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

Recovery, Renewal, Reset: Research to inform policy responses to COVID-19 in the health and social care systems - Guidance for Applicants



Before applying for this call, please consider the following:

1. We invite applications for research to inform the policy response to challenges posed by COVID-19; and to capture learning arising from the pandemic. Please only apply to this initiative if your proposal is for research on a national policy question, to inform system recovery from COVID-19 pandemic. Topics are outlined below, and may be updated in the “New Priorities Highlights” section above. Research on basic science, clinical issues, and on specific social care and health service delivery may be suitable for other NIHR and UKRI programmes. If you are unsure which route to apply to please contact: Please check for appropriate funding programmes via the NIHR website.

2. This strategic research initiative should provide timely evidence to inform policy decisions on recovery from the initial crisis, and to mitigate longer-term impacts on individuals, health and social care systems [In this document “social care” refers to adult social care within remit of the Department for Health and Social Care], and wider society. We invite research which will capture lessons, positive and negative, from the rapid changes accomplished to meet the initial challenge of COVID-19. This includes accessing health and adult social care, safety and regulation, workforce, service configuration, public health, and adult social care issues.

3. Funding will be available initially for three commissioning rounds, to be allocated flexibly across projects on the topics set out in this document. We are expecting to fund policy research with costs unlikely to greatly exceed £500,000 for the larger projects; and anticipating more projects towards the £50,000 level, suitable to be fast-tracked. Higher-cost or higher risk projects will be subject to additional peer review.

4. We would particularly like to fund projects that will complete or produce early outputs in 2020, in time to inform policy and funding decisions related to recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. No projects are expected to last more than 24 months.

5. We invite outline proposals for the topic areas set out in this document using the NIHR PRP Stage 1 form specific to this call. After triage to ensure fit with this initiative, proposals will be assessed by an independent expert committee. Some proposals may be selected for immediate fast-track commissioning whilst others may be required to proceed to a further stage with more details requested, based on advice and feedback from the expert committee.

This research is required urgently. Applicants will be expected to start their projects as soon as is feasible once funding decisions are announced.

Section 1: Application Summary Information

Host Organisation

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

Research Title

The programme 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

Note this should be from the 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

Complete your name, contact details and other requested information.

Section 3: Lead Applicant Research Background

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. Your publications can be added by going to "My Research Outputs", where they can be added manually or imported using your ORCiD ID (see the System Help for more information on this). You can then select which publications you wish to highlight in the application form.

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 been previously 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.

Please provide more information

To minimise burdens on peer reviewers and other duplication of effort we need to know if the application has been submitted elsewhere and you must be as open about this as possible.

Where this application or a similar one has been submitted any other call (whether NIHR or another funder) please click the ‘Add’ button and complete the necessary information.

Failure to disclose accurately and fully any facts that on coming to light could embarrass NIHR or the research team will be considered by the programme as academic misconduct and treated accordingly. This includes things such as having a financial interest in the areas to be researched.

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.


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


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.

PPI Lead

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. Examples of the activities a PPI lead might undertake can be found here.

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 other practitioners, researchers and policy officials 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 the 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 committee members) to have a better understanding of your research proposal
b) inform others about your research such as members of the public, health and social care 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 / 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:

a) aim(s) of the research
b) background to the research
c) design and methods used
d) patient and public involvement
e) target audience (especially policy) and 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 committee, you should ensure that the information is accurate, succinct, clearly laid out and provides sufficient methodological detail.

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.

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/service users, carers 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 an explanation of the problem to be addressed, drawing on previous relevant literature, its scale (if appropriate) and the wider policy context that will be informed by the outputs of the study.

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 Specification. It is essential that you clearly identify the health, care and/or system needs your research meets or contributes to. Please outline the anticipated value or contribution the study will provide and the likely policy impact over the course of the project and following completion.

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

  • 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, including for example review of existing evidence, or any pilot or feasibility studies.

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.

4. What is the research question /aims and objectives?
Summarise the research question and aims of your research.

5. Team experience and expertise
Briefly 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
The project plan should cover all of the following elements:

Research plan and methodology
Provide an expert summary of the plan of investigation, including for example key milestones/deliverables, methods (with adequate justifications), approach to patient and public involvement proportionate to the investment, plus any additional points required to support statements made in the previous sections. Please describe clearly how each of the research aims and questions will be addressed by the methodology. Include any key references required to justify the point made (e.g. in the use of a particular outcome measure or method of analysis).

Management arrangements and collaborations
Describe how your project will be managed and governed. Indicate how the research team will be organised and any relevant collaborations that are in place. Please also indicate how the research team might draw on further expertise available in the NIHR and the wider research community. Clearly outline the main risks and challenges, as well as mitigating actions, in delivering the proposed work, drawing analogies with past experience where appropriate.

Plans for policy engagement, dissemination and impact
Provide details of the likely audience / policy customer for your research. Provide details too, of how you will actively engage with policy customers. There is an expectation that research teams will engage with policy makers throughout the research journey, providing interim updates and preliminary findings, and not solely at the end of the research. If available, provide evidence of support for the proposed research, and outline how you foresee the expected outputs to impact at a policy level.

Provide a reasoned approach to dissemination and policy engagement, paying particular attention to the needs of the target audience and how these will be met. Describe who you need to communicate with and your plans for engaging relevant audiences. In the context of the Policy Research Programme, it will be particularly important to consider how research findings will be made relevant to policy makers in the Department of Health and Social Care and Arms Length Bodies, and how the results will be contextualised in the existing work and policy debates currently going on. Please note that the absence of a policy debate does not necessarily indicate an issue is not important. In these circumstances, we would welcome consideration of ways in which your proposed work could be brought to the attention of relevant audiences. Evidence of, or plans for, achieving early policy buy-in are essential.

Outline the skills and experience that your project team can offer to ensure the outputs and findings from your research have the desired impacts.

Indicative costs
Provide indicative costs for undertaking the research and supporting activities (e.g. PPI, dissemination), along with a high level justification for the resources required. This will be used by the Committee in their assessment of value for money.

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. 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 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.