aims and remit of the specific Call.

Unit applications that have proportionate costs that are justified to meet the Unit's research and capacity-building plans are welcome to apply - these can be less than the maximum funding/time envelope available.

Q: Will there be a drive for equitable distribution of awards across the UK?

A: NIHR Global Health Research funding is a UK wide funding mechanism and open to institutions across all four nations in the UK, however all awards will be assessed on merit by the independent Funding Committee. The Funding Committee does not consider the location of the contracting institution in the selection process. There is a limit of two Global Health Research Unit applications per Joint Lead Institution (in the UK and LMICs) to ensure equitable opportunities across organisations in both the UK and LMICs.

Q: Is it possible to create an allowance for miscellaneous e.g. fluctuation in price of goods and services? A certain percentage of quotation?

A: No, this is not possible. All costs listed in project costings need to be based on the applicant’s best estimates. There will be a fluctuation in prices, but these will continuously vary and so will eventually average out. It is also not permitted to include costs categorised as ‘contingency’. Please see NIHR Global Health Research exchange rate guidance for more information. 

Q: Do you allow a cost for interventions when undertaking a study within this Call?

A: If the proposed research requires an intervention to be delivered in the LMIC it is permitted to claim for External Intervention Costs (EIC) that are in excess of standard care provided in that local setting. Costs for interventions in the UK are not eligible.

Q: Could UK Clinical Trials Units (CTU) be involved in Global Health Research Units and Groups to manage the studies? And what proportion of the costs could be allocated to them?

A: CTU costs are eligible, however applications need to specify how including CTUs will provide direct and primary benefit to LMICs, including local capacity strengthening in clinical trial management. Justification for these costs must include detail of the role of individuals from the CTU including the amount of time they would dedicate specifically to the project and their activities required to ensure a successful project. The proportion of costs allocated should be reflected in the justification.

Q: Would UK Joint Leads be supported (with travel/accommodation) to make extended visits to the LMIC site, e.g. for 2 months per year in order to deliver training, project supervision, perform specialist procedures?

A: Yes, travel/accommodation/subsistence costs for UK-based team members are allowed when visiting their LMIC partners, and vice-versa. Applicants are required to consider value for money and environmental impact as well as whether a trip is necessary and if alternative cheaper options (e.g. teleconferencing or video conferencing) offer a viable alternative.

Q: Can you clarify how staff costs can be charged? We operate on a day rate consultancy model basis where our day rates include salary costs, overheads (including management time) and profit. Are we able to charge on this basis?

A: The staff costs should be calculated on the basis of actual estimated costs. These should include basic salary cost, geographical weighting and other allowances payable by the employer (e.g. pension, national insurance, apprenticeship levy).

Profit is not an allowable item.

We may also ask for a copy of pay scales to verify salaries. The finance budget form will ask applicants to populate fields for basic salary, allowances, % full time equivalent, as well as yearly cost on the project.

Depending on what type of organisation you are part of the rules around indirect costs/overheads vary:

  • UK HEIs - indirect costs should be calculated on the basis of TRAC methodology,
  • UK NHS organisations - no indirect costs are allowed,
  • UK other organisations - indirect costs should be calculated in proportion to staff effort,
  • All LMIC organisations - indirect costs should be calculated in proportion to staff effort,
  • HIC organisations - no indirect costs are allowed.

All indirect costs and overheads should be justified and a breakdown must be provided where possible.

Please refer to the full Finance Guidance, for GHR Units, and for GHR Groups.

Eligibility

Q: If an academic has a part-time appointment in a UK institution but their main job and residence is in a LMIC institution are they eligible to assume the position of the LMIC Joint Lead? Or does it have to be an academic not affiliated with a UK institute?

A: Yes, the academic would be eligible to assume the position of the LMIC Joint Lead provided that the majority of their time is based at the LMIC institution. The LMIC letter of support would need to come from their LMIC institution and their research team would also need to be based there.

Q: Are Non-Governmental Organisations or Research Foundations eligible to be Joint Leads?

A: Please see the eligibility section of the Call guidance.  Non-Governmental Organisations are eligible to apply as a Joint Lead, provided they are a research-active organisation and can provide assurance they have the capacity and capability to manage research funding.

Q: Are you interested in research across all ODA-eligible LMICs or is there a specific interest in LICs

A: NIHR funds applied health research that directly and primarily benefits people in any country on the OECD DAC list.

Q: If the research is in an upper middle-income country is there a requirement that it benefits vulnerable groups?

A: Applications are invited for research based in any country/ies on the OECD DAC list which propose studies that will focus directly and primarily on the development challenges within that country/ those countries. Research in upper middle-income countries that meet these criteria are in remit. Furthermore, the Funding Committee will consider the likely impact of the proposed work (i.e. likelihood of significant contribution to the evidence base in the relevant area, pathways to improvement in health, health equity, wellbeing, lives saved and economic, social and cultural benefits in ODA-eligible countries).

Q: Are China and Brazil still ODA-eligible countries?

A: Yes, China and Brazil are eligible to receive ODA funding, as they are present on the OECD DAC list.

Training and capacity strengthening

Q: Will the Global Health Research Units and Groups Call support clinical PhDs (Doctors, Nurses, Allied Health Professions) as academic training posts and allow for clinical salaries?

A: Posts for LMIC clinical PhD posts based in ODA-eligible countries completing work related to research activities can be supported. 

Q: Can funds be requested for UK students?

A: No, Student fees or stipends for High-Income Country (HIC) students are not eligible, regardless of the programme of study. 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 HIC. In cases where the application includes LMIC student fees at a HIC institution, it is expected that the relevant Joint Lead Applicant will negotiate with the HIC institution for reduced fees for the LMIC candidate. Application for funding should show evidence of fees being reduced.

However, funding can be requested for example for other capacity strengthening activities for all team members (regardless of their nationality/location), such as training in technical research skills and personal development skills and other wider institutional capacity strengthening activities.

Q: Do PhD studentships need to be registered in the LMICs?

A: NIHR will fund full studentship costs for LMIC students based in ODA-eligible countries either registered at an LMIC institution or 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 Joint Lead Applicant will negotiate with the HIC institution for reduced fees for the LMIC candidate. Application for funding should show evidence of fees being reduced.

Q: Do academic trainees need be involved in the work of the Global Health Research Unit/Group?

A: Yes, the outputs of academic trainees funded by a Global Health Research Unit or Group award will need to contribute to the Unit/Group’s overall outcomes.

Q: The funding Call only appears to refer to Good Financial Grant Practice (GFGP) audits/certification costs being eligible. Can I confirm if other GFGP costs required to reach certification will be supported, such as training, assessment visits, outside support?

A: Yes, these costs will be supported.

Please refer to the full Finance Guidance, for GHR Units, and for GHR Groups.

Application process

Q: If unsuccessful as a Global Health Research Group to the first Call close date (Nov 2020), would an application for a Unit to the second Call close (May 2021) be eligible? 

A: Applications for Global Health Research Unit or Group funding should demonstrate how they meet the aims and remit of the specific Call. Applicants should consider which Call their proposed programme of work is most suited to, based on the Call’s stated aims and remit. Given the complexities of developing applications for research, it is expected teams of researchers will either be candidates for either Units or Groups funding, not both. There is a limit of two Global Health Research Unit applications from any Joint Lead Institution (in the UK and LMICs) applicable across both Call close dates.

Q: Is there a way to get the online application for the form as a document to allow for drafting or preparing the online application? Or is the website outline the only way to prepare a submission?

A: A Word version of the application form can be found under the 'completing the online application form' section.

The Word version of the application form can be used in order to prepare your application, however, applicants must complete and submit the electronic version of the form via https://netscc-mis.nihr.ac.uk in order to apply.

Other

Q: Can you provide a list of panel members who will review the applications?

A: We are still currently appointing Funding Committee members and names will be published on the NIHR website when available.