This site is optimised for modern browsers. For the best experience, please use Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, or Microsoft Edge.


We welcome your feedback, which will help improve this site.

Feedback form

Policy Research Programme - Guidance for Stage 1 applications



This document provides guidance on completing a stage 1 application for the NIHR Policy Research Programme

Section 1: Application Summary Information

Host organisation

Please give details of the organisation that will be responsible for contract delivery if the research is funded.

Research title

The title should state clearly and concisely the proposed research. Any abbreviations should be spelled out in full.

Research type

Select the appropriate research type. If your proposed research includes any element of primary research,please select ‘Primary Research’. If you are carrying out new analysis of existing data, select ‘Secondary Research’. If you are not sure which category to select, choose the closest match to your project as this can be adjusted later.

Proposed start date

Note this should be from 1st of the month regardless of whether this is a working day or not. Please be realistic about your possible start date taking account of the necessary contracting, and staff recruitment prior to starting your project.

Research duration (months)

Ensure you include sufficient time to complete all aspects of the research including applications for regulatory approvals (where required) and the final report.

End date

This field will automatically populate once you have entered the start date and research duration information.

Estimated research costs

Enter the total amount of research costs requested (not including NHS Support & Treatment costs).

Estimated NHS Support & Treatment costs or external (not NHS) intervention costs

Enter the total amount of NHS support and treatment costs associated with this proposal.

Section 2: Lead applicant CV

Information on this page is auto populated from the ‘Manage my details’ section within your CCF RMS Portal account, which should be updated and edited prior to submission.

Please ensure that your role in this research and %FTE commitment information is detailed within the ‘The research team’ section.

Section 3: Lead applicant research background

Some of the responses required in this section will have been pre-populated based on details you have provided in the ‘Manage my details’ section of your CCF RMS Portal account, and any remaining fields must be completed to provide the required information.

Publication record

Provide details of a MAXIMUM of 6 of your most recent / relevant publications (in the last 10 years) relevant to this application (using Vancouver or Harvard citation format). Please use DOI reference numbers if needed.

Research grants held

Please edit ‘Manage My Details’ to ensure that relevant and current research grants held (as a named applicant) are included – please state who the grant is with and the amount of each grant. If no grants are held please enter N/A (as this is a mandatory field). For more information about resubmission of a research/trainee funding application, or joint funding please contact the appropriate NIHR research funding programme.

Has this application, or a similar application previously been submitted to this or any other funding body?

Select ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ from the drop down box to indicate whether this or a similar application has previously been submitted to this or any other funding body. For more information about resubmission of a research/trainee funding application, or joint funding please contact the appropriate NIHR research funding programme.

Applications submitted to other NIHR programmes

Where this application or a similar one has been submitted to this or another NIHR programme or elsewhere please click the ‘Add’ button and complete the necessary information.

We are keen to know if the application has been submitted elsewhere and you must be as open about this as possible. This includes, but is not limited to, any facts that, should they come to light at a future date, would embarrass either the programme or the individual who withheld the fact (e.g. if a member of the team holds a patent or has a financial interest within the research area).

Failure to disclose accurately or fully will be considered by the programme as academic misconduct andtreated accordingly. You should also include in this section information on whether this or a similar application has been submitted to any programme previously, or to any other funder including other NIHR programmes. You should name, and provide dates and outcomes of these. Please indicate whether you have ever held an NIHR programme contract which has been terminated prior to completion, and provide the reasons for this termination.

Section 4: The research team

Specify your (lead applicant) role in this research

Explain in addition to your role as Lead Applicant, the role that you will be undertaking in the research, e.g. co-ordination and project management, analysis, methodological input etc.

%FTE commitment

This refers to the percentage of your time that you will commit to this project.

Joint Lead Applicant

In exceptional circumstances, applications may be led by joint Lead Applicants. Justification should be given to demonstrate why more than one person would be required to lead this research (and how this brings added value to the application).

For application/contracting purposes, the joint lead applicant will be regarded as a co-applicant.

Information will be ‘pulled through’ into the application from the ‘Manage my details’ section within the Joint Lead Applicant’s CCF RMS Portal account, which should be updated and edited prior to submission.


Add details of all co-applicants and their specific role in the research. Do not include collaborators, who should be mentioned (if necessary) in the Research Plan section of the online application form.

Co-applicants are those individuals with responsibility for the day to day management and delivery of the research. Co-applicants are considered part of the research team and are expected to share responsibility for its successful delivery. Collaborators normally provide specific expertise on particular aspects of the research but who do not share in the responsibility for the delivery of the research.

IMPORTANT: Co-applicants will need to be ‘invited’ through the system via email to participate as co-applicants after which they must both confirm and approve their participation; the application cannot be submitted without doing so. Information will be ‘pulled through’ into the application from the ‘Manage my details’ section within the each co-applicant’s CCF RMS Portal account, which should be updated and edited prior to submission.

Section 5: Plain English Summary of Research

A plain English summary is a clear explanation of your research.

Many reviewers use this summary to inform their review of your funding application. They include clinicians and researchers who do not have specialist knowledge of your field as well as members of the public. If your
application for funding is successful, the summary will be used on National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) and other websites.

A good quality plain English summary providing an easy to read overview of your whole study will help:

a) those carrying out the review (reviewers and board and panel members) to have a better understanding of your research proposal
b) inform others about your research such as members of the public, health professionals, policy makers and the media
c) the research funders to publicise the research that they fund.

If it is felt that your plain English summary is not clear and of a good quality then you may be required to amend it prior to final funding approval.

It is helpful to involve patients / carers / members of the public in developing a plain English summary. Content

When writing your summary consider including the following information where appropriate:

a) aim(s) of the research
b) background to the research
c) design and methods used
d) patient and public involvement
e) dissemination

The Plain English Summary is not the same as a scientific abstract - please do not cut and paste this or other sections of your application form to create the plain English summary.

Further guidance on writing in plain English is available online at NIHR Make it clear

For further support and advice on writing a plain English summary, please contact your local Research Design Service (where applicable).

Section 6: Research Plan

Using all of the headings in the order presented below, please use this section to clearly explain your proposed research. As this is the main part of your application which will be considered by the reviewing panel, you should ensure that the information is accurate, succinct, clearly laid out and provides sufficient methodological detail. The overall amount of information that you can provide at this stage is limited to 3 - 5 pages (dependent on the type/complexity/scale of study proposed). (Limit: 4000 words).

The NIHR expects appropriate and relevant involvement of patients and the public and other key stakeholders in the research it supports. It is essential to set out your plans to involve patients and the public in the Stage 1 application. Your patient and public involvement plans will be assessed by the funding panel/board including patient and public members.

Information and resources to assist you can be found on the INVOLVE website (a detailed definition of patient and public involvement in research, briefing notes for researchers on how to involve patients and the public and an involvement cost calculator and budgeting guide).

In this section it is important that you identify all stakeholders who are relevant to your research proposal. For each stakeholder group you need to be clear about how they benefit from your proposed research and, where appropriate, how they have been involved in the development of the application, as well as the plans for their involvement in the proposed research.

1. What is the problem being addressed?

Provide a clear explanation of the problem to be addressed, its scale and the limitations in current practice.

2. Why is this problem important and how does it address the aims of this research call?

Explain how your proposed research addresses the requirements outlined in the research brief. It is essential that you clearly identify the health and care needs your research meets or contributes to. Please outline the anticipated value or contribution the study will provide and the likely trajectory towards benefit realisation.

3. Review of existing evidence - How does the existing literature support this proposal?

Explain why this research is needed now, both in terms of time and relevance. Briefly describe:
● The need for the proposed line of research in the context of the research brief, drawing particularly from systematic reviews and other relevant literature
● Past and current research that justifies the proposed research and shows that it will add distinct value to what is already known, or in progress
● Work undertaken previously by the research team which has led to the proposed programme (e.g. describe any pilot or feasibility data)

In particular, applicants should be aware of ongoing research in this area and comment on any other research which might be deemed to overlap with the contents of the proposal. Any applications that include primary research should include reference to the existing evidence and explain how this evidence has informed the proposed research. Where a systematic review already exists that summarises the available evidence this should be referenced, as well as including reference to any relevant literature published subsequent to that systematic review. Where no such systematic review exists, it is expected that the applicants will undertake an appropriate review of the currently available and relevant evidence (using as appropriate a predetermined and described methodology that systematically identifies, critically appraises and then synthesises the available evidence) and then summarise this in their proposal. All applicants must also include reference to relevant ongoing studies, e.g. from trial registries, such as the International Standard Randomised Controlled Trial Number (ISRCTN) registry, and the European Union Clinical Trials Register.

4. What is the research question /aims and objectives

Summarise the research questions / key aims and objectives of your research.

5. Team experience and expertise

Describe the skills, experience and expertise of the proposed team that makes it well placed to carry out the work, outlining any existing strategic collaboration and any additional expertise you might need to draw in.

6. Project Plan

Provide a summary of the project plan of investigation (including for example deliverables, methods, approach to patient and public involvement, dissemination) plus any additional points required to support statements made in the previous sections. Include any key references required to justify the point made (e.g. in the use of particular outcome measures or methods of analysis). Drawing on past experience in successfully delivering similar work, clearly outline likely risks and challenges, as well as mitigating actions, in delivering the proposed work.

Section 7: Uploads


One single-side A4 page, listing references used throughout your proposal.


If required, an additional supporting (single side of A4) document can be submitted with your application form (e.g., a flow diagram illustrating the study design and the flow of participants, gantt chart, diagrams, pictures
etc.). If submitting a flow diagram, applicants should also describe complex interventions and controls as accurately and fully as possible within their diagram.You may find the EQUATOR Network website useful ( The PDF file should be submitted along with your application form.

Section 8: Administrative contact details

Please provide the details of an administrative lead as a secondary point of contact for any queries relating to the application, should it be supported. NOTE: This person does not need to be a co-applicant.

Section 9: Research and Development office contact details

Please provide the contact details and job title of a person in the R&D office so that we are able to notify them of the outcome of this application including any associated feedback. NOTE: Please note this person does not need to be included as a co-applicant.

Section 10: Acknowledge, review and submit

Conflict checks

Please declare any conflicts or potential conflicts of interest that you or your co-applicants may have in undertaking this research, including any relevant, non-personal & commercial interest that could be perceived as a conflict of interest.


As lead applicant, please tick the box to confirm that the information entered into the application form is correct and that you take responsibility for overall management and delivery of the research.

Checklist of information to include when submitting a NIHR stage 1 research application

Applicants should click the check boxes to indicate that they have included the necessary information prior to submitting their application.

A good quality Plain English Summary ▢
A clear explanation of the problem being addressed ▢
A clear demonstration of the need and importance of the research ▢
A review of existing literature (primary research) ▢
A clear research question / aim(s) and objectives ▢
A clear project plan summarising the study design and methods, as well as likely risks and mitigating strategies ▢
A clear description of team member roles and contribution ▢
Appropriate and relevant involvement of patients and the public
A single A4 page of references (document upload), mandatory ▢