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NIHR Incentive Awards Scheme 2020




Evidence Synthesis Programme

Note: Please ensure you complete all sections of the applications proforma. Incomplete forms will not be progressed.

Note to Coordinating Editors of all Cochrane Review Groups and Campbell Coordinating Groups


  1. The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) in England funds an annual scheme whereby small incentive payments are offered to Cochrane Review Groups (CRGs) and Campbell Coordinating Groups (CCGs) for preparing key new or updated reviews by agreed dates.

  2. The DHSC recognises that these awards are insufficient to meet the full costs of conducting reviews. They are intended to be applied at the discretion of Coordinating Editors in ways that will facilitate and possibly accelerate activity that is already planned or underway i.e. post protocol publication.


  1. The budget for the scheme in 2020 will remain at £100,000 and we expect to allocate funds to between 10–20 awards. Incentive payments of up to £10,000 will be awarded, subject to the level of complexity, importance and impact of the review. Complex reviews can seek to request support from the NIHR Complex Reviews Support Unit (CRSU) by indicating this in their application. Contact with the CRSU should be made only if/when an award offer has been made by the NIHR, and not at the application stage.

  2. Coordinating Editors may nominate for incentive awards:

    • review updates; and
    • new reviews in progress or ready to commence (i.e. post-protocol publication)

  3. Coordinating Editors are encouraged to submit applications for more comprehensive reviews and consider what is most useful to the users of the reviews. For example, nominating reviews that consider just one intervention, as opposed to an overview or multiple interventions, will not be favoured in the first instance (dependent on priority).

  4. Review timelines are nine months for an update and 12 months for a new review as far as possible. Please ensure this is taken into consideration when submitting nominations.

Criteria for review nominations

  1. In the ‘scientific/policy justification’ section of the form, in no more than 200 words, describe the potential importance to, and impact of the review topic within the UK health and social care system, specifically addressing the below points.
    • the number of people affected by the clinical/social condition and/or intervention being reviewed
    • the degree of uncertainty that exists in the absence of an up-to-date systematic review, and the ‘cost’ to policy and practice of operating in the face of such uncertainty
    • the likelihood of a review assisting or changing policy or practice
    • the identified need for a review by policy makers or public health/health/social care commissioners
    • the likely importance and priority that would be given to the topic by consumers, such as patients and their carers, and their involvement in the review
    • an estimate of the number and size of the studies that are likely to be considered for inclusion in the review (for review updates, give information on the additional studies)
    • an indication as to whether the review includes complex methods with further justification
    • applicants should demonstrate that they have all the necessary capacity/capabilities to complete the reviews on time 
    • any further justification as to why this review would be difficult to complete without an Incentive Award

Please note: Reviews must centre around a potential or applicable benefit to people in the NHS or social care. Review nominations not relevant to public health/people using the services/NHS/social care need or the wider UK healthcare system will not be successful.

Submitting a review nomination

  1. Coordinating Editors of both CRGs and CCGs (not only those whose editorial bases are within the UK, although priority may be given to reviews with an author or editorial base in the UK) are now invited to nominate up to three new reviews or review updates that they consider are of importance (see below) and for which they consider the award of an incentive payment would lead to completion of work at a significantly earlier time. These should have protocols published by the submission date and must not be reviews or review updates covered by an NIHR Cochrane Programme Grant.

  2. Nominations must be received in electronic form by 1pm on 25th September 2020 ( At the bottom of this page is a simple proforma that must be used for each nomination. Late proposals and proposals that fail to adhere to the proforma, exceed the word limit or do not address the criteria above will not be considered.

  3. Please ensure all sections of the proforma are complete, accurate and within the word limit.

Processing nominations

  1. The responses to this call for proposals will be considered by a scientific committee, who will recommend to the NIHR which proposals should be offered incentive awards. Decisions are likely to be made in mid-late November.

  2. In all cases, a date by which the review or review update must be completed will be agreed as a condition of the award, and will reflect the needs of the NIHR or others for the review or review update. By this date, the review or updated review is expected to have gone through peer review, main editorial processes, and received Co-Editor sign off, but yet to go through copy editing.

  3. Successful applicants will receive an award offer, which details the terms and conditions of the award. This award offer must be signed and returned via email to by a specified date, to be secured and allow project activation.

  4. All projects will officially start on the next first day of the month after award acceptance and signature is received. This must be either 1 January 2021 or 1 February 2021.

  5. The latest completion date to be agreed is 28 February 2022, i.e. a maximum of one year. Failure to meet the deadline will result in the award being withdrawn.

  6. A further condition of the award will be that a pre-publication version of the review or review update is made available upon completion and prior to publication in The Cochrane Library or Campbell Systematic Reviews. The pre-publication version may be used to inform policy work but will not be circulated more widely.


  1. Award payments will be made upon completion of the review or review update (if this is by the agreed completion date). Extension requests will not be considered. Wherever possible, payments will be made to the host institution of the Coordinating Editor or to an institution within the UK (which could be the host institution of another of the CRG’s and CCG’s editors or a lead author). Payments cannot be made to individual author accounts.

  2. The pre-publication version submitted upon completion must contain an NIHR acknowledgment and disclaimer. The NIHR should also be notified post-award should the review prove to have had an impact. Impact is defined as research that results in a change to activity or understanding arising from that research, specifically through the following avenues:

    • Publications and other dissemination activities and the setting of standards for health research
    • Cost effective treatments and services, informing national guidance, NICE and/or other guidelines and other additional agencies
    • Saving money by stopping ineffective or unnecessarily costly treatments/care, supporting innovation and enabling a healthier workforce
    • Review which result in a clear research recommendation, notably contributes to the research portfolio of evidence, or has received particular media attention


  1. Any enquiries relating to this scheme should be referred to Sofia Araujo-Betancor at with ‘NIHR Incentive Scheme’ in the subject/title field.