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NIHR Senior Investigators Competition 13 - Guidance for Applicants




NIHR Senior Investigators are some of the nation’s most outstanding leaders of clinical and applied health and social care research. At present there are 200 members of the NIHR College of Senior Investigators. The intention is to maintain numbers at around this level through continuing annual rounds of competition.

This document sets out the detailed process for a new, open competition for NIHR Investigators to submit an application for an NIHR Senior Investigator award. An Independent Selection Committee will review applications and make recommendations on NIHR Senior Investigator awards.

Aims of the scheme

Senior Investigators, as NIHR’s most prominent and prestigious researchers, are fundamental to NIHR. Together, members constitute the College of Senior Investigators, a distinguished body with its own programme of events that provide visible leadership within the NIHR.

About the award

The NIHR Senior Investigator award is in recognition for outstanding contribution to clinical and applied health and social care research.

NIHR Senior Investigators will receive a 4 year award on the recommendation of an Independent Selection Committee. NIHR Senior Investigators can reapply for a second award on completion of the first award. NIHR Senior Investigators can receive a maximum of 2 awards totalling no more than 8 years. After two awards, an NIHR Senior Investigator will be awarded an Emeritus status if continuing in substantive employment.

Senior Investigators will become Members of the NIHR Academy, with an enhanced role in providing senior leadership and helping to develop research capability.

As a condition of appointment, successful applicants will be expected to join a half-day NIHR Senior Investigators’ induction meeting for all new and returning Senior Investigators. The purpose of the meeting is to help Senior Investigators navigate and define their role, meet with fellow Senior Investigators, and discuss topical issues with Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) and NIHR colleagues. 

NIHR Senior Investigators will:

Contribute significantly to NIHR as a senior leader

  • Support committees and peer review activities, Boards and roles in the NIHR Infrastructure;
  • Engage with and provide advice and suggestions to the Chief Scientific Adviser and DHSC’s Science, Research & Evidence Directorate on key activities, programmes and consultations;
  • Provide formal leadership within the NIHR at regional and national levels.

Lead in Training and Development of NIHR’s people

  • Become an active Member of the NIHR Academy;
  • Maintain a strong track record in training and developing researchers and shaping the training agenda;
  • Mentor other members of the NIHR workforce – both informally and as part of an ongoing formal NIHR mentoring programme;
  • Take part in activities run through the NIHR Leadership Programme.

Act as an Ambassador for the NIHR in the wider system

  • Act as ambassadors and advocates for NIHR, identifying and utilising platforms for promoting NIHR activity;
  • Work with stakeholders, especially the NHS, and public health and social care systems, to disseminate and act on NIHR’s aims;
  • Be key communicators within NIHR. 

Demonstrate Research Excellence

  • Maintain and develop a track record of excellence in clinical and applied research, of benefit to patients, the public and the health and care system. 

Contribute to Growth

  • Play a leading role in NIHR’s Contribution to Growth.
  • This can be done through working with the NIHR, through:
    • supporting collaborations and contract research with the life sciences industry;
    • creating the research environment that supports the nation’s international competitiveness;
    • attracting, developing and retaining a highly skilled health research workforce;
    • providing the clinical evidence to help the NHS and public sector to make efficient use of resources; and
    • providing the research evidence that contributes to establishing a healthier workforce and wider population. 

Integrate Patient and Public Involvement and Engagement (PPIE) in Research

  • Integrate PPIE in their research, provide leadership and support capacity development for PPIE.


NIHR Investigators are eligible to apply to become NIHR Senior Investigators. Associates and Trainees are not eligible to apply. 

NIHR Investigators are researchers who: 

  • conduct or support clinical and applied health and social care research;
  • have part or all of their salary funded as a ‘Research Cost’ from NIHR and have ‘active’ funding at the time of application which must extend beyond 30 June 2020
  • are employed by an organisation based in England

NIHR Research Professors reaching the end of their term are also eligible to apply; providing their term ends before 1 April 2020 and they have ‘active’ NIHR funding at the time of application; independent of their NIHR Research Professorship award. 

The NIHR funding streams that confer NIHR Investigator status (and hence eligibility to apply to become a Senior Investigator) are those for NIHR Infrastructure (e.g. Biomedical Research Centre (BRC), Medtech and Invitro Diagnostic Cooperative, Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care (CLAHRC) and a new Applied Research Collaborations (ARC) etc, and includes individuals with formal roles such as Director, or Theme Lead) Projects, Programmes, Units, Centres, and Schools; NIHR and Medical Research Council (MRC) Partnership Programmes; and other NIHR contracts. This funding is administered mainly through some of NIHR’s managing agents: the NIHR Central Commissioning Facility (CCF) and the NIHR Evaluation, Trials and Studies Coordinating Centre (NETSCC). Applicants in receipt of grants from NIHR joint funding (managed outside of NIHR) are also eligible to apply and applicants are required to provide a letter of support from an individual with the relevant authority. A full list is given in Annex 2

Individuals applying on the basis of their role/funding from NIHR Infrastructure will be cross-checked against the Infrastructure Investigator list submitted in the annual reports and original applications. Additional evidence in the form of a letter of support may be required in certain circumstances, from the Director or another individual with the relevant authority (using the template provided), when for example:

  • an applicant is not listed within the annual reports or does not hold a recognised NIHR defined role,
  • an annual report has not yet been submitted as the award has only just started or
  • the funding scheme is not managed by the NIHR, for example the Methodology Research Programme.

The applicant will need to state how much of their salary is funded as a ‘Research Cost’ from NIHR funding in FTE commitment and state the relationship the applicant has to the eligible NIHR grant/infrastructure. 

Current Senior Investigators whose first-term appointments expire on 31 March 2020 can reapply, if they remain eligible. These applications will be entered into the competition alongside those of all other applicants on an equal footing. Senior Investigator appointments can be held for a maximum of two terms, equating to a maximum of eight years in total, after which they will be awarded Emeritus status and are no longer eligible to reapply. 

Eligibility will be checked by the NIHR and DHSC. Individuals who do not meet the eligibility criteria will be notified and their applications withdrawn from the process. 

Selection process

The NIHR Senior Investigators will be selected by open competition

Applications will be considered by an Independent Selection Committee. Each application will be allocated to three members of the Committee as Lead Assessors, and to one PPI member, who will review the information provided in the application form. 

The Committee will advise the Chief Scientific Adviser, DHSC, as to which applicants should be appointed. 

The timetable will be: 

  • 31 July 2019: Competition opens
  • 2 October 2019: Deadline for applications
  • January 2020: Independent Selection Committee meeting
  • February 2020: Applicant notification of outcome
  • 1 April 2020: Senior Investigator term begins. 


Funding will be awarded for 4 year appointments on the recommendation of the Independent Selection Committee (starting 1 April 2020). There may be on occasion an exception to this, for example where a previous term of 3 or 5 years has been held. 

Selected Senior Investigators will receive a discretionary research award of £20,000 per annum payable to their employer/linked institution. The discretionary award is designed to fund activities that support their research. 

Typical examples might include: 

  • Travel costs
  • Conference costs
  • Personal development and team building
  • Books
  • Consumables and minor items of equipment (not capital equipment)
  • Bridging funds to support research staff appointments whilst awaiting new research income
  • Providing additional support (e.g. clerical) including overtime payments. 

These activities may be carried out by the NIHR Senior Investigator or by other individuals at the NIHR Senior Investigator’s discretion. 

Research Capability Funding 

Senior Investigator appointments made as part of this competition round will no longer attract accompanying Research Capability Funding (RCF) payments of £75,000 per annum, following a review by DHSC. 

Selection criteria for the application stage

The selection criteria for the full application will be:

  • NIHR and Applied Research Focus
    • Evidence of significant personal contribution to the NIHR;
    • Research portfolio highly relevant to the health and care of patients and the public; and with high impact of the research on improvements in health and social care and public health;
    • Strong track record of effective PPIE in research including leadership and capacity development for PPIE;
    • Contribution to Growth.
  • Training and Leadership
    • High impact of the leadership of the individual on clinical and applied research;
    • Strong track record in training and developing researchers including evidence of helping to shape training agendas at regional and national level; with a specific level of Doctoral research supervision;
    • Evidence of engagement of healthcare planners and/or policymakers.
  • Individual Research Excellence and Impact
    High quality and volume of internationally excellent research.

Information to be provided in the application

NIHR Investigators applying for the Senior Investigator competition will need to complete and submit an application. 

The application will need to set out:

1. Eligibility

To be eligible to apply for an NIHR Senior Investigator award, applicants must be paid part of their salary as a ‘Research Cost’ of the grant. The applicant must provide information on the source of, and FTE commitment and relationship to, the qualifying grant.  If the qualifying grant does not have a project title, please provide the job title instead. If the qualifying grant does not have a reference number, please provide place of work or name of NIHR Infrastructure.

Please refer to the ‘Eligibility’ section of this document for any further clarifications.

2. Applicant Details

Further details on the applicant such as Professional Background, Region (applicants outside of England are not eligible to apply) and Research Fields are required. All information regarding applicant details is auto-populated from the ‘Manage my Details’ section within the Lead Applicant’s CCF RMS Portal account. This should be updated and edited prior to submission. It is necessary to select a subcategory of professional background for those who select ‘Allied Health Professional’, ‘Not a Health Professional’, or ‘Other Health Professional’. 

The applicant should state whether they are a clinical academic and, if so, how much of their time is spent on clinical duties. For the purposes of this competition, clinical academics are clinically active health researchers. Clinical academic posts are often joint appointments between health and/or social care organisations and a Higher Education Institution. Both organisations support the post; with one organisation typically holding the substantive contract of employment (with an honorary appointment in the other) to facilitate working across the organisations. 

The applicant should choose the two most appropriate categories for ‘Research Fields’. If their research is best defined by just one of the categories in this section, please select the same field in both drop-down boxes. 

3. Case for Support 

Provide clear and comprehensive evidence supporting each criterion. All sections must be completed for the Committee to be able to make an informed decision on the application. Applicants should include anything relevant to their application as only information submitted in the form will be taken into account by the Committee.

  • Contribution to the NIHR 

The applicant must provide examples of their contribution to NIHR, concentrating on the past five years; including work on NIHR committees, events, supporting training, and support for peer review; and any formal leadership roles in NIHR. Formal leadership in the NIHR must be exhibited at national and regional levels. 

For applicants who have been previous Senior Investigators (i.e. applying for their second term), the applicant will need to demonstrate how they have current active and ongoing evidence of contribution to NIHR. 

The quality and quantity of contribution to the NIHR will be assessed by the Committee. . Individuals are expected to describe the contribution they make to the NIHR against the categories as listed in the checklist in Annex 1.

  • Relevance of the research portfolio to patients and the public with translation into improvements in healthcare 

The two most significant examples of the relevance of the applicant’s research to patients and the public must be provided; citing publications or other evidence. Moreover, the applicant should provide information on how their research has been translated into improving healthcare outcomes in the last ten years; again, citing publications or other evidence such as clinical guidelines. The methods whereby research has been translated should be clearly explained. 

  • Patient and public involvement and engagement in research 

The applicant must provide specific examples of their PPIE activities in these 3 areas:

  • How they integrate PPIE into their own research
  • How they support capacity development for PPIE
  • How they demonstrate leadership in PPIE. 

A minimum of one example must be provided by the applicant for each of the above areas, describing the role they played in each example given. 

Please note the distinction that the NIHR makes between ‘patient and public involvement’, ‘engagement’ and ‘participation’ in research and be aware that this question is focussed on PPI. It may be helpful to refer to case studies in the INVOLVE publication: ‘NIHR Senior Investigators: Leaders for patient and public involvement in research’

You may also wish to look at the new national standards for public involvement in research

  • Contribution to Growth 

The applicants must demonstrate their track record in playing a leading role in NIHR's Contribution to Growth; for example, through support for the NIHR Office for Clinical Research Infrastructure (NOCRI). Specific examples of the applicant’s Contribution to Growth must be provided. 

Examples of appropriate activity could include (but are not limited to):

  • Supporting collaborations and contract research with the life sciences industry;
  • creating the research environment that supports the nation’s international competitiveness;
  • attracting, developing and retaining a highly skilled health research workforce;
  • providing the clinical evidence to help the NHS and public sector to make efficient use of resources; and
  • providing the research evidence that contributes to establishing a healthier workforce and wider population.
  • Research leadership 

The applicant must provide evidence of their leadership in clinical and applied health and social care research; citing Chief Investigator (CI) and Principal Investigator (PI) roles and other relevant information. Applicants must include information on their contribution to equality and diversity within research. This will be considered by the Independent Selection Committee.

  • Track record in training researchers 

An overview of the applicant’s track record in training and developing researchers must be provided. Moreover, the applicant must state the number of completed Doctoral Research Students and number of completed Masters Students that they have supervised and provide evidence of involvement in shaping training agendas at regional AND national level.

  • Engagement of healthcare planners and/or policy makers in research 

The applicant must provide evidence of how they have engaged with healthcare planners and/or policy makers such as Academic Health Science Networks (AHSNs), Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs), Health Education England, NHS England, NHS Improvement, NICE, Public Health England, and Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STPs); and where applicable the Department of Health and Social Care.

4.   Academic and Professional Qualifications 

The applicant will need to provide information on prizes, awards, honours they hold as well as research and infrastructure grants for which they were a Chief Investigator, Co-Chief Investigator, Principal Investigator or Co-Applicant. For the purposes of this competition, a Chief Investigator is an individual who is responsible for the conduct of the whole research project. A Principal Investigator is an individual responsible for the conduct of the research at a local research site. 

Grant income in the last five years refers to grants that have been active at any point in the last five years, between 23/08/14 and 22/08/19. Grant income can start prior to or end after this five year period. Research Capability Funding should not be included in the section

The academic and professional qualifications, present and previous employment, and grant income sections will be pulled through from the ‘Manage my Details’ section. Please note that any fields left blank will render the application ineligible. 

5.  Publications 

Assessment of research excellence will be determined through analyses of publications.  Please note the use of information relating to publications is only one factor of several used by the Independent Selection Committee. 

The applicant must enter their top 20 publications from the past ten years (23/08/2009-22/08/2019) ranked from 1-20. These should be the publications that are considered to be their most important and ones in which they played a substantial role. Publications outside the date range are not admissible and the application cannot be submitted until they are removed. The applicant must be a named author on the publication. Applicants can include publications in which they were part of a consortium. The publications can be selected and will be pulled through from the ‘Manage my Details’ section. 

Please note that publications in press are not admissible. Cochrane Database Review papers are accepted, as are conference proceedings if they have been published in regular volumes of peer reviewed journals. If no exact date of publication is available, please enter ‘01’ for date and month. Details of the applicant’s role in the research leading to the publication are required. 

The applicant will need to provide their ORCID ID and a link to their Google Scholar profile. The onus is on the applicant to ensure that their ORCID ID and Google Scholar profile are up-to-date, with all their publications linked. Please ensure that the Google Scholar profile is made public. 

The Department of Health and Social Care and NIHR  are  committed to supporting researchers in diverse fields and with diverse career paths (including career breaks), and recognises that there are circumstances which may impact on the applicant’s research outputs produced over the relevant period of academic careers (e.g. periods of maternity leave, parental leave, sick leave). Therefore, if there is anything that may have an impact on the applicant’s publication record, please outline the reasons for this to ensure that the application is judged appropriately. 

6. Professional Conduct Self Declaration

  • The applicant is required to complete a declaration form about past, current and pending investigations by their employer, professional body or regulator. It is expected that s/he will abide by the rules, regulations and codes of conduct of her/his professional regulatory body(ies) where applicable and with relevant guidance published by the Authority on the conduct of research.
  • The applicant will declare if they have conditions relating to their fitness to practice at the time of their application.

7. Declaration 

The applicant must complete the ‘Declaration’ section of the application detailing the COI declaration. The applicant will need to assign a representative of the employing institution with financial authority to the application. On assigning a representative, an email will be sent by the system requesting they approve the application. The representative is also required to tick the access controlled box within the application form before the application is submitted. If an applicant is successful, the discretionary research award will be made to the corresponding institution. In ticking the access controlled box, the representative of the employing institution with financial authority confirms that the named institution is prepared to administer the award if made. The applicant will not be able to submit the application unless all declarations are ticked, including that of the financial representative. 

Submitting the application

The application process is managed through the NIHR CCF. Applications should be submitted via the CCF Research Management System (RMS) and applications received through other means will not be accepted. Please note the web browser that is the most compatible to the RMS is Google Chrome. Applicants should be aware that any fields left blank will render that application ineligible.

To apply, individuals must create an account in the NIHR CCF RMS. Once registered, details will need to be validated by CCF. The applicant will receive a confirmation email and temporary password. If an email from is not received, please check it has not been sent to the spam folder.

To generate a new NIHR Senior Investigator Competition 13 application, the applicant should, once registered, use the left hand side toolbar and select ‘My Applications’ and go to ‘New Application’, selecting the Senior Investigator Competition from the open funding rounds section. 

Before starting the Senior Investigator application, it is advised to first complete the Basic Information and CV details in the ‘Manage My Details’ section. Information from this section will be pulled through to the application form, so it is important to complete this section first to avoid duplication. Please complete the ‘Publications’ or ‘Research Grants’ sections in ‘Manage My Details’ as these will pull through into the application form in the Publications or grant income section. 

Please start the application as early as possible and ensure all fields have been completed and all the necessary information as requested has been entered. To navigate the application, use the menu on the left-hand side of the screen and the ‘Previous’ and ‘Next’ buttons. It is advisable to use the mouse to go through the subsections of the form as hitting TAB will not lead to the next field. Please note that if the applicant hits ENTER the system will close down the page they are currently working on and return to the introductory page. Please read the online help prompts marked (?) for additional guidance. 

The application will need to be approved by a representative of the employing institution with financial authority. Please leave sufficient time for the representative to approve and complete the requirements within the ‘Declaration’ section of the completed application

Applications will need to be validated prior to submitting. In the ‘Validation Summary’ section, there are two types of validations, mandatory and recommended validations. Please complete the application form, so that there are no outstanding mandatory validation issues as it is not possible to submit the form until these are resolved. Recommended validations are suggestions from the RMS system; these will not affect the ability to submit an application. We recommend performing ongoing validation checks to ensure the forms are completed and that no fields have been missed. 

Please note that the system will not allow submissions after the deadline. Please ensure a confirmation email has been received from the CCF RMS and contact CCF if otherwise. Please note the reference number within the email in the form NIHR200001. It is necessary to use this number in any correspondence with CCF.

Applicants are reminded that during busy periods, such as close to a competition deadline, it could take slightly longer to submit the application. It is likely that during such periods, our helpline will be receiving a very high volume of calls. We, therefore, advise that applicants do not leave their submission until the last 24 hours. 

Any enquiries should be sent to: or phone 0208 843 8003. We will respond to requests for further clarification. 

Submission deadline

The closing date for electronic submission of applications is 2 October 2019 at 13:00.

Please note that the NIHR will not accept late submissions and the system will not allow submissions after the deadline.

Please note:

  • Applications will not be accepted if submitted after the closing date and time. The RMS will automatically prevent this from happening
  • It is the applicant’s responsibility to allow sufficient time to submit an application
  • Representatives of the employing institution with financial authority will need to approve the application and tick the access controlled box within the ‘Declaration section’ of the application form
  • Applicants should contact the Faculty team immediately if they think there is a system problem, whilst attempting to continue with their submission
  • Outcome notification: February 2020 or as soon as possible thereafter.

Annex 1

Checklist of the ways in which researchers can contribute to NIHR

Roles   Notes
Directors & Leads
Programme Director  
Directors of NIHR Infrastructure/Units/Research Design Service/Schools/Other NIHR Contracts (e.g. Technology Assessment Review teams, Directors of Evidence Review Centres for Programmes/INVOLVE/Global Health Research Units/Groups)  
Deputy Directors/Associate Directors of NIHR Infrastructure/ Units/Research Design Services/Schools/Other NIHR Contracts (e.g. Technology Assessment Review teams, Directors of Evidence Review Centres for Programmes/ INVOLVE/NIHR Global Health Research Units /Groups)  
Theme Leads of NIHR Infrastructure and Units/CRN  
Infrastructure or GHR Training Lead  
Integrated Academic Training - Training Leads  
Infrastructure PPI Lead  
Committees & Boards
Member of NIHR Strategy Board  
Academic Lead/Board Member for the NIHR Schools  
Advisory Board Member of NIHR Infrastructure/Units/RDS  
Committee Chair or Deputy Chair (All Programmes/NIHR Prioritisation Committee/Funding Boards/Personal Awards)  
Committee Member  
  Find opportunities to join a NIHR committee on the NIHR website.
Advisory Board member for NIHR strategy development (e.g. Push the Pace)  
Peer reviewer  
Working Groups
Chair of NIHR or DHSC Working Group/Policy Group/Steering Committee/Advisory Group Excluding prioritisation and funding committees
Member of NIHR or DHSC Working Group/Policy Group/Steering Committee/Advisory Group Excluding prioritisation and funding committees
INVOLVE Advisory Group Members and Associates  
Roles related to the NIHR Clinical Research Network
Member of a CRN Specialty Group  
CRN National Speciality Lead  
CRN Regional Speciality Lead  
CRN Division Lead  
CRN Stratified Medicine Champions  
Recruiting Participants to CRN Studies  
Additional Training-Related Roles
Chair or Deputy Chair of Infrastructure Training Leads Forum  
NIHR Training Advocate  
NIHR Trainees - Reviewer Development of scheme and honorary member of advisory committee
Mentor/Supervisor of NIHR Funded Trainees  
Contributor to NIHR Infrastructure Training Camp  
NIHR Communication/Dissemination
NIHR Spokesperson  
Expert Commentator/Rater NIHR Dissemination Centre  
NIHR Ambassador Webinars/talks etc. Expert in area acting to promote NIHR at meetings
Hosting/Chairing/delivering NIHR events  
Additional Roles
Editor of NIHR Journals Library Publications  
Lead or Involvement in James Lind Alliance Priority Setting Partnerships  
RDS Advisor  
Other, please specify:  

Annex 2

Research funding that confers eligibility to apply to become an NIHR Senior Investigator

Research funds from NIHR confer NIHR Investigator status on researchers who are employed by the NHS, Universities or charities in England. NIHR Investigator status confers eligibility to apply to become a Senior Investigator. Please check with NIHR CCF if there is any uncertainty as to whether an applicant is eligible. Relevant sources of research funds include the following:

  • Biomedical Research Centres
  • Clinical Research Facilities
  • Clinical Trials Units
  • Cochrane Review Groups (with NIHR funding)
  • Collaborations for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care/Applied Research Collaborations
  • Efficacy and Mechanism Evaluation Programme
  • Experimental Cancer Medicine Centres
  • Health Innovation Challenge Fund
  • Health Protection Research Unit
  • Health Service and Delivery Research (includes Service Delivery and Organisation and Health Service Research Programmes)
  • Health Technology Assessment Programme
  • Invention for Innovation Programme (includes Challenge Awards and Product Development Awards)
  • Joint Global Health Trials
  • Medtech and In Vitro Diagnostic Co-operatives
  • MRC - NIHR Phenome Centre
  • NIHR BioResource
  • NIHR Blood and Transplant Research Units
  • NIHR Centre for Surgical Reconstruction and Microbiology
  • NIHR Child Prosthetics Research Collaboration
  • NIHR Global Health Research Groups
  • NIHR Global Health Research Units
  • NIHR Innovation Observatory
  • NIHR Patient Safety Translational Research Centres
  • NIHR Policy Research Programme
  • NIHR Policy Research Programme Research Units
  • NIHR Public Health Research Programme
  • NIHR Research Design Service
  • NIHR School for Primary Care Research
  • NIHR School for Public Health Research
    NIHR School for Social Care Research
  • Patient Research Cohorts Initiative
  • Programme Development Grants
  • Programme Grants for Applied Research
  • Research for Patient Benefit Translational Research Collaborations
  • UK Public Health Rapid Support Team
  • Wellcome Trust – NIHR Joint Funding
  • Research Design Service

Funding schemes not supported by the NIHR

  • Methodology Research Programme