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Policy Research Programme - Learning Partner Call Single Stage Guidance for Applicants


Published: 04 October 2022

Version: 1.0 November 2022

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Please note that this call has now closed.

Section 1: Application Summary Information

Host Organisation

Provide details of the organisation who will be the contractor if the project is funded.

If you have any queries, please submit them to our team or contact before submitting your application.

Research Title

The project 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 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

01 May 2023. Note this should be from the 1st of the month regardless of whether this is a working day or not.

Research Duration (months)

The research duration for this call must be 30 months.

Total Research Costs

Enter the total amount of research costs requested.

PLEASE NOTE: Applicants should no longer include open access costs as part of their 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.

Section 2: CV - Lead and Co-applicants

Complete your name, contact details and other requested information.

Section 3: Research Background - Lead and Co-applicants

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 outline the existing award that this award relates to/is building on. Please select research grants held (as a named applicant) CURRENTLY or IN THE LAST 5 YEARS – as well as any additional previous grants, relevant to this application, stating 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).

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

To be completed by the lead applicant only.

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.

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 provide 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, could harm the reputation of 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 and treated 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 hold or have ever held an NIHR programme contract which has been terminated prior to completion, extended in time or in terms of funding.

Section 4: The Research Team

Specify your (lead applicant) role in the research (100 words)

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. 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.

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

Relevant expertise and experience of joint Lead Applicant

Please summarise the proposed Joint Lead Applicant’s relevant expertise and track record in relevant research, in terms of skills and experience, previous publications, grant funding and impact on health or social care service provision.

Specify role in research

Please provide a brief overview of your role in the proposed research. You have the opportunity to elaborate upon this further in the ‘Detailed Research Plan’ section.

%FTE Commitment

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.

NOTE: Full-Time Equivalent (FTE): percentage of full-time hours per week.

Add all co-applicants supporting your research

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

Co-applicants are those individuals with responsibility for the day-to-day management and delivery of the project. 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 who do not share in the responsibility for the delivery of the project.

Allow sufficient time for your co-applicants to complete their sections of the online form before the application deadline.

NOTE: New team members will need to register via email to participate as co-applicants and confirm their participation before the submission deadline; the application cannot be submitted without doing so.

A maximum of 15 co-applicants is permitted.

Section 5: Scientific Abstract (approx 500 words)

The scientific abstract should be a clear and concise scientific summary of the Detailed Research Plan / Methods.

The following is a list of potential elements / headings that might be included depending on the design of the proposed research, the setting and programme being applied to, and whether it is for primary research or evidence synthesis. It will be for researchers to decide the appropriate elements to be included in the scientific abstract and could include elements outside this list. Alternatively, you may find the EQUATOR Network website useful.

  • Research question
  • Background
  • Aims and objectives
  • Methods
  • Timelines for delivery
  • Anticipated impact and dissemination

Section 6: Plain English Summary (approx 450 words)

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

Section 7: Detailed research plan (approx 7,000 words)

Using all of the headings (in the order presented) and guidance below, 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 'Detailed 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 committee you should ensure that the information is accurate, succinct, clearly laid out and provides adequate methodological detail.

This section should not exceed 7,000 words. Applicants should therefore aim to reserve a significant proportion of the word limit for the research plan to ensure methodological approaches are fully specified.

Background and Rationale

This should include a brief literature review of previous work and relevant ongoing research. Applicants should consider what this study would add to the body of existing knowledge/evidence.

NOTE: Any reference citations should be included in the Supporting Documentation section of this application. If a key citation is not freely available, a copy should also be included. Please detail the nature and importance of the research question(s) to be addressed.

Aims and Objectives

Outline how the research proposed in this application will address the research priorities posed in the research specification and, where appropriate, state the main hypothesis.

Projects funded by the NIHR Policy Research Programme (PRP) will vary considerably in their design, however this section of the application should be used to indicate the main aims and objectives of the proposed research.

Research Plan/Methods

Detailed information on the research design should include descriptions of the proposed participatory monitoring, evaluation and learning approach.

NOTE: If any questionnaires have been prepared for use in the proposed research, please include a copy in the Supporting Documentation section of this application.

Please provide up to 10 keywords that best summarise the proposed research and then describe the overall research design, including strong justification for the proposed sampling strategies, methods of data collection and analysis. In some cases, it will be appropriate to include discussion of dissemination and implementation here. The key is that the reasoning underlying all stages of the proposed research should be transparent.

Guidance for applicants on Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion for study participants

Whenever possible, research should take account of age, disability, sex, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, culture, religion and the other protected characteristics listed below in its design, undertaking and reporting. The body of research evidence available to policy makers should reflect the diversity of the population. Applicants are advised to indicate how they have considered the relevance of diversity in their proposed research, if appropriate.

Every person eligible to take part in research should be offered the same opportunity of taking part in that research regardless of:

  • Geographical location
  • Age
  • Disability
  • Gender reassignment
  • Marriage and civil partnership
  • Pregnancy and maternity
  • Ethnicity - for example:
  • Religion or belief
  • Sex
  • 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:

Helpful links:

In particular and where appropriate, if involving patients/service users, carers as research participants, please also provide key details about how they will be supported, managed and involved (see below)

Summary of patients/service users/carers/public as research participants

The successful recruitment and retention of study participants is strategically important for the NIHR. If your proposed study involves patients/service users/carers/public as research participants please use the following bullet points to summarise their characteristics and what would be expected of them throughout the research project lifecycle. The potential burden on study participants can then be understood as well as whether or not the proposed strategies are practical, inclusive and feasible. Please also signpost to where further information on these points can be found in the detailed research plan and application.

Points to cover:

  • Inclusion and exclusion criteria to help ensure that certain groups were not being excluded without justification
  • Recruitment method and consent process to ensure it is practical and fair
  • Type and content of participant information materials
  • Overview of research methods to capture data from participants and their frequency e.g. questionnaires/tests/intervention/focus groups/ interviews
  • Study participant support to consider how drop-out and issues of participation would be handled/helplines/ other access arrangements required
  • Methods for sharing study progress and findings with study participants
  • Payments, rewards and recognition for study participants.

Researchers may find the SPIRIT 2013 statement a useful resource when preparing their protocol.

Dissemination, outputs and anticipated impact

The purpose of this section is for the applicant to describe the planned outputs of the research, how these will be communicated and to whom, and how the research may lead to short and longer-term impacts. The NIHR understands that the impact of any research may take time to be realised and will likely involve other funders, institutions and sustained efforts in practice. The NIHR also recognises it may be difficult to provide definitive answers or guarantees on longer term impacts. However, applicants are invited to consider various aspects of pathways below and how the likelihood of impact can be maximised. This includes considering what outputs are produced, how these can be best connected to the health and/or social care environment, what efforts and investments are likely to be needed beyond the project, what barriers are likely to be encountered and what impacts the research is seeking to achieve. Relevant questions you may want to consider include:

What do you intend to produce from your research?

Please provide brief details of each anticipated output. NB: The term ‘outputs’ refers to any tangible product of the research, not just academic publications. Outputs can include but are not limited to: Conference presentation or other workshop events; Publications (academic or otherwise); Guidelines (clinical, service or otherwise); Other copyright (e.g. questionnaires, training aids, toolkits, manuals, software, etc).

How will you inform and engage policymakers, patient/ service users, other organisations and the wider population about your work?

Describe who you need to communicate with within this research, and your plans for engaging relevant audiences. For impact, it is unlikely that simply making outputs available will be sufficient. Please consider, and outline the active approach you will take to engaging key parties, or identify the process you will use to identify them and formulate an engagement plan.Evidence of or plans for achieving early policy buy-in would be welcome.

How will your outputs enter our health and/or social care system or society as a whole?

Describe the process by which the research will enter the health and/or social care environment, including how your outputs will be acknowledged, selected and introduced for use in the health and care service or wider society. Where possible consider how the work will be able to be adopted and implemented longer term. Please describe the proposed route to market (commercial or non-commercial) for your outputs. Describe who is needed to take it forward and the relationship you currently (or propose to) have with these parties. If your outputs are likely to be commercially exploitable, please include details on how you plan to develop this.

What further funding or support will be required if this research is successful?

Consider what investment or support may be needed at the end of this project to maximise impact (e.g. from NIHR, other Government departments, charity or industry). Not all projects will require this but if so, plans should be linked to the responses in questions 2 and 3 above.

What are the possible barriers for further research, development, adoption and implementation?

Describe the difficulties which may be faced in generating impact from your research. These may be difficulties you will face yourself, or challenges faced by those in the implementing context (e.g., clinicians)

  1. Will the proposed research use data, technology, materials or other inventions that are subject to any form of intellectual property protection (e.g. copyright, design rights, patents) or rights owned by another organisation(s)? If yes, provide brief details including how such third party IP will be accessed (e.g. collaboration agreement, drug supply agreement).
  2. What are the key current and future barriers to uptake of any likely output or innovation directly in the health and care service, through commercial exploitation or other means, e.g. potential regulatory hurdles?
  3. What are the challenges for getting your research implemented in terms of acceptability, accessibility and feasibility? How will you address these?

What do you think the impact of your research will be and for whom?

Describe the impacts you aim to achieve as a direct result of the project and those which are anticipated longer term. Please consider how any smaller, more immediate effects may mature over time into larger scale or more significant effects, and the steps by which this may be achieved. As far as possible, indicate anticipated timescales for these benefits and a quantitative estimate of their scale. Impacts may include, but are not restricted to - patient/service user and carer benefit; health and/or social care staff benefits; commercial return (which could contribute to economic growth); public wellbeing. Please consider a potential impact/influence on the relevant policy field, users, and wider stakeholders.

How will you share with study participants the progress and finding of your research?

What strategies will you use to keep your research participants informed of the progress of your project and the findings? Consider the ethical implications of informing study participants and also what the most accessible methods could be, such as newsletters, leaflets, webpages, social media and where relevant different languages and formats.

Project/Research timetable

Describe the progression of the research plan, including key milestones. This should be completed with reference to the Gantt chart uploaded with the application. Time required to gain favourable ethical opinion (if appropriate) must be included as a milestone, noting that work requiring such approval may not receive payment until such time as notification of this approval is acquired and a copy forwarded to the NIHR PRP secretariat. If work can start without ethical approval, with approval required before starting a later phase of the research, please indicate clearly where this point is.

Note: If this application were to be funded, the milestones discussed here and included in the Gantt chart will form the basis on which progress reports are assessed.

Project management

Please outline the practical arrangements for managing the research and its constituent components.

Identify the project management processes that will ensure that the milestones are reached in a timely manner.

This should include the roles and responsibilities of those individuals undertaking the proposed research and set out reporting lines, steering committee involvement, and the schedule of meetings of the proposed research group to permit coordination, evaluation of progress and dissemination of findings.

NOTE: This section should also highlight the role of any Advisory or Reference Groups associated with the proposed research.

Ethics / Regulatory approvals

Please clearly outline the likely risks and challenges, as well as mitigating actions, in delivering the proposed work and any ethical considerations

Project/Research expertise

Explain how each applicant will contribute to delivering the research described in this application. For example, outline why each of the applicants are well qualified to carry out the proposed activities, briefly describing the track record of the research team, including publication outputs, grant income and impact on health and/or care policy. Include details of any related (completed, planned or active) awards held by members of the research team in the area (or similar area) to that set out in the research specification.

Also, explain how the applicants work together (or propose to work together if they have not done so previously), and identify other major collaborations important for the research.

If the salary costs of members of the research team are not being sought via this application, you should explain how their contribution will be supported within the Finances section.

Success criteria and barriers to proposed work

Please set out the measurements of success you intend to use and also the key risks to delivering this research and what contingencies you will put in place to deal with them.

A risk is defined as any factor which may delay, disrupt or prevent the full achievement of a research objective. All risks should be identified. This section should include an assessment of risks, together with a rating of the risks' likelihood and its impact on the research objective(s), using a high/medium/low classification for both. This section should also identify appropriate actions that would reduce or eliminate each risk, or its impact.

Typical areas of risk might include ethical approval, site variation in data gathering, staffing, resource constraints, technical constraints, data access and quality, timing, management and operational issues; however, please note that this is not an exhaustive list.

Success criteria will be call-specific and dependent on the nature of the research question(s) set out in the research specification. Examples could include reaching particular types of users or economic impact on a provider market.

Note: For full applications, a concise (one page) risk assessment table can be uploaded in the Supporting Documentation section of the application, where appropriate.

Upload a Gantt chart

It is mandatory to attach a Gantt chart indicating a schedule for the completion of work, including the timing of key milestones and deliverables.

Section 8: Detailed Budget

The finance application form provides details of the finances required to deliver the planned research. Applicants will need to complete all sections of the finance form providing a detailed breakdown of costs as per the NIHR Global Health Research Finance Guidance for Applicants. Please note the expenditure categories in the form have been reduced as the call will require fewer expenditure categories than are listed in the guidance.

The summary tabs on the financial plan will auto populate depending on the information added to sections 1-11. These summary tabs include summaries of all costs.

For any finance queries, please contact

The template can be downloaded here.

Justification of costs (500 words)

Provide a breakdown of research costs associated with undertaking the research and provide justification for the resources requested. For this call, the expenditure categories that have been considered relevant are as follows:

  • Staff costs,
  • Travel, subsistence and conference fees
  • Equipment (including lease versus purchase costs)
  • Consumables,
  • Community Engagement and Involvement (CEI)
  • Dissemination
  • Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning
  • Other Direct Costs
  • Indirect Costs

Please refer to the NIHR Global Health Research Finance Guidance for Applicants to assist with preparation of a detailed budget using the categories listed above.

Section 9: Management and Governance

Is Clinical Trials Authorisation required?

Yes / No

Does your project require ethics approval?

Yes / No

If yes, has ethics approval already been obtained?

Yes / No

Section 10: Uploads

Please note that all supporting documentation uploaded should be given concise and clear file name descriptions. These should be headed by a numbered ‘Appendix’ and a brief filename description that clearly describes the file (e.g. Appendix_References).

The following file is mandatory to submission for all applicants, please attach:

  • A list of references cited in the application.
  • A Gantt chart
  • Delivery Chain Risk Map

The following file(s) are considered non-mandatory to submission; please number your files and attach;

  • Any further supporting documentation (flow diagrams, pictures, logic models, trial protocols etc.)

No more than 5 separate files are permitted. The total file size should not exceed 6Mb (this includes the Delivery Chain Risk Map uploaded under the Detailed Budget section and the Gantt Chart uploaded under the Detailed Research Plan section). Total file sizes larger than this may not be considered as part of this submission. We strongly recommend that only .doc or .pdf files are uploaded as some file types are not supported by the system (such as .xls and .zip file types which will not render out into the final version of the application form). Should you wish to upload documents of other file types, we encourage you to check that they appear in the PDF of the application form prior to submission as changes cannot be made after the deadline has passed.

Section 11: 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 12: 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 13: Acknowledgement, review and submit

Conflict checks

Please declare any conflicts or potential conflicts of interest that you or your co-applicants may have, including any facts that, should they come to light at a future date, could lead to a perception of bias. Include any relevant personal, non-personal & commercial interest that could be perceived as a conflict of interest. Examples include (this list is not all encompassing) secondary employment, consultancy, financial or commercial gain (pensions, shareholdings, directorships, voting rights), honoraria, etc. In a case of commercial sector involvement with the application or the study, please state clearly the relationship to ownership of data, access to data, and membership of project oversight groups.

Agreement to terms and conditions

As lead applicant, please tick the box to confirm that the information given on this form is correct and that you will be actively engaged in this research and responsible for its overall management. In addition, you will accept responsibility for ensuring that the host institution and interested parties are kept informed.

Ticking this box constitutes an electronic signature of the lead applicant with regard to this application.

Checklist of information to include when submitting a NIHR stage 2 research application

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

  • A good quality Plain English summary. 
  • A clear description of team member roles and contribution
  • A clear scientific abstract
  • A flow diagram illustrating the study design / flow of participants (document upload), if appropriate
  • A full and accurate detailed budget breakdown
  • A clear justification of costs / value for money
  • References (document upload)
  • Delivery Chain Risk Map (document upload)
  • Gantt Chart (document upload)
  • A clear Detailed Research Plan outlining the study design, methods, dissemination etc.
  • The support and agreement from the necessary supporting roles / signatories
  • Completed Finance Summary Form

Section 14: Validation Summary

Please follow the next steps in order to complete your application submission process;

  • Validate all mandatory/required fields listed below (that are required to be completed/amended before submitting)
  • Check all co-applicants have completed their CV details as appropriate and review the PDF final version for any formatting issues
  • Click 'Save and Close'
  • Click the 'Submit' option (this must be completed by 11 January 2023)

You will receive an automated email containing the acknowledgment that we have received your application.

If there are no validation requirements above you may be ready to submit the application. To do so 'Save and Close' the application and then click ‘Submit’.