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Policy Research

Summary

The NIHR funds policy research to enable evidence informed policy making in health and social care.

The NIHR funds high quality and cost-effective research to deliver relevant, timely and accessible evidence to inform national policy decisions across the health, care and public health systems. 

We commission policy research to support the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Ministers, and Senior Officials in the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) and its Arm’s Length Bodies (ALBs), through the Policy Research Programme (PRP).

We fund policy research in four main ways:

  • large-scale initiatives comprising linked groups of studies, or single projects, through open competition
  • long term programmes of research and responsive projects in Policy Research Units (PRUs), based at leading academic institutions
  • syntheses of evidence through a Reviews Facility, based at two centres in London-York and Exeter
  • fast, responsive analysis through the Call-off Analytical Facility

We have funded rapid COVID-19 policy research during the pandemic, through our Recovery, Renewal, Reset funding call and the PRUs. Read more about our COVID-19 policy research projects.

Policy Research Programme

The Policy Research Programme (PRP) funds high quality research to deliver robust, relevant, timely, accessible and intelligible evidence to government and arms-length bodies.

Scope

PRP commissions research across the full policy remit of DHSC. PRP funded research will normally:

  • provide robust evidence to inform policy development and implementation in timely and accessible ways, including assessment of potential impact and cost-effectiveness
  • evaluate policies, including the evaluation of pilots before policies are fully implemented
  • tackle policy priorities and evidence needs over the longer term.

The amount of funding available and the funding duration depends on the requirements of the research specification.

PRP funds research through open competitions that are directly competitive commissioning exercises:

  • funding competitions are open to all suitably qualified potential applicants
  • typically three funding rounds take place each year, each of which has several commissioned funding opportunities
  • each funding opportunity specifies the objectives, available budget, and application process. 

PRP has a two stage application process.  At each stage, applications are peer reviewed and the scientific quality and relevance of applications are assessed by an independent funding committee. Please see the guidance for stage 1 and stage 2 applications, and the Standard Information for Applicants, to find out more.

Research proposals are submitted online through the Research Management System. We supply template application forms for stage 1 and stage 2 to help researchers prepare their proposal ahead of submission. 

What we fund

PRP-funded policy research should:

  • Be flexible and open to regular input from policy stakeholders. Demonstrable experience of meaningful engagement with policy makers is often a pre-requisite for funding.
  • Provide new knowledge needed to improve or evaluate services or policies.
  • Ensure findings will be of value to those facing similar problems elsewhere in the health, care and public health systems - that is, be generalisable.

The Policy Research Programme will support:

  • Formative and summative evaluations
  • Clinical trials
  • Longitudinal studies
  • Secondary analyses
  • Systematic reviews
  • Multi-study research initiatives (linked groups of studies providing a range of perspectives on a key policy area or issue).

The programme will not support:

  • Animal studies or work on animal tissues
  • Experimental medicine research
  • Market research, large scale population surveys
  • Local service development, clinical evaluation of clinical audit.

 

View the Policy Research Programme portfolio

Policy Research Units

NIHR Policy Research Units (PRUs) undertake research to inform government and arms-length bodies making policy decisions about health and social care. 

The units provide both a long-term resource for policy research and a rapid-response service to provide evidence for emerging policy needs. The units also offer advice to policy makers and analysts on the evidence base and options for policy development.

Each university-based PRU hosts a multidisciplinary team of researchers from collaborating institutions.

15 units were funded over 2018-2023.

In January 2024, 20 new Policy Research Units  began work, with a total investment of £100m over 5 years.

NIHR PRUs 2024-2028

For information on collaborating institutions involved in each PRU, please see our full list.

Specific conditions

Priority areaHost institution
Cancer Awareness, Screening and Early Diagnosis University College London
Healthy Weight University College London
Mental Health University College London
Addictions King's College London
Reproductive Health University College London
Dementia and Neurodegeneration Queen Mary University of London
Dementia and Neurodegeneration  University of Exeter

Life stages

Priority areaHost institution
Maternal and Neonatal Health and Care University of Oxford
Children and Families UCL Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health
Healthy Ageing University of Newcastle Upon Tyne
Palliative and End of Life Care King's College London

Specialisms

Priority areaHost institution
Economics of Health and Social Care Systems University of York
Economic Methods of Evaluation in Health and Care Interventions University of York
Policy Innovation and Evaluation London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
Behavioural and Social Sciences University of Newcastle Upon Tyne

System directed

Priority areaHost institution
Quality, Safety and Outcomes of Health and Social Care University of Kent
Health and Social Care Workforce King's College London
Health and Social Care Systems and Commissioning University of Manchester
Public Health London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
Adult Social Care London School of Economics

Our people

The Policy Research Programme assesses research proposals for funding through its core committee. The committee is chaired by a leading academic and is composed of a core membership of academics, professionals, and patients and members of the public drawn from a variety of areas. The committee is often supported by academic subject experts relevant to each separate application.

The committee recommends projects for funding to the Department of Health and Social Care, which approves which projects should be funded.

Members of NIHR Committees are required to declare any interests which conflict, or may be considered to conflict, with NIHR business, or may be perceived as influencing decisions made in the course of their work within NIHR programmes. All members are asked to complete the Register of Interest form (annually), which is intended to capture long term predictable interests that could be perceived to lead to conflicts of interest. These and other interests are judged on a case by case basis at individual meetings.

NIHR registry of interests

Our Committee Chair

Professor Karen Bloor is chair of the Policy Research Programme funding committee.

Our funding committee

See the full membership of the Policy Research Programme funding committee.

Contact us

We offer a wide variety of assistance during all stages of the research process. If in doubt, please get in touch.

Tel: 020 3692 7986
Email: prp@nihr.ac.uk

Our operating hours are 9.00am to 5.00pm

NIHR 
Grange House
15 Church Street
Twickenham TW1 3NL

Do you need help getting started? Contact the Research Support Service.

Do you need assistance running your study in the NHS? Contact the Study Support Service.

Policy Research Programme COVID-19 research

The Policy Research Programme has supplied rapid funding for COVID-19 research and supported COVID-19 research through existing funding to Policy Research Units.

Read about our COVID-19 policy research

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