Published: 11 December 2020
Version: 3.1 - May 2023Print this document
This document provides guidance on completing a stage 1 application to the NIHR Policy Research Programme. Please see also the Standard Information for Applicants.
Section 1: Application Summary Information
Provide details of the organisation who will be the contractor if the programme is funded.
The programme title should state clearly and concisely the proposed research. Any abbreviations should be spelled out in full.
Select the appropriate research type. If your proposed programme 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 requirements as set out in the research specification, and 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.
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).
PLEASE NOTE: Applicants should no longer include open access costs as part of their stage 1 estimated application Research Costs.
From the 1st of June 2022 all eligible awards contracts issued across NIHR Programmes, NIHR Personal Awards and NIHR Global Health Research Portfolio will have an Open Access Envelope allocated to them on top of the award value, which is ring-fenced for open access costs of peer reviewed research articles that arise directly from the research funded by the award in question.
Further information can be found by reading the Open Access Funding Guidance.
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.
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.
Agreement to terms and conditions
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.
Section 2: Lead Applicant Details
Complete your name, contact details and other requested information.
Section 3: 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. coordination and project management, analysis, methodological input etc.
This refers to the percentage of your time that you will commit to this project. If you are funded as part of other NIHR projects that will be running concurrently, your time must not exceed 100% overall.
Joint Lead Applicant
Where appropriate and justified it is acceptable for the application to be led by joint Lead Applicants. Where this applies, please complete your name, contact details and other requested information.
Justification for Joint Lead Applicant and role in this research
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. Please also provide a brief overview of their role in the proposed research.
This refers to the percentage of your time that you will commit to this project.
NOTE: For application/contracting purposes, the joint lead applicant will be counted as a co-applicant.
Add details of all co-applicants and their specific role in the programme. Do not include collaborators, who should be mentioned (if necessary) in the Research Plan section of the form.
We encourage the inclusion of public co-applicants, where appropriate. Please include a clear description of their role and the reasons why a public co-applicant is joining the team. For further information please access the 'Public Co-Applicants in Research' guidance.
Co-applicants are those individuals with responsibility for the day to day management and delivery of the project and can include patients, carers and service users. Co-applicants, including public co-applicants, are considered part of the project team and are expected to share responsibility for its successful delivery. In contrast, collaborators normally provide specific expertise on particular aspects of the project but do not share in the responsibility for the delivery of the project.
There should be a named person with appropriate skills and experience who is responsible for leading the PPIE element within the project. This role should be an adequately costed and resourced research team member who is able to manage the PPIE plans and related activities. More information and examples of the activities a PPI lead might undertake can be found in our guidance on the NIHR website.
Section 4: 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, other practitioners 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 NIHR and other websites.
A good quality plain English summary providing an easy to read overview of your whole study will help:
- those carrying out the review (reviewers and board and committee members) to have a better understanding of your research proposal
- inform others about your research such as members of the public, health and social care professionals, policy makers and the media
- 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 / service users / practitioners and members of the public in developing a plain English summary.
When writing your summary consider including the following information where appropriate:
- aim(s) of the research
- background to the research
- design and methods used
- patient and public involvement
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 Plain English summaries
For further support and advice on writing a plain English summary, please contact your local Research Design Service (where applicable).
Section 5: Research Plan
Using all of the headings in the order presented below, please use this section to clearly explain your proposed research. Schematics, tables, illustrations, graphs, and other types of graphics can be embedded to clarify the research plan but they should not clutter the central narrative. Images do not count towards the overall word count but inclusion of them to overcome word limits is not permitted. Images may only be included within the 'Research Plan.' Images included in other sections will be removed from the application and not seen by reviewers.
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 - 4 pages (dependent on the type/complexity/scale of study proposed). (Limit: 3,000 words).
The NIHR expects appropriate and relevant involvement of patients/service users, carers and the public and other key stakeholders in the research it supports. It is essential to set out your plans to involve patients/service users, carers and the public in the Stage 1 application. Your patient/service user, carer and public involvement plans will be assessed by the funding committee including patient/service users, carers and public members.
A list of PPIE resources for applicants to NIHR research programmes is available on the NIHR website, including: Briefing notes for researchers on how to involve patients/service users, carers and the public, including definition of involvement engagement and participation; and Payments Guidance for researchers and professionals with information on budgeting for involvement
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.
Health and Care Inequalities
As detailed in the research specification, our goal is to collect information on health and/ or care inequalities in research and relevant data relating to the main outcome(s) of the proposed research. Please clearly identify in the research plan section whether or not your application has a health and/or care inequalities component, or relevance to inequalities, and detail the core set of health and care inequalities breakdowns that will be reported. Should the application be invited to Stage 2, further in-depth details will be expected at that stage. If appropriate for the research design, all funded research will be expected to submit inequality breakdown data at the end of the project regardless of whether there is an inequality component.
Health and Care Inequalities Data Breakdowns
The following information gives further guidance on the equity relevant data breakdowns. Successful Stage 1 applicants will be required to give details of the data breakdowns in the Stage 2 application.
For quantitative research we would ideally like researchers to provide one-way breakdowns of their main outcome(s) by the following equity-relevant variables: age, sex, gender, disability, region, 5 ONS Ethnic groups, and the 5 IMD quintile groups. If more detailed cross tabulations are appropriate, please include these. This table should be submitted to NIHR PRP at the end of the project. Due to data limitations, judgement calls may be necessary about which breakdowns to report and whether to merge categories to increase counts in particular cells; we ask you to make these judgement calls yourself, bearing in mind our data curation aim of enabling future evidence synthesis work in pooling results from different studies. More details and an example table can be found in the research specification.
For qualitative research projects, this can be purely participant data giving the number of observations against the various variables.
We understand that research projects have different methodologies and focus on different populations, so please explain what participant data will be collected and reported for the methodology you plan to use. If a health inequalities component is not included, please explain why this does not fit within your proposed research. This should only be a few sentences.
What is the problem being addressed?
Provide a clear explanation of the problem to be addressed, its scale and the limitations in current practice.
Why is this research important and how does your proposed approach address the requirements outlined in the research specification?
Explain how your proposed research addresses the requirements outlined in the research specification. It is essential that you demonstrate awareness of, and address recognised policy priorities, clearly identifying 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, in particular how the research could support potential policy customers?
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 specification, 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, ClinicalTrials.gov and the European Union Clinical Trials Register.
What is the research question /Aims and objectives
Summarise the research questions / key aims and objectives of your research.
Applicants are reminded that NIHR strategy encourages research which follows patient needs. Researchers should clearly articulate how their research meets this objective, and how this contributes to the scientific rigour of their programme. Programmes should recruit participants from geographical areas where patient need is greatest, including for example the rural and semi-rural areas where many older people live, and represent areas of diverse socioeconomic and ethnic diversity.
Guidance for applicants on Equality, Diversity and Inclusion for study participants:
Every person eligible to take part in research should be offered the same opportunity of taking part in that research regardless of:
- Geographical location
- Gender reassignment
- Marriage and civil partnership
- Pregnancy and maternity
- Ethnicity - for example:
- The Centre for Ethnic Health Research toolkit for increasing participation of ethnic minority groups in health and care research
- The INCLUDE Ethnicity Framework, which aims to improve trial delivery for under-served groups
- Religion or belief
- Sexual orientation
- Socioeconomic status
- Access to health or social care
Nine of the twelve characteristics listed above are protected characteristics as defined in the Equality Act 2010. The additional three characteristics (bold) are defined by the NIHR and mentioned in Best Research for Best Health: The Next Chapter.
All NIHR applications are expected to include information about how this data will be collected. In addition, applicants should demonstrate how these factors have been considered and addressed in their proposal, including steps taken to ensure the research sample is representative of the population the study is targeted at. Applicants need to explain who they are planning to recruit to ensure inclusivity of study participants and justify and explain any exclusions, for example by completing an Equality Impact Assessment. Costs associated with inclusivity, which may include, but are not limited to justified translation of research participant material into other relevant languages, would be expected and where appropriate should be included in the detailed budget section under ‘Other Direct Costs’. Additionally, applicants should demonstrate that all potential recruiting locations have been considered and the research is deliverable to those areas.
Please see the NIHR INCLUDE Guidance for more information about how to include under-served groups effectively:
There should be a named person with appropriate skills and experience who is responsible for leading the PPI element within the project. This role should be an adequately costed and resourced research team member who is able to manage the PPI plans and related activities. More information and examples of the activities a PPI lead might undertake can be found in our guidance on the NIHR website.
PPI (Patient/service user, carer and public involvement)
The NIHR expects appropriate and well-designed involvement of patients/service users, carers and the public and other key stakeholders in the research it supports. In the Stage 1 application, it is essential to show your plans for involving patients/service users, carers and the public at each appropriate stage of the research project lifecycle. For example, sitting on oversight committees, being a member of the research team involved in activities such as recruitment, data collection, analysis, producing study materials and sharing findings. Your PPI plans will be assessed by the funding committee which includes patient and public members. In the rare circumstances where PPI is not appropriate, a clear justification must be provided.
You should also outline how PPI has informed the development of the project so far. For example, the involvement of patients/service users, carers or the public in shaping the research question and study design. These activities could include the development of feasible, relevant and acceptable recruitment plans, data collection tools, information materials, outcome measures, follow-up, intervention design and delivery.
For a Stage 2 application, you will be asked how the PPI will be managed, reported and evaluated; whilst it is not necessary to provide the detail in Stage 1, early consideration should be given to these aspects.
More resources to support the design of your PPI are available in our guidance on the NIHR website. Your initial application will be assessed by a public committee member who will consider this aspect of your proposal.
Section 6: 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. If proposing an RCT, we advise you refer to the CONSORT statement and website for guidance. Alternatively, you may find the EQUATOR Network website useful. The PDF file should be submitted along with your application form.
Section 7: 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 8: 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.