The National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) is pleased to announce the launch of their ninth NIHR Short Placement Award for Research Collaboration (SPARC) Scheme competition.
This document provides full details of the scheme, describes the means by which applications to the scheme should be submitted (please note; all NIHR SPARC applications must be submitted via the online NIHR Academy Research Awards Management System; and details how they will be assessed.
The NIHR Academy is responsible for the development and coordination of NIHR academic training, career development and research capacity development. At the NIHR Academy and across NIHR we are passionate about people and developing careers in research.
It plays a pivotal role in attracting, training and supporting the best researchers to tackle the complex health and care challenges of the future and complements the additional NIHR investment in world-class research facilities and a skilled research workforce. The purpose of the NIHR Academy is to develop a highly-skilled academic research workforce capable of advancing the best research which improves health and care, and benefits society and the economy as well as to further build and strengthen capacity by creating training opportunities to develop appropriate research skills.
The NIHR’s vision is to open up its world class facilities, training and career development opportunities to early career researchers funded in NIHR Infrastructure and NIHR Schools with a remit to build research capacity and make the most of being part of such a vast network of NIHR funded centres and initiatives during their research training.
The NIHR Short Placement Award for Research Collaboration (SPARC) Scheme
The NIHR SPARC scheme offers NIHR Academy members (formal pre-doctoral training award holders/Masters students, PhD or early career post-doctoral researchers) supported by a part of NIHR Infrastructure (Biomedical Research Centres, Applied Research Collaborations, Patient Safety Translational Research Centres), a NIHR Health Protection Research Unit (HPRU) or an NIHR School, an opportunity to spend time in other parts of the NIHR; to network, train in a specific skill or collaborate with other researchers/specialists. The scheme is designed to optimise and enhance the individuals’ research training experience as well as their CVs and careers.
Individuals can apply to the SPARC scheme for up to £5,000 to undertake a bespoke short placement. Applications are light-touch and will be assessed in open competition.
Funding could include; travel, accommodation, and subsistence costs in order to travel and undertake the placement. This funding can also be used to fund any specific short training courses to support the applicant’s personal and professional career development, as well as any relevant placement outputs (e.g. production costs of an infographic, informative video etc.); see finance section for more details.
The design and development of an NIHR SPARC placement must be focused around early translational (experimental medicine), clinical and applied research that pertains to health, public health and/or social care, and that would meet the NIHR remit for personal awards.
Following completion of a SPARC award/placement, the awardee is expected to be able to show evidence of:
- completion of the placement and activities proposed in the application, which should lie within the NIHR remit
- development of new research or technical skills
- increased professional skills
- Placement outputs (e.g. publications/blogs/presentations/posters/infographics arising from the SPARC placement/award
- involvement in collaborative relationships and increased networks
Evidence of the above will be sought by the NIHR Academy through the SPARC final report.
To be eligible to apply; individuals must be NIHR Academy members based within NIHR Infrastructure, NIHR HPRU or an NIHR School and should satisfy all of the bullet points below:
- be undertaking a formal training/career development award (pre-doctoral training award holders/Masters students, PhD or early career post-doctoral researchers), which should meet all of the following criteria: be competitive, include a formal training plan and have a defined end point (such as an application for further funding)
- receive at least 25% funding from the NIHR for salary/stipend over the lifetime of the individual’s award (for Applied Research Collaborations (ARCs) and Health Protection Research Units (HPRUs) funding can be from NIHR or from an official collaborating partner)
- be hosted in a setting with a remit for research capacity development (this includes: NIHR Biomedical Research Centres (BRCs), Patient Safety Translational Research Centres (PSTRCs), Applied Research Collaborations (ARCs), Health Protection Research Units (HPRUs), School for Public Health Research (SPHR), School for Social Care Research (SSCR) and School for Primary Care Research (SPCR)
- do not already hold an NIHR Academy Fellowship or NIHR Clinical Lectureship
- the placement must be focused around early translational (experimental medicine), clinical and applied research that pertains to health, public health and/or social care, and that would meet the NIHR remit for personal awards
At formal pre-doctoral training award/masters students level, the selection committee will be looking to ensure whatever is proposed adds to their current Masters and future career prospects, and that this doesn’t detract from their current studies.
Prospective applicants unsure of their eligibility should contact their NIHR Academic Career Development (ACD) Lead (using the Find your Academic Career Development Lead (ACD Lead) list and the NIHR Academy Infrastructure and Capacity Building Structures Team via email: firstname.lastname@example.org before embarking on the application process.
Scope of Award
The NIHR SPARC scheme allows eligible NIHR Academy members based/funded in a part of NIHR Infrastructure (BRC, ARC, PSTRCs), NIHR HPRU or NIHR School an opportunity to spend time in other parts of the NIHR; to network, train in a specific skill or collaborate with other researchers/specialists. The scheme is designed to optimise and enhance the individuals’ experience as well as their CVs and careers.
Awardees will remain registered/employed at their ‘Employing Organisation’ (substantive employer) who will continue to support their salary/stipend/fees for the duration of the NIHRSPARC award/placement and the ‘Placement Host’ (where individuals will undertake their placement location) will provide supervision and training in collaboration with the Employing Organisation for the duration of the SPARC award/placement.
Please note; we expect the applicants ‘Employing Organisation’ (substantive employer) will act as the ‘contractor’ (which will administer any award).
Finally, all NIHR SPARC awards/placements must be completed between April 2023 and the end of February 2024.
2022 NIHR SPARC Priority Themes
The NIHR SPARC scheme particularly encourages and welcomes applicants to consider planning and undertaking placements that:
- equip them with the skills and experiences to work across disciplines and specialisms - vitally important if we are to bring new thinking to complex issues such as multiple long-term conditions and develop researchers with the skills to improve the lives of people with multiple long-term conditions through research
- equip them with the skills and experiences to navigate and work across multiple sectors, seizing opportunities to work with parts of the NIHR with links to industry/commercial sector in order to help tackle some of the most complex health and care challenges of the future
Please note; applicants wishing to plan and undertake placements that meet their own research training and career development needs will continue to be encouraged and welcomed; however for Round 9 of the NIHR SPARC we are particularly encouraging applicants to consider placements in the two areas outlined above
1. Working across disciplines and specialisms with a focus on Multiple Long Term Conditions - -Multimorbidity (MLTC-M)
It is estimated that more than 14 million people in England alone are living with ‘multiple long-term conditions - Multimorbidity’ (MLTC-M - the co-existence of two or more chronic conditions in a single individual) and that they account for over half of NHS primary and secondary care. These numbers are expected to rise in line with our ageing population, making MLTC-M arguably the biggest health and social care challenge we face.
The NIHR have published a strategic framework for MLTC research (NIHR 2020a) which sets out priority research aims and a pathway to foster the cultural changes; taking a whole person approach and focusing on what matters to people with MLTC-M and their carers. The NIHR Academy wish to build research capacity by providing and promoting MLTC-M research opportunities and encouraging researchers to move between, and collaborate across, multiple disciplines and disease areas. A ‘team science’ approach across health, social care and public health will be needed.
In line with this aim, the NIHR SPARC scheme particularly welcomes applicants to consider planning and undertaking placements to make connections important to their work/research that may spark innovative new ways of working across disciplines and specialisms - vitally important if we are to bring new thinking to complex issues such as multiple long-term conditions/multi-morbidities.
2. Navigating and working with parts of the NIHR with links to Industry/Commercial Sector
One of the aims of the NIHR is to increase the number of researchers equipped with the skills to work at the interfaces between academia, the NHS, and wider health, public health and social care, and industry.
NIHR works with a diverse range of industry sectors, including diagnostics, medical technology and biopharmaceutical, the food industry, as well as with associated industries such as digital, design and artificial intelligence. The NIHR also supports small and medium-sized enterprises, enabling them to design and carry out high-quality research to provide evidence of the safety, efficacy and cost-effectiveness of their innovative interventions.
In addition, the NIHR also supports and delivers life sciences industry research across the innovation pathway, from early translational through to applied health research, giving patients and the public faster access to new diagnostics, therapies and medical devices.
We aim to develop research leaders with the skills and experiences to navigate and work across multiple sectors, seizing opportunities with industry/commercial sector in order to help tackle some of the most complex health and care challenges of the future.
In line with this aim, the NIHR SPARC scheme particularly welcomes applicants to consider planning and undertaking placements in other parts of the NIHR that have developed partnerships and collaborations with industry partners. In embedding themselves within already established NIHR-Industry partnerships the aim would be to develop skills and gain experience of what is needed to have a successful working relationship with industry (including the life-sciences, med-tech, SMEs and the food industry) and encouraging entrepreneurship.
Important Areas for Consideration when developing a SPARC placement
Identification of Potential Placement Host and Supervisor
There are lots of different parts of the NIHR that potential applicants may wish to undertake a placement in, some of which are listed below. Each of these parts has a specific area of focus, with a wide range of facilities, expertise, and hosts a number of academics.
1a) Identification of Potential Placement Host/Location
Potential applicants might want to explore spending a short period of time with a particular researcher or research team in one of the following:
A part of NIHR Infrastructure, HPRUs or an NIHR School
- NIHR BRCs - Biomedical Research Centres (20 centres)
- NIHR ARCs – Applied Research Collaborations (15 centres)
- NIHR HPRUs – Health Protection Research Units (15 units)
- NIHR PSTRCs – Patient Safety Translational Research Centres (3 centres)
- NIHR SPCR – School for Primary Care Research (1 centre, 9 partner sites)
- NIHR SPHR – School for Public Health Research (1 centre, 8 partner sites)
- NIHR SSCR – School for Social Care Research (1 centre, 7 partner sites)
A part of the ‘Wider NIHR’
Individuals may also wish to undertake a placement with a researcher or research team working in another part of the NIHR (‘wider NIHR’) that has a specific remit and focus; for example:-
- NIHR PRCs - National Patient Recruitment Centres
- NIHR PRUs - NIHR Policy Research Unit (PRU)
- NIHR MICs - Medtech and In vitro diagnostics Co-operatives (MICs)
- NIHR Statistics Group - NIHR Statistics Group
- With a researcher/research team who has been awarded an NIHR Programme Grant like the NIHR Public Health Research (PHP) Programme or NIHR Research for Patient Benefit Programme (RfPB), or NIHR Research for Social Care Research etc
1b) Helpful Resources/Documents Available to Potential Applicants
NIHR SPARC - Where can I go? Guide. This guide details some of the different centres and sites across the NIHR (note this is not an exhaustive list) and provides more information on the research they are involved in, their facilities and expertise. It also highlights those NIHR sites with links/collaborations with Industry and with expertise in Multiple Long Term Conditions/Multi-morbidities
SPARC – Advice from Previous Awardees. This document includes advice that may be helpful in planning a placement.
SPARC – Case study. This document provides an example of the type of placement a previous award holder has undertaken and the impacts the placement has had on
their personal and professional development.
1c) Identification of Potential Placement Supervisor
Potential applicants looking to undertake a short placement in a part of the NIHR will need to:-
- Get in touch with their ‘Primary Supervisor’ and NIHR ‘Academic Career Development’ (ACD) Lead (using the Find your Academic Career Development Lead (ACD Lead) list) at their earliest opportunity to discuss their individual research/training/career development needs and potential placement ideas (including potential duration/length of the placement) and seek their permission and support.
- Look over the NIHR SPARC - Where can I go? guide and explore parts of NIHR that they might like to undertake a placement in. Potential applicants can undertake a placement anywhere across the NIHR; as long as there is mutual support and agreement between the applicants ‘Employing Organisation’ and ‘Placement Host Institution’.
- Once applicants have identified a potential ‘Placement Host’; they will need to get in touch (with support from their ‘Primary Supervisor and/or ACD Lead) with the ACD Lead at the Placement Host Institution (using the Find your Academic Career Development Lead (ACD Lead) list) or relevant colleagues detailed in the NIHR SPARC - Where can I go? Guide to discuss potential placement ideas, potential activities/training they may wish to undertake and the potential placement length/duration of the award.
- Applicants will also need to identify a ‘Placement Host Institution Supervisor’ at the organisation they wish to undertake their placement with and work together with this individual to develop and agree a placement that meets their individual needs and career development and think about how you might want to work together in the future.
Please note; you must have discussed and sought agreement/permission from the Placement Host Institution before you submit an application. You will be responsible for liaising with your Academic Career Development (ACD) Lead and Placement Host Institution Supervisor and agreeing the scope of the placement prior to submitting an application.
Types of placements and activities that could be supported by an NIHR SPARC award
It is important to note that applicants are encouraged to explore the wide range of facilities, expertise and opportunities available to them across the NIHR for their personal and professional development, and develop a placement that is bespoke to their individual training needs, background, skills/experiences, as well as their proposed career trajectory. Applicants to the scheme should also think about what they can contribute or offer to the placement host during their placement and how the two parties might want to work together in the future.
For example individuals may wish to consider:
- seeking placements in other parts of the NIHR with similar specialisms to the part of NIHR Infrastructure, HPRU or NIHR School where they are based/working (although noting that the placement should offer something that is not available at your own institution/NIHR centre)
- seeking placements in a specific NIHR institution that offers training experiences not available at the institution/NIHR centre you are based in/working in (including cross-discipline training, such as regulatory aspects, clinical trials, patient and public engagement and involvement etc.)
- seeking placements within a part of the ‘Wider NIHR’ (e.g NIHR Clinical Research Facility, NIHR National Patient Recruitment Centres, NIHR Policy Research Unit or spend time with a researcher or research team who is in receipt of an NIHR Research Programme Grant (e.g NIHR Research for Patient Benefit programme) .
- seeking placements that equip applicants with the skills and experiences to work across disciplines and specialisms, making connections that are important to their work/research that may spark innovative new ways of working to help improve the lives of people with multiple long-term conditions/multi-morbidities through research
- seeking placements in other parts of the NIHR that have developed partnerships and collaborations with industry partners. In embedding themselves within already established NIHR-Industry partnerships, applicants would be able to develop skills and gain experience of what is needed to have a successful working relationship with industry (including the life-sciences, med-tech, SMEs and food industry).
We recognise the need to adopt a flexible approach to placements. There is no minimum or maximum duration for the placement; placements may range from 2/3 weeks up to 6 months and this period can be broken up to allow flexibility for both the individual undertaking the placement and the organisation where the placement will be ‘hosted’/based with a supervisor. For example, applicants might want to do one day every two weeks over a seven month period. It’s up to the applicant/individual, their line manager and ‘Placement Host’ (where the individual will be undertaking their placement) to agree the best fit for everyone.
Please note; applicants undertaking pre-doctoral training award and Masters students must ensure that whatever duration/length of placement is proposed adds to their current Masters and future career prospects, and doesn’t detract from their current studies.
NIHR SPARC awards/placements must start on the first of the month between 1st April 2023 and 1st February 2024 and must be completed before the end of February 2024.
Scope of Funding
Applicants can apply for awards of up to £5,000 per individual.
Funding can include:
- funding to cover; travel, accommodation and subsistence in order to undertake the short placement
- funding for any specific training courses (e.g qualitative research methods course, implementation science training, PPI training etc.)
- funding for the production of relevant placement outputs (e.g. an infographic, informative video etc.)
Applicants must remain registered/employed at their ‘Employing Organisation’ (substantive employer) who will continue to support their salary/stipend/fees for the duration of the NIHR SPARC award/placement. The aim of the award is to cover the incidental expenses of working from another institution for a short period of time.
Please note; travel and subsistence rates should be in accordance with the applicants ‘Employing Organisation’ (substantive employer) ‘Travel and Expenses Policy’ approved rates. All costs provided should represent value for money and will be assessed by the NIHR and members of the NIHR SPARC Selection Committee. The NIHR reserves the right to reject any costs that it considers unreasonable or insufficiently justified.
Research costs, supervisory fees, open access fees and conference fees will not be covered by this award and would be expected to be funded by the applicants Employing Organisation if required.
Application Procedure and Selection Process
- Applicants are responsible for liaising with their NIHR Academic Career Development Lead (see NIHR Academic Career Development Leads) to ensure that they are eligible to apply for an NIHR SPARC award prior to submitting an application. The NIHR Academy Infrastructure and Capacity Building Structures Team (via email@example.com) can advise on eligibility and remit enquiries, and answer queries any party has when completing the application form
- Applicants are responsible for liaising with their Academic Career Development Lead (see NIHR Academic Career Development Leads); as well as their agreed ‘Placement Host Institution’/where they will be undertaking the placement and agreeing the scope of the placement prior to submitting an application
- All applications will undergo an initial screen for eligibility and remit
- Following this, applications are reviewed by the Selection Committee in advance of a Selection Committee meeting where decisions on which applications to recommend for funding are made
- The Selection Committee will make recommendations for funding that will be considered by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) Science, Research and Evidence (SRE) Directorate
- Once confirmed, the funding decisions will then be communicated to applicants
- Applicants will be informed of the outcome of their application by email when all required processes are complete
- The selection process and subsequent management of the NIHR SPARC awards will be managed by the NIHR Academy
- All documents must be submitted in English
- If applicants are successful in being awarded a NIHR SPARC award while simultaneously being involved in another NIHR research training award competition, they will be asked to decide which programme/award they would like to continue with and will be withdrawn from the other
Assessment of Applications
Following the submission deadline, the NIHR will check applications for completeness and eligibility, and distribute eligible applications to the members of the NIHR SPARC Selection Committee.
The selection committee will assess all eligible applications using the Assessment Criteria below; all of which will have equal weighting:
NIHR SPARC Assessment Criteria
- the potential for the applicant to enhance their current research studies
- the impact the placement and planned outputs will have on the applicant’s personal and professional development and career trajectory;
- the quality and appropriateness of the proposed placement plan/activities and the extent to which the placement will provide a high-quality and stimulating experience
- the extent to which the placement starts to shape meaningful collaborations/partnerships with other parts of the NIHR
- the provision of academic supervision and support at both the applicants ‘Employing Organisation’ and the ‘Placement Host’
- the extent to which the proposed training is not available in the part of NIHR (NIHR Infrastructure, HPRU or School) to which they are based/funded
In addition; the Placement Host Institution Supervisor ‘Statement of Support’ (please see the ‘Completing the Application Form’ section of the Guidance Notes for further details) will also be used by the SPARC Selection Committee to support their overall assessment of the application and the support available to the applicant during their placement.
Application Deadlines and Competition Timetable
Your application must have been submitted by the deadline and any signatories must have approved your application by this time using the Academy Research Awards Management Information System (ARAMIS) online application system.
All components of your application must be submitted by the deadline. No additional supporting documents will be accepted after the deadline.
Please give yourself sufficient time to obtain your signatory’s approval before the deadline. No exceptions will be made.
See the below timetable for dates of the selection process.
NIHR SPARC Round 9 Competition launch: Wednesday 28th September 2022
Deadline for applications: Thursday 24th November 2022 at 1pm
NIHR SPARC Selection Committee Funding Recommendation Meeting: February 2023
Inform applicants of outcome: End of March 2023
NIHR SPARC awards/placements to take place: Between 1st April 2023 – 29th February 2024
A short NIHR SPARC ‘Letter of Contract’ will be put in place with the applicants ‘Employing Organisation’ (the ‘Contractor') and the Department for Health and Social Care (the 'Authority'). The contract will outline that NIHR will reimburse up to the awarded amount to the applicant’s 'Employing Organisation' after the placement is complete.
The applicants ‘Employing Organisation’ (substantive employer) will act as the ‘Contractor’ (which will administer any award).
Successful applicants will:
- notify the NIHR Academy when the placement has come to an end;
- submit a written report within 2 months of the completion of the placement or by the 1st of March 2024 (whichever is soonest), in a form provided by the NIHR Academy, detailing the placement, achievements, impacts and outputs.
- complete a pre-award/pre-placement and post-award placement questionnaire; in addition to completing a final questionnaire approximately 1 year after completing the placement/award in order to capture any longer-term impacts of the SPARC award.
The applicants ‘Employing Organisation’ ('contractor') will:
- within 2 months of the completion of the placement or by the end of February 2024 (whichever is soonest) submit an invoice to the NIHR Academy for incidental expenses incurred during the placement, up to the limit of the amount awarded.
- the applicants Employing Organisation (substantive employer) will confirm sight and approval of all supporting documentation (i.e. receipts) for expenses incurred and that the costs incurred are as described in the NIHR SPARC application form and approved by the Selection Committee. The NIHR Academy reserves the right to request copies of supporting documentation
Registering, Completing and Submitting a NIHR SPARC Application
Awards will be made following a short, light touch, open competition. The selection process and subsequent administration of the NIHR SPARC award/placement will be managed by the NIHR Infrastructure and Capacity Building Structures Team.
All applications must be submitted via the NIHR Academy online Award Management System, (we are no longer accepting word application forms).
This section outlines step by step how to register, complete and submit an NIHR SPARC application via ARAMIS.
Before an application can be started, prospective applicants are required to register on the online award management system. Applicants will be asked to supply a valid email address and to complete some basic information. Once this has been submitted, applicants will receive an email confirming their registration and a temporary password. Applicants should follow the instructions in the email to log on to the system.
Once signed into the system, applicants can update various details including their CV (in ‘Manage my Details’) and publication record (in ‘My Research Outputs’) (if applicable) and apply for any open competitions.
Once registered on the system; to start an application you will need to go to ‘My Applications’ and select ‘New Application’. You should then select ‘NIHR SPARC’ from the list provided.
Please note – there are two NIHR SPARC competitions open concurrently (the NIHR Local Authority Short Placement Award for Research Collaboration (LA SPARC) and this NIHR Short Placement Award for Research Collaboration (NIHR SPARC) Round 9 competition. Please ensure that you are applying for the correct scheme.
After answering all of the eligibility questions, applicants will be able to start completing the online form. Applicants must ensure they have read all of the available guidance text including this document as well as any online instructions thoroughly before completing the form.
Completing and submitting the application form
Applicants are required to complete all of the mandatory sections of the form and to enter under the ‘Participants and Signatories’ section the names and contact details of those individuals fulfilling Participant and Signatory roles (see below).
Please note: In addition to the above guidance, information to support the completion of each section of the application form is provided at the end of this document (“Completing the Application Form”). Applicants should ensure they are referring to the relevant guidance when completing each question on the form.
Once the applicant has completed their sections of the form and the Participants and Signatories have made their contributions, the applicant is required to ‘Submit’ the application to the Signatories for final sign off before the closing date.
Applicants can only ‘Submit’ an application for final sign off by the signatories when:
- All mandatory sections of the application form are complete
- All Participants and Signatories have agreed to be a part of the application and have completed their relevant sections
- Applicants have completed the declaration information.
Individuals undertaking particular Participant and Signatory roles are required to complete certain sections of the application form. It is strongly recommended that applicants complete their application well in advance of the deadline to allow these individuals enough time to complete the relevant sections and declarations.
Participants and Signatories who are required to complete part of the application form can do so at any time once they have agreed to be part of the application.
Participants and Signatories
Applicants are required to supply the names and email addresses (if not already registered on the award management system) of the individuals who will be undertaking ‘Participant’ and ‘Signatory’ roles as part of the application. Both Participants and Signatories must agree to be part of the application before it is submitted.
Participants and Signatories are required to review the declaration for their role before confirming participation. By confirming participation, Participants and Signatories are acknowledging their involvement and input into an application and agree to be involved in it. Applicants must ensure that all Participants and Signatories are happy for their application to be submitted before submitting it on the online system.
Please note it is often the case that one or more of the Participants are also named as Signatories.
- Primary Supervisor: The individual acting as Primary Supervisor must confirm that they have read the application and the guidance notes and are willing to provide support to the named applicant for the programme of activities as detailed in this application and agree to abide by the conditions under which an award may be granted. In addition, you also confirm that the applicant will be eligible for the duration of the award to live and work in the UK.
- Authorised Contract Signatory: An Authorised Contract Signatory at the applicants Employing Organisation must confirm that they have read the guidance notes for the relevant NIHR Programme and are authorised to sign a NIHR SPARC award Contract Letter on behalf of the Employing Organisation
- Placement Host Supervisor: Applicants are required to identify a Placement Host Supervisor. The Placement Host Supervisor must confirm they have read the guidance notes, and that they agree to 'host' and support the applicant for the duration of the placement and support the applicant’s programme of activities as detailed in this application.
- Academic Career Development Lead (ACD Lead): The individual acting as the applicants NIHR ACD Lead must confirm they have read the application and guidance notes and agree that the applicant will benefit from the placement if they meet the objectives described in the placement plan and that the opportunity will complement the research training they are currently undertaking.
Once the application is ready (see list of required steps above), applicants are able to submit the application for final signatory approval. Upon submission by the applicant, the individuals added in the Signatory roles will be prompted to sign back into the system and approve the finalised application.
The application will not be complete until the required signatory (applicants Academic Career Development Lead (ACD Lead) has approved the final version of the form submitted by the applicant. Only when this signatory presses the ‘Approve’ button will the completed application be submitted to the NIHR.
Annex A illustrates the submission process for the application form in the form of a flow diagram.
Please note - all of the steps described here, including signatory approval of the submitted application, must take place before the deadline of 1:00pm on Thursday 24th November 2022. No extensions will be given and no exceptions will be made to allow for completion of the form.
Should you require assistance in completing the online form, please contact the NIHR on Tel: 0113 532 8411, or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Applicants will be notified of the outcome of their application via email as soon as the funding decision is finalised. It can take up to 4 weeks following the Funding Recommendation Meeting for application outcomes to be issued. Applicants are advised to take this into account when considering which start date to opt for.
Feedback will be sent to applicants after the funding decisions have been made.
Further guidance for submitting the application on the online application system is available below.
Completing the Application Form
1. Application Summary Information
Applicant Summary Information
Please ensure that the following Information is detailed within this section:
- The NIHR SPARC scheme particularly welcomes applications from people wishing to develop skills and experience in particular areas.
Please select from the drop-down options whether your proposed placement includes:
- Multiple Long Term Conditions (MLTCs)
- Parts of the NIHR with links to Industry/Commercial Sector
Please note; applicants wishing to plan and undertake placements that meet their own research training and career development needs are also encouraged and welcomed; however for Round 9 (2022) of the NIHR SPARC we are particularly encouraging placements in the two areas outlined above.
Please ensure that the following Information is detailed within this section:-
• The NIHR SPARC scheme particularly welcomes applications from people wishing to develop skills and experience in particular areas.
Please select from the drop-down options whether your proposed placement includes:
a) Multiple Long Term Conditions (MLTCs)
b) Parts of the NIHR with links to Industry/Commercial Sector
Please note; applicants wishing to plan and undertake placements that meet their own research training and career development needs will continue to be encouraged and welcomed; however for Round 9 (2022) of the NIHR SPARC we are particularly encouraging placements in the two areas outlined above.
- Applicants Employing Organisation (contractor)
- Part of NIHR Infrastructure, HPRU or NIHR School to which applicant is based. (Please select from the drop-down options. This includes: NIHR Biomedical Research Centres (BRCs), Patient Safety Translational Research Centres (PSTRCs), Applied Research Collaborations (ARCs), Health Protection Research Units (HPRUs), School for Public Health Research (SPHR), School for Social Care Research (SSCR) and School for Primary Care Research (SPCR).)
- Applicants NIHR Academic Career Development Lead (ACD Lead) at Employing Organisation. Please provide the name and e-mail address of your ACD Lead (Find your Academic Career Development Lead)
- Placement Host Institution. Please select from the drop-down options which part of NIHR Infrastructure (BRCs, ARCS, PSTRCs), HPRU, NIHR School your placement will be based/hosted. If you wish to undertake your placement in a part of the ‘Wider NIHR’ (this includes NIHR Policy Research Units, NIHR ECMC etc), please select this option and then detail which part of NIHR in the free text box provided.
Applicants must remain registered/employed at their ‘Employing Organisation’ (substantive employer) who will continue to support their salary/stipend/fees for the duration of the NIHR SPARC award/placement. The applicants Employing Organisation ('contractor') will:
- Within 2 months of the completion of the placement or by the end of February 2024 (whichever is soonest) submit an invoice to the NIHR Academy for incidental expenses incurred during the placement, up to the limit of the amount awarded
- Confirm sight and approval of all supporting documentation (i.e. receipts) for expenses incurred and that the costs incurred are as described in the Award application and approved by the Selection Committee. The NIHR Academy reserves the right to request copies of supporting documentation
2. Applicant CV
Please note: some of the responses to these questions are automatically imported/pulled through from information entered in the ‘Manage My Details’ page of your ARAMIS account.
The Publication Record section of the form is automatically populated from publications added into the ‘My Research Outputs’ page of your ARAMIS account. Please note; we do not expect NIHR Academy members at pre-doctoral/masters level to have been involved in any publications/papers.
Please note: you must ensure that this section contains any information necessary to determine eligibility for the scheme (please refer to the eligibility criteria) or your application may be rejected.
Please provide details (via 'Basic Information') of any current registration you hold with a professional body.
Degrees and Professional Qualifications
Please provide the full details of any completed higher degree(s) and, where relevant, the full details of any higher degree(s) you are currently undertaking.
Please ensure that your degree classification is included, if applicable.
Present and previous positions
Please detail your current and previous positions.
When entering details of your current and previous positions, for any positions where you undertook any ‘research’; please indicate at what percentage (WTE) in each post/role you were undertaking research. For example if you undertook research for 2.5 days a week and teaching work for 2.5 days per week; please enter 50% for that position. If you have worked part time at 60%, and undertook research for half of that time, please enter 30% for that position.
NIHR Academy pre-doctoral/masters students don’t necessarily need to complete any details here, although details of any relevant experience, such as placements, can be included.
Research Grants Held
Details of all grants and project funding (research or otherwise) obtained in the last five years should be provided, including personal research training awards or fellowships, plus any additional previous grants (including travel grants and any other small funding awards) relevant to this application. Please indicate clearly any co-applicants and provide brief details of the nature and full extent of your involvement (e.g. project design, project management, day to day running, data collection, data analysis, writing papers for publication, etc.).
Please note; it is not expected that NIHR Academy members at pre-doctoral/masters level will have been involved in grants at this stage in their career, but please detail any such achievements here.
Please note - your research grant record must be completed within the application form and not via the CV section on ARAMIS.
The publication record is automatically populated from the information added to the ‘Research Outputs’ section of your ARAMIS account. To update, please ‘save and close’ your application, return to the ‘home’ screen and select ‘Research Outputs’ from the left-hand menu.
When publications have been added, the applicant’s name can be edited to show in bold within application forms via the ‘Assign Grant Contacts’ option.
To ensure publications display correctly, with all of the required information, applicants are strongly advised to use the ‘import’ function and import their publications from Europe PMC.
Do include relevant abstracts, conference proceedings and articles (peer-reviewed or otherwise) that have been published.
Do not include publications, abstracts, conference proceedings or articles in preparation. If relevant, details of these may be included in the ‘Applicant Experience’ section. Details of articles which are in press and have been accepted as final by the publisher may be included.
Please note; we do not expect NIHR Academy members at pre-doctoral/masters level to have been involved in any publications/papers. In addition, depending on professional background and career stage, applicants are not necessarily expected to have an extensive list of publications.
Only publications relevant to your application should be included.
Relevant Prizes, Awards and other Academic Distinctions
Please provide details of any awards or distinctions that would be relevant to your application including details of what the award was for.
Examples may include travel bursaries for a conference, presentation prizes, innovation awards etc.
The NIHR is an ORCID member and encourages all researchers to obtain this persistent digital identifier that distinguishes you from every other researcher. You must include an ORCID iD in your application. Without it, your application will not be validated and you will not be able to submit. For more information and to register please visit ORCID.
3. Applicant Details
Please enter your full name, including title, job title, highest level of qualification and current level of study
Select the one option that best describes your professional background. This will determine any options that appear below for your profession, if applicable.
Applicants Primary Supervisor Details
Please include the name and contact details of your Primary Supervisor. Please note; we appreciate not all NIHR Academy members at pre-doctoral/masters level will have a Primary Supervisor and as such, ask applicants to detail their Masters Course Tutor/Pre-doctoral Tutor here.
4. Applicant Experience
Overview of research experience to date
Please use this question to give an overview of your research experience to date. You may wish to consider highlighting:-
research projects that you have led or made a significant contribution to (making clear what your role was);
research experience, area of research interest and the research methods you have experience of;
the impact and outputs of the research you have been involved in (linking to details given in your CV);
any relevant research, audit, evaluation, or policy experience; highlighting any relevant collaborations/joint research you have been involved with local authorities/local authority commissioned services/third sector/industry
any experience of service user and public involvement and engagement activities in health/public health/social care research;
any additional relevant skills and experience
(Word Limit: 300)
5. Proposed Placement Details
Placement Host Institution Supervisor
Please provide the name, job title and contact details of the person who will supervise you during the placement at the ‘Placement Host Institution’ (where you will undertake your placement).
Proposed Placement Title
Please provide a brief placement title that clearly and concisely summarises your placement.
Proposed Placement Start Date
Please select a placement start date from the pre-populated options. This must be the 1 st of the month, regardless of whether this is a working day or not. Please be realistic about your possible start date, taking into account any arrangements that might need to be in place before you are able to start your placement.Please note all placements must be completed before the end of February 2024.
Proposed Placement Duration/Length
Please detail the proposed length/duration of your placement.
We recognise the need to adopt a flexible approach to placements. There is no minimum or maximum duration for the placement; placements may range from 2/3 weeks to 6 months and this period can be broken up to allow flexibility for both the individual undertaking the placement and the organisation where the placement will be ‘hosted’/based with a supervisor. For example, applicants might want to do one day every two weeks over a seven-month period. It’s up to the applicant/individual, their line manager and ‘Placement Host’ (where the individual will be undertaking their placement) to agree the best fit for everyone.
The placement period can be broken up to allow flexibility but must be completed by the end of February 2024.
Please note; if applicant is an NIHR Academy member undertaking a pre-doctoral training award/master student; applicants must ensure that whatever duration/length of placement is proposed adds to their current Masters and future career prospects, and doesn’t detract from their current studies.
Proposed Placement Plan
Please provide a clear outline of your proposed placement and the order of activities planned (you may wish to upload a Placement Gantt Chart to highlight the activities and order these will take place during your placement. Please see Uploads section) and explain why it is important for your career at this stage. You should also include details of explicit placement outputs (e.g. commentary articles/blogs/reports/infographics). As this is the main part of your application you should ensure that the information is accurate, succinct and clearly laid out.
It is also important to explain why you have chosen the particular ‘Placement Host Institution’ (part of NIHR) that you wish to work with during the placement (for example, due to particular experts, area of interest, expertise, facilities, equipment or teams).
Please use this section to detail any specific training and development you will undertake as part of the placement; you may wish to consider the following:-
- formal courses (including Masters modules)
- training in specialist skills and research methodologies
- leadership training
- public involvement and engagement
- preparation of an application for a competitive fellowship application
The placement programme should provide training/research/mentoring or other experiences that are not currently available in your NIHR Infrastructure/HPRU/School training environment.
If you are planning to undertake a face-to-face placement that involves travel; please also outline your plan for a virtual alternative, in case travel is not permitted at the time of your award/placement.
Some of the types of placement and placement activities that could be supported by an NIHR SPARC award are detailed in the ‘Scope of Award’ section of the Guidance Notes.
Please note the placements are not limited to these types of activities. Applicants are encouraged to fully explore and maximise the opportunities available to them for their personal and professional development, and develop a placement that is bespoke to their individual training needs, background, skills/experiences, as well as their proposed career trajectory.
(Word Limit: 800)
Please outline: a) the likely benefits and impact on your research, training and career and b) how you will know whether it has been a successful placement
(Word Limit: 350)
Placement Host Institution Supervisor - Statement of Support
This statement must be written and added by the ‘Placement Host Institution Supervisor’ (the agreed supervisor based at the Placement Host Institution/Organisation the applicant will be hosted and will undertake their placement at) and should detail how the ‘Placement Supervisor’ and ‘Placement Host Institution’ are going to support the applicant to successfully complete their placement, training and activities outlined in the placement plan.
This statement should be tailored specifically to the applicant, their research, training and career development needs; as well as future collaborations/joint working.
This section can only be accessed by the Placement Host Institution Supervisor once they have agreed participation and cannot be accessed (but can be viewed), by the applicant.
Please note - The Placement Host Institution Statement of Support is part of the NIHR SPARC assessment process/criteria and applicants and ‘Placement Host Institution Supervisors’ are advised to discuss the statement in advance of the competition deadline.
(Word Limit: 300)
To support your ‘Proposed Placement Plan’ you may wish to upload the following document in the ‘Uploads Section’ of the form:-
Placement Gantt Chart: One page (readable when printed on a single side of A4) showing when the placement activities/specific milestone and deliverables will take place during the proposed placement duration/SPARC award timescale.
Guidance for the completion of the finance section is available in the next section of the Applicant Guidance Notes.
8. Participants and Signatories
A number of participants and signatories are required to be added to your application and, where applicable, to complete sections of it.
Details of the required individuals are provided in the Applicant Guidance Notes and on the online application form along with details of how they should be added. The flow diagram in Annex A describes the actions required of participants, signatories and the applicant.
9. Acknowledge, review and submit
Please declare any conflicts or potential conflicts of interest that you may have in undertaking this NIHR SPARC award, including any relevant, non-personal and commercial interest that could be perceived as a conflict of interest.
Agreement to terms and conditions
Please click the check box to confirm that you agree to the Terms and Conditions of submission as detailed on the application form.
The Detailed Budget section of the application form must be completed by the applicant in conjunction with the Research Support Office or Finance Office at the applicants 'Employing Organisation' (the organisation that, in the event of an award being made, will submit an invoice on behalf of the applicant for the expenses incurred during the placement).
The funding requested in the finance section will form the basis of the SPARC award/placement should the application be successful.
This SPARC award does not include, or pay for, any research costs, supervisory fees, open access fees, conference fees or full economic costing (which would be expected to be funded by the applicants Employing Organisation if appropriate).
Justification of costs
Please provide a breakdown of the costs associated with undertaking the NIHR SPARC placement as described in the application and provide justification for the resources requested.
All costs provided should be ‘value for money’ and will be assessed by the NIHR and members of the NIHR SPARC Selection Committee. The NIHR reserves the right to reject any costs that it considers unreasonable or insufficiently justified.
Detailed Budget Breakdown
- The information entered in this section should provide an analysis of the total funds requested to undertake the proposed NIHR SPARC placement and will be used to assess value for money. Funding of up to £5,000 can be applied for to cover the incidental expenses of working from another institution for a short period of time.
- Applicants must remain registered/employed at their ‘Employing Organisation’ (substantive employer) who will continue to support their salary/stipend/fees for the duration of the NIHR SPARC award/placement.
- It is in your best interest to undertake a thorough, realistic and accurate costing. You must provide a clear and full justification for all costs. You must also ensure that you include all costs required.
- Costs must be provided at current prices. Please note; travel and subsistence rates should be in accordance with the applicants ‘Employing Organisation’ (substantive employer) Institutional ‘Travel and Expenses Policy’ approved rates’.
- Further itemisation of costs and methods of calculation may be requested to support the application at a later date.
- Payments will be made to the applicants Employing Organisation (substantive employer) only and the applicants Employing Organisation will be responsible for passing on any money due to other parties.
- It is expected that the finance section of a NIHR SPARC application form has received appropriate input from the supporting organisations.
- Suspensions of awards to allow for periods of maternity, paternity, adoption or sickness leave are supported.
Other Direct Costs
This section must provide a clear breakdown and full justification of all funds requested. Please note the award is for a maximum of £5,000. These are costs that are specific to the NIHR SPARC placement, which will be charged as the amount actually spent and can be supported by an audit record (receipts).
For each item/cost being requested please:
- Select ‘Add Other Direct Cost’
- Please detail the cost being requested (i.e ‘Travel’, ‘Qualitative Research Methods Training Course Fee’, ‘Subsistence’ etc. in the ‘Description’ box.
- Please select ‘Other’ from the drop-down options for the ‘Type of Cost’
- Please outline a brief reason for the cost/item being requested within the “Justification of Cost” box.
- Finally, please enter the total cost for the item being requested in the ‘Year 1’ box.
Where applicable, you can include the travel, accommodation and subsistence costs that will be incurred by the applicant in travelling and undertaking the short placement and any other relevant costs detailed below.
Enter the total cost of transport for all journeys. If travel is by car, apply your institution’s mileage rates (however, this should not exceed HMRC approved mileage allowance payments, which is 45p per mile for the first 10,000 miles and 25p thereafter).
Travel by the most economic means possible is encouraged; please note NIHR SPARC awards do not fund first class travel.
Enter the total cost of accommodation costs (if necessary) to cover any accommodation required to undertake the SPARC placement. Please note; subsistence rates should be in accordance with the applicants ‘Employing Organisation’ (substantive employer) ‘Travel and Expenses Policy’ approved rates’. All costs provided should represent value for money.
Enter the total cost of subsistence costs to cover all meals required (if applicable) whilst undertaking the SPARC placement (excluding any alcoholic beverages). Please note; subsistence rates should be in accordance with the applicants ‘Employing Organisation’ (substantive employer) ‘Travel and Expenses Policy’ approved rates’. All costs provided should represent value for money.
Training Course Fees
Please itemise the training courses (e.g qualitative research methods course, implementation science training, PPI training etc.) being requested (if applicable) and describe fully the costs associated with training and development and the training provider (i.e University of Manchester). Please provide estimates if exact costs are not available at the time of application.
Costs of relevant placement outputs (e.g. production of an infographic, informative video etc.).
Please note; research costs, supervisory fees, open access fees, conference fees will not be covered by this award and would be expected to be funded by Employing Organisation if appropriate.
Additional Supporting Information
NIHR Research Design Service
The NIHR Research Design Service (RDS) supports prospective applicants to make high quality applications for research funding from the NIHR and from other national research funders. Assistance is primarily focused around refinement of research questions, research design and methodological support. Complementing the advice applicants receive from supervisors and/or mentors. The RDS also assists prospective applicants to understand the scope of the NIHR’s various funding streams and to develop public involvement and engagement strategies. This includes involvement of service users, carers and/or practitioners in social care. The RDS may be able to support applicants with small grants to work up public involvement and engagement plans with, for example, service user groups.
The RDS has regional offices and links with local networks. Further information regarding support that the RDS can provide and contact information for each regional office is available via the NIHR website.
The NIHR expects the active involvement of patients and the public in the research it supports, including research undertaken as part of an individual training award. NIHR recognise that the nature and extent of active patient and public involvement is likely to vary depending on the context of each study or award. The term involvement refers to an active partnership between patients, members of the public and researchers in the research process. This can include, for example, involvement in the choice of research topics, assisting in the design, advising on the research project or in carrying out the research.
Further information and resources can be found in Make a strong application on the NIHR website. This includes a detailed definition of patient and public involvement in research, briefing notes for researchers on how to involve patients and the public and payment guidance. The NIHR Research Design Service provide advice on developing research applications including involving patients and the public and the James Lind Alliance has a step-by-step guide on involvement in research identification and priority setting.
MRC Complex Intervention Guidance
Where appropriate applicants are encouraged to read the MRC complex interventions guidance.
Ethics / Regulatory Approvals
Guidance on the application process for ethical and other approvals should be sought from the supporting university in the first instance, but can be found on the HRA website. Please note that if your study is led from England and involves the NHS in England you should apply for HRA approval.
If you are using service user information from an existing database, you should check whether the service users have given their consent for their data to be included in that database for research purposes, or if not whether the database is exempt under Section 251 of the NHS Act 2006. Where exemptions are not already in place, approval to use confidential service user information without consent must be requested from the HRA who make decisions with advice from the Confidentiality Advisory Group (CAG).
NOTE: NIHR is interested in taking advantage of the growing utility of routine data (such as HES, GP records etc.), and would like investigators, where appropriate, to ask study participants to consent to long term follow up (e.g. beyond the outcomes to be collected in the funded trial) using routinely collected data, and appropriate linkage to allow this data to be best used.
UK Biobank is a major national health resource, and a registered charity in its own right, with the aim of improving the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of a wide range of serious and life-threatening illnesses – including cancer, heart diseases, stroke, diabetes, arthritis, osteoporosis, eye disorders, depression and forms of dementia. UK Biobank recruited 500,000 people aged between 40-69 years in 2006-2010 from across the country to take part in this project. They have undergone measures, provided blood, urine and saliva samples for future analysis as well as detailed information about themselves. The health of members of this large cohort will be followed over the coming years and the participants have consented to be approached about health research.
Applicants are encouraged to consider whether Biobank may be able to provide suitable data. We do not want to discourage establishment of new collections of participants and their data where this is necessary to address the research questions under consideration, our aim is to avoid applications for funding to set up Biobank-like cohorts where the use of Biobank would prevent wasteful duplication of Biobank-like activities.
Plagiarism in NIHR funding applications
NIHR expects all content within applications for funding to be original material of the applicant's own work, with the exception of sections that other participants are required to complete. Whilst we anticipate and expect that applicants will get help and advice from various sources when putting together an application, including on occasion input from those previously awarded funding, care must be taken to ensure this does not lead to plagiarism of either published work or other previous applications. If an allegation of plagiarism is raised against an application this will be investigated in accordance with the NIHR Academy’s policy on plagiarism, a copy of which is available on request from email@example.com.
Our purpose for collecting information is to communicate with you about your application and have the necessary information to evaluate you for an NIHR SPARC award. The data we collect here is collected in the public interest. Information provided here may be subject to Freedom of Information requests.
The NIHR Academy is part of the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC), National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR). The contracting agent for the NIHR Academy is the Leeds Teaching Hospital Trust (LTHT). The DHSC is the Data Controller and LTHT is the Data Processor under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) EC 2016/679. DHSC NIHR respects the privacy of individuals who share their data and processes it in a manner that meets the requirements of GDPR. The DHSC Data Protection Officer can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org)
This notice is under constant review and will be updated and / or revised based on that review as appropriate.
Requirements for systematic reviews to be registered with PROSPERO
Applicants undertaking systematic reviews should note the commitment of NIHR to publication in the database. PROSPERO was developed by the NIHR’s Centre for Reviews and Dissemination (CRD), and is the first online facility to register systematic reviews for research about health and social care from all around the world. Access is completely free and open to the public. PROSPERO registration is a condition of NIHR funding for eligible systematic reviews.
Existing data resources
The UK Data Service provides a unified point of access to an extensive range of high quality social and economic data, including UK census data, government funded surveys, longitudinal studies, international macro-data, qualitative data and business micro-data.
NIHR Carbon Reduction Guidelines
Researchers applying for NIHR funding are asked to consider the carbon footprint of their research and take steps to reduce carbon emissions where appropriate. Advice on how to do this can be obtained from the NIHR Carbon Reduction Guidelines.
In line with the government’s transparency agenda, any contract resulting from this tender may be published in its entirety to the general public.
Financial support under a SPARC placement is subject to a letter of contract between the Department of Health and Social Care (the 'Authority') and the applicants Employing Organisation (the 'Contractor').
Once funding for the NIHR SPARC placement has been discussed and agreed, NIHR will confirm the financial arrangements with the applicants Employing Organisation. NIHR will provide the applicants Employing Organisation (substantive employer) with a letter contract setting out the details of these arrangements.
Freedom of Information Act
The NIHR Academy manages the NIHR SPARC scheme on behalf of the DHSC. As such the findings of researchers funded by the programme are incorporated in to the Department of Health and Social Care Freedom of Information Publication Scheme.
Equal Opportunities and Diversity
NIHR is committed to promoting equality, diversity and inclusion in research and asks applicants to provide Equality and Diversity Monitoring Information (age, sex, ethnicity and race, and disability).
By answering these Equality and Diversity Monitoring Information questions, you will help us to better understand the different groups of people that apply to us for funding and their experiences of the funding process – particularly the groups protected by UK equality legislation. Although it is mandatory to answer these questions, it is possible to select “prefer not to say” as a response. However, the more information you provide, the more effective our monitoring will be. This information will not be used to make decisions about funding.
Guidance and Advice
Please read these Guidance Notes carefully. If you require any further information, advice or guidance please contact the NIHR Academy Infrastructure and Capacity Building Structures Team: Phone: 0113 532 8411, email: email@example.com.
Annex A: Application Submission Process Flow Diagram
Outlined are the steps for submitting an application. The applicant starts the application and adds participant and signatory details. The participants and signatories can then log in and confirm their participation and signatories can complete the sections of the form as directed. The applicant can continue entering data and completes all relevant sections of the form (step 3). The applicant then presses the ‘Submit’ button. Once the applicant submits, signatories will receive automated emails to approve the application. However, automated ‘out of office’ replies to these emails will not be relayed to the applicant. Once all signatories have approved the application, it is automatically submitted to NIHR for consideration. Rejection of the application by any individual at this stage will return the application to step 3.