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Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) highlight notice - Q&A from networking event


Published: 14 January 2021

Version: 1.0 - April 2020

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The Research for Patient Benefit (RfPB) programme held the Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) highlight notice launch and networking event on 7 December 2020.

This webinar featured talks from:

  • RfPB senior programme manager Dr Kasia Kuleszewicz giving an overview of the RfPB programme and introducing the rules and criteria of the COPD highlight notice.
  • Professor of Respiratory Medicine John Hurst, University College London, giving an introduction to COPD and identifying research gaps.
  • Mr Krisnah Poinasamy, External Affairs Manager, Mr Ian Jarrold, Deputy Head of Research and Innovation and Ms. Danielle Roe, Patient and Public Involvement Manager at the British Lung Foundation and Asthma UK Partnership giving an introduction to the charity and presenting how the charity can support applicants to the highlight notice.
  • Mrs Morag Burton, Chief Operating Officer, and Mrs Deborah Jackson, Research Operations Manager at Clinical Research Network North East and North Cumbria giving an overview of the Clinical Research Network North East and North Cumbria and presenting the prevalence of COPD in England.
  • Professor Helen Hancock, Director of Research Design Service North East and North Cumbria (RDS NENC) giving an overview of the RDS NENC and presenting how the service can support applicants to the highlight notice.

The webinar also included a Question and Answer session. Please see below for a list of frequently asked questions and the responses.

Collaboration session led by Dr Kate Holmes, Head of Collaborations at the NIHR Office for Clinical Research Infrastructure (NOCRI), and one-to-one sessions with RDS, CRN, and RfPB advisors for researchers.

Eligibility criteria

Q: I am a researcher based in London. Does it mean that I can only be a collaborator on a research project submitted under this highlight notice but not a lead applicant? 

Q: I am an early career researcher based in Derby. Am I eligible to apply under this highlight notice?

The key themes for the COPD highlight notice are the focus on the North East region, conducting research where the patient burden is and capacity building, which all link to the programme’s strategic priorities. We encourage establishing national collaborations and so researchers from regions other than the North East can be co-applicants or collaborators in projects submitted under this highlight notice but we require that the research is hosted by institutions in the North East region, where the patient burden is. 

Q: Could an academic/clinician be a co-applicant on more than one grant application under this highlight notice?

Yes, the same researcher can be a co-applicant or a lead applicant on more than one application.

Q: Can Ph.D. students apply as ECRs?

According to our definition of an early career researcher, it is one who has not yet been the principal investigator for a substantial award of at least £100,000+. Ph.D. students can be considered early career researchers and can apply as the lead applicants. However, it should be noted that the research funding would not cover tuition fees or stipends, but only the cost of the time commitment to a project.

Patient and public involvement

Q: Is there a 'patient-centric' announcement about this call that we can share with potential non-academic non-clinical partners?

The British Lung Foundation and Asthma UK Partnership will work with the RfPB programme team on the patient-centric announcement, as part of encouraging applications and collaborations. 

Q: Would the British Lung Foundation and Asthma UK Partnership be able to help to distribute patient surveys via their organisation?

The British Lung Foundation and Asthma UK Partnership is keen to support the creation of the survey as well as support its distribution among relevant patient populations. If this support is of interest, please get in touch with the charity directly via

Application process

Q: Researchers putting grant applications together will generally be quite confidential about it. How would it be possible to find out what other research teams are planning to investigate in order to combine forces and collaborate?

The COPD highlight notice launch and networking event was organised for this reason and we hope it was helpful to meet potential collaborators and get to know what other teams are working on. 


Q: How will the collaborations work in practice? Does the research team need to contact CRN with interest in the topic and would they pass it onto colleagues with an interest in the topic area?

This is likely to be dealt with on a case by case basis. Researchers are encouraged to contact CRN and RDS with their topic of interest. Based on this, CRN will be able to identify other researchers who work in a similar field, bearing in mind confidentiality. CRN will also be able to help with finding appropriate recruitment sites.

Q: Is there a requirement to involve collaborators from outside of the North East region as well as from within?

Q: Can we include a research site outside of the NE as well as one across NE?

There is no mandatory requirement to include collaborators from outside of the North East region. However, the decision of whether to involve collaborators from outside of the region should reflect the scope, size, and design of the proposed research. For example, if a multi-center trial is being proposed it is likely that collaborators from outside of the North East region will be necessary and beneficial, while small-scale research or one with a more developmental nature may be conducted and delivered within the region.

Q: Can there be patient recruitment sites outside of the North East region?

The focus of this highlight notice is on the North East region and we expect the majority of research i.e. delivery and patient recruitment to take place there. However, we encourage prospective applicants to use the Research Targeting Tool to identify regions with high COPD prevalence also outside of the North East region. Including these sites would be acceptable as long as there is a strong justification for recruitment from that region.

Q: How many grants will be funded under this highlight notice?

This is the priority call for the RfPB and all the projects of sufficiently high quality and with clear patient benefit will be recommended for funding. 

CRN and RDS support

Q: When is the right time to approach the CRN to ensure that study delivery is feasible, providing that the study will be funded?

It is recommended that the research team gets in touch with CRN as early as possible, even at the preliminary stage of planning the project. CRN North East and North Cumbria (CRN NENC) has a pot of strategic funding allocated to cover the time to support early career researchers (ECRs) applying under the COPD highlight notice. ECRs have to be based in the North East region to be eligible for the funding that is available until the end of this financial year (April 2021). Further information will be advertised on the CRN NENC website.

Q: We have a study protocol developed. What are the following steps? What support will be provided?

Prospective applicants are encouraged to contact the local RDS for the initial assessment and advice. Advisors from the NIHR Research Design Service (RDS) will direct and link the research team with appropriate people at CRN, with PPI members, or relevant charities. Furthermore, they will be able to help build a strong research team and identify what specialistic advice the team might need (e.g. statistics, qualitative, etc.). RDS advisors will guide on using correct terminology throughout the grant application and help with plain English summary.  

Slides for all three webinars are available on request, by emailing