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RfPB Under-represented disciplines and specialisms highlight notice: Allied Health Professionals - Call Specification

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Published: 04 December 2023

Version: 2.0 - February 2024

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Summary

  • The Research for Patient Benefit (RfPB) programme has launched a series of highlight notices in support of the NIHR strategy to strengthen the careers of under-represented disciplines and specialisms
  • The third highlight notice of this initiative is inviting applications led by allied health professionals.
  • All applications to this call should be led by one of the 14 allied health professionals listed by NHS England, including art therapists, dietitians, dramatherapists, music therapists, occupational therapists, operating department practitioners, orthoptists, osteopaths, paramedics, physiotherapists, podiatrists, prosthetists/orthotists, radiographers, speech and language therapists.
  • To support capacity building, all applications to this call must be led by an allied health professional at an early stage of their research career*. They can apply as either the lead or the joint lead applicant together with a senior colleague fulfilling the role of mentor and joint lead applicant. The joint lead mentor can have any relevant professional background as long as they are experienced researchers in a field relevant to the proposed research. We are keen to encourage novel ideas from new researchers and appropriate applications are welcomed from those with limited research experience when supported by an experienced, strong and multi-disciplinary team. 
  • The call offers researchers considerable flexibility to focus on any subject area or topic provided the application is within RfPB remit. Please note that topics around workforce including staff retention are in scope for this call as long as the trajectory to patient benefit is clearly outlined. 
  • Our funding decisions are based on several criteria including quality, timeliness, potential impact and value for money. 
  • The call is for proposals up to £500,000 for a period of up to three years. The RfPB tiered approach to funding limits according to the trajectory to patient benefit also applies to this call. 
  • This call launches on 13 December 2023 and applicants must submit their expression of interest by 26 March 2024 at 5 pm, ahead of submission of the Stage 1 application. The submission deadline for applications is on 24 April 2024 at 1 pm. Applications should be submitted using the online form on the Research Management System (RMS). Applicants are strongly encouraged to start completing the online form on RMS as soon as possible.
  • We hosted an online webinar with a live Q and A session on Monday 15 January 2024. The recording is now available below.
  • Do you have a research idea and not sure how to turn it into a funding application? The Research Support Service (RSS) provides free advice to  health and social care researchers across England on all aspects of developing and writing funding applications. Find out how the RSS can help with your application.
  • Please note that the programme is planning to continue running highlight notices addressing under-represented disciplines and specialisms with a fourth call addressing other registered health and care professionals.

*For this highlight notice, an early career researcher is a researcher who has not yet been the lead investigator for a substantial project award (>£100,000). This excludes personal awards and fellowships.

Background

In a recent review of the RfPB programme’s funded portfolio, we found that the majority of applicants funded by RfPB, both in lead and co-applicant roles, are medically qualified professionals. Furthermore, other professions such as allied health professionals, methodologists, nurses and midwives and other registered health and care professionals lead RfPB-funded projects less frequently (Table 1). 

Table 1. Overview of the professional background of RfPB-funded applicants, based on an analysis of 3,660 applicants. The majority (42%) of the funded applicants are medically qualified followed by methodologists (36%). Other registered health and care professionals constitute 9%, nurses and midwives 8% and allied health professionals 5%.

Professional backgroundPercentage of funded applicantsRole as percentage of funded applicants within a professional background
LeadCo-applicant
Allied health professional 5% 23% 77%
Medically qualified 42% 27% 73%
Methodologist 36% 11% 89%
Nurse and midwife 8% 19% 81%
Other registered health and care professional 9% 24% 76%

Lack of opportunity to demonstrate independent research leadership may limit access to career progression for those who are not medically qualified. To address this, RfPB has announced a series of strategic funding calls aiming at strengthening the careers for research delivery staff and focusing on under-represented disciplines and specialisms. We expect to enrich the breadth of the RfPB portfolio with projects conceptualised from the diverse perspective these professions will bring.

The RfPB programme is now launching a call for allied health professionals. For the purpose of this highlight notice we align with the NHS England’s list of 14 allied health professions, including art therapists, dietitians, dramatherapists, music therapists, occupational therapists, operating department practitioners, orthoptists, osteopaths, paramedics, physiotherapists, podiatrists, prosthetists/orthotists, radiographers, speech and language therapists.

The RfPB programme is researcher-led and does not specify topics for research, so applications can be primary, secondary and evidence synthesis research and include quantitative, qualitative, mixed methods, and economic model designs.

Below is a selection of RfPB-funded awards led by allied health professionals. They showcase various study designs and research settings and are led by allied health professionals at different career stages.

Scope

Applications should be within RfPB scope and be led by a researcher with an allied health professional background. We will welcome applications that focus on the research priorities identified by the relevant research communities (see some examples in the links below).

Applications should be co-produced with service commissioners, providers and service users wherever appropriate to better ensure findings are of immediate utility in policy and practice. Applicants may wish to consult the briefing notes for researchers - public involvement in NHS, health and social care research.

RfPB is a response mode/researcher-led funding programme for applied health and care research. As such, the research needs to have a demonstrable impact on the health or health care of users of that service. Although the specific research topics are not specified, you are encouraged to read the programme's aims and scope statements. The potential trajectory to patient benefit is a core assessment criteria, so ensure that the patient and/or public benefit arising from the study are clearly outlined. Furthermore, assessments also consider the strength of the research design and methodologies, as well as dissemination strategies that will enhance the likelihood that the results can be rolled out across the health and care sector.

Call details

1) Requirements for applications submitted under the highlight notice:

  • Standard eligibility rules will apply as detailed in the applicant guidance.
  • Lead applicants should have a background in one of the 14 allied health professions listed by NHS England, including art therapists, dietitians, dramatherapists, music therapists, occupational therapists, operating department practitioners, orthoptists, osteopaths, paramedics, physiotherapists, podiatrists, prosthetists/orthotists, radiographers, speech and language therapists.
    Please note that registration with the relevant professional council is desirable but not required.
  • To support capacity building, all applications to this call must be led by an allied health professional at an early stage of their research career. They can apply as either the lead or joint lead applicant together with a senior colleague fulfilling the role of mentor and joint lead applicant. The joint lead mentor can have any relevant professional background as long as they are experienced researchers in a field relevant to the proposed research. There is no specified academic level or degree required for the experienced senior co-lead applicant. However, the mentor is expected to have led at least one large research project (at a value of >£100,000) and have relevant experience of mentoring an early career researcher. We are keen to encourage novel ideas from new researchers and appropriate applications are welcomed from those with limited research experience when supported by an experienced, strong and multi-disciplinary team.
  • Host eligibility will include an NHS body or other provider of NHS services in England. Other relevant organisations and authorities are permitted as co-applicants but not as host/lead organisations.

2) Funding

The call is for applications up to £500,000 (100% direct costs for NHS and 80% full Economic Cost (fEC) for HEI) for a period of up to three years. Detailed information on eligible costs can be found in the RfPB’s Finance guidance.

RfPB operates a tiered funding system, which reflects the likelihood of achieving patient benefit. Each application will need to provide a robust case for value for money.

How to apply

Application process and assessment criteria

  • The applications submitted under this highlight notice will undergo routine scrutiny and will be assessed on their quality and individual merits according to standard RfPB scheme criteria. Reviewers will also be asked to consider if applications are in scope of the highlight notice.
  • Applications will be considered by a cross-disciplinary expert assessment. Assessors will be drawn from existing RfPB Committees, and additional experts as appropriate. The assessors will be weighted towards experts with an allied health professional background.
  • A two stage application process will apply to applications submitted under this notice. Stage 1 applications will be reviewed by assessors and undergo a triage process, with the highest scoring applications invited to submit a Stage 2 application. Recommendations for funding of Stage 2 applications will be made at the Committee meeting. Applicants must submit an online application via the RMS. Templates of Stage 1 and Stage 2 application forms are available. To assist the funders in preparing for peer review, research teams should submit their expression of interest by 26 March 2024 at 5 pm via this form. Please note that the expression of interest will not be part of the assessment process and it will not be necessary for it to summarise the fully developed application.

Call Timetable

ActivityTime
Call launch
 13 December 2023
Webinar 15 January 2024 at 2 pm
Expression of interest  26 March 2024 at 5 pm
Stage 1 call close 24 April 2024 at 1 pm
Invited to Stage 2 decision   July 2024
Stage 2 call close October 2024
Funding decisions  January 2025

Please contact urdrfpb@nihr.ac.uk for further queries.

Webinar

View the AHP webinar held on 15 January 2024, hosted by the RfPB team at NIHR. We will soon publish the updated FAQ document, including questions raised at the webinar.

Do you have a research idea and not sure how to turn it into a funding application? The Research Support Service (RSS) supports health and social care researchers across England on all aspects of developing and writing funding applications. Find out how the RSS can help with your application.

Background documents