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Q&A on the prioritisation process for Urgent Public Health Research

 

Contents

What criteria does the Urgent Public Health group use when assessing research applications?

In addition to determining whether the research will have an impact on public health within 12 months, the Urgent Public Health group considers the following questions:
- How compelling is the science underpinning the proposed study?
- Is it feasible to deliver in the current environment of the NHS and social care?
- Is the funding appropriate to deliver the proposed outcomes of the study?
- Is there an appropriate management plan to avoid interference with recruitment to other Urgent Public Health studies?

The group also ensures there is no duplication of effort.

What criteria does the Rapid Response Panel use when assessing research applications?

In addition to determining whether the research will have an impact on public health within 12 months, the DHSC/ UKRI Rapid Response Panel uses a broad range of assessment criteria including:
- Alignment with WHO R&D Roadmap priorities and research gaps
- Need for rapid activation
- Access to required resources
- Applicant expertise and experience
- Partnership: including strength and clarity of collaborations and opportunities provided
- Design and feasibility of project plan
- Value for money

I understand that Urgent Public Health Research is required to impact public health within 12 months. Will there be any useful data coming out of these studies in the near-term?

We recognise the importance of getting COVID-19 treatments from research into routine clinical care. To this end, we are working with the MHRA, NHSE/I and NICE to ensure safe and timely patient access to medicines useful in treating patients with COVID-19 infection. By joining forces in horizon scanning, liaison with companies and investigators, consideration of study results, and availability of product, the four agencies aim to significantly speed up the time it would otherwise take for a product to move from research into broader access for patients, while keeping to their individual statutory roles.

If a study requires funding but not support, does it need to be reviewed by the Urgent Public Health Group as well as the Rapid Response Panel?

No. Studies that do not require CRN support do not need to be reviewed by the Urgent Public Health Group.

Do COVID-19 studies that are already underway have to be assessed by the Urgent Public Health Group?

Studies that are already underway need to be assessed by the Urgent Public Health Group if they require support from NIHR CRN. Studies that do not require CRN support may proceed provided they do not have a negative impact on the health and care system’s ability to recruit participants and/or provide the resources (including staff, samples and data) needed to support Urgent Public Health national priority studies. Organisations will be expected to pause any studies that impede their ability to contribute to national research efforts.

Do protocol changes to my existing study to include COVID-19 research activity have to be assessed by the Urgent Public Health Group?

Protocol changes to existing nationally-prioritised studies need to be assessed by the Urgent Public Health Group if they require support from NIHR CRN. This should be done ahead of submitting your protocol change to the HRA. For protocol changes to other NIHR studies to include COVID-19 research, we would suggest speaking with your usual NIHR contact in the first instance.

Studies that do not require CRN support may proceed provided they do not have a negative impact on the health and care system’s ability to recruit participants and/or provide the resources (including staff, samples and data) needed to support Urgent Public Health national priority studies. Organisations will be expected to pause any studies that impede their ability to contribute to national research efforts.

Do COVID-19 studies that are being undertaken by NIHR infrastructure using existing budgets have to be assessed by the Urgent Public Health Group?

Infrastructure studies need to be assessed by the Urgent Public Health Group if they require support from NIHR CRN. Studies that do not require CRN support may proceed provided they do not have a negative impact on the health and care system’s ability to recruit participants and/or provide the resources (including staff, samples and data) needed to support Urgent Public Health national priority studies. Organisations will be expected to pause any studies that impede their ability to contribute to national research efforts.

Will NIHR's Clinical Research Network offer any support for local/single site COVID-19 studies that have not been nationally prioritised?

The Clinical Research Network has a reduced research delivery workforce, in large part due to redeployment of staff to the NHS frontline, and is focusing support on the nationally-prioritised COVID-19 studies. If there is any available capacity, local networks may support other portfolio studies provided they do not negatively impact on the health and care system's ability to support nationally-prioritised COVID-19 research, including factors such as staff, samples, data and clinical supplies.

How long does it take for applications for funding and/or support to be processed?

These are highly expedited processes but there are a great many applications being submitted. For studies that are already funded, the process can take as little as five working days.

If my study is not prioritised by the Urgent Public Health group, might it be reconsidered at a later date?

Potentially, yes. There have been a couple of instances where a study has not initially been prioritised but, as the situation evolves and priorities change, has subsequently received Urgent PUBLIC Health Research status. There have also been instances where a study protocol has been significantly revised to meet the criteria of the Urgent Public Health Group.  

Will data arising from the studies be open access?

The NIHR is a signatory alongside other funders, researchers and publishers committing to ensure that research findings and data relevant to COVID-19 are shared rapidly and openly. Full details of this commitment can be found here.