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NIHR Incentive Scheme 2019



Systematic Reviews Programme

NOTE: Please ensure you complete all sections of the application 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 have been offered to Cochrane Review Groups (CRGs) for preparing key new or updated Cochrane reviews by agreed dates. Over the history of the scheme, around 300 awards have been made. In 2019, the scheme has been expanded to include topics that fall under the remit of Campbell Coordinating Groups

  2. The Department recognises that these awards are insufficient to meet the full costs of conducting reviews. They are intended to be applied at the discretion of Co-ordinating Editors in ways that will facilitate and possibly accelerate activity that is already planned or underway.


  1. The budget for the scheme in 2019 will remain at £100,000 and we expect to make around 10 – 20 awards. With higher incentive payments (up to £10,000 maximum) available to reviews of impact, which may or may not be using more complex methodology. Complex reviews can seek to request support from theNIHR Complex Reviews Support Unit (CRSU) by indicating this in their application. Contact with theCRSU should be made only if/when an award offer has been made byNIHR, and not at the application stage.

  2. Co-ordinating Editors may nominate for incentive awards:
    • review updates; and
    • new reviews in progress or ready to commence.

  3. Co-ordinating 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 9 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.

    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.
  • 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; and
  • 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
  • any further justification as to why this review would be difficult to complete without an Incentive Award.
  • Past performance of a CRG previously granted a Cochrane Programme Grant, or Cochrane Incentive Award, specifically their track record in delivering reviews as agreed and within the project timeframe, will be considered when reviewing nominations. Advice will be sought from Campbell’s Editor in Chief about the delivery track record of their coordinating groups.

Submitting a review nomination

  1. Co-ordinating Editors of both Cochrane and Campbell groups (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 must not be reviews or review updates covered by a NIHR Cochrane Programme Grant.

  2. Nominations must be received in electronic form by NETSCC by 1pm on 27th September 2019 (SRPINFO@NIHR.AC.UK). Attached to this paper 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 NIHR which proposals should be offered incentive awards. Decisions are likely to be made in late November.

  2. In all cases, a date by which the review or review update must be completed and submitted to The Cochrane Library or Campbell Editor in Chief 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.

  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 SRPINFO@NIHR.AC.UK by a specified date, to be secured and allow project activation.

  4. All projects will officially start on the next 1st day of the month after award acceptance and signature is received. This must be either 1st January 2020 or 1st February 2020, unless there are extenuating circumstances.

  5. The latest date to be agreed is likely to be 28 February 2021, 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 Library. 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). It will be unlikely for extensions of agreed deadlines to be allowed. Wherever possible, payments will be made to the host institution of the Co-ordinating Editor or to an institution within the UK (which could be the host institution of another of the CRG’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. 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:
  • Cost effective treatments and services, informing national guidance, NICE and/or other guidelines and other additional agencies.
  • Publications and other dissemination activities and the setting of standards for health research.
  • 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 SRPINFO@NIHR.AC.UK with ‘NIHR Incentive Scheme’ in the subject/title field.