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Research Design Service


The RDS has now been replaced by the NIHR Research Support Service. If you are a new client, please visit the Research Support Service page to find out more. The RDS will continue to offer support to existing clients until March 2024.

The RDS provides support to health, social care and public health researchers across England on all aspects of developing and writing a funding application, including research design, research methods, identifying funding sources and involving patients and the public. Advice is confidential and free of charge.

RDS advisers have a wealth of experience and proven track records in supporting high quality funding applications. 

The RDS supports applications not only to NIHR research programmes, but also to other open, national, peer-reviewed funding competitions for applied health or social care research, including research charities. The RDS can support a broad range of familiar quantitative, qualitative and mixed-methods research designs, as well as newer and more novel approaches.

To make the best use of the RDS, contact your regional service at an early stage to discuss your research ideas.

How the RDS can help

The RDS offers high quality, responsive, specialist advice and support on research design and methodology, to researchers making funding applications for submission to NIHR research programmes and national, peer-reviewed funding competitions for applied health or social care research.

The RDS could help your team with:

  • advice on potential funders
  • advice on research ideas
  • access to specialist methodologists to discuss design choices
  • reviewing and formative feedback on draft funding applications
  • interview preparation for fellowships and other personal awards
  • seminars and workshops to promote NIHR funding opportunities
  • advice on public involvement in research
  • funding towards the costs of public involvement in research development

Find out more about working with the RDS. The RDS also offers guidance on public involvement in funding applications and runs events about developing research proposals.

Who the RDS can help

The RDS can help you if you are:

  • developing funding applications for applied health, public health or social care research
  • applying for personal fellowships
  • writing applications to national, open, peer-reviewed funding competitions.

The RDS supports a broad range of people, including:

  • doctors, nurses and allied health professionals
  • patients and service users
  • social care and public health practitioners
  • academics and NHS and social care managers.

The RDS priority is to support applications to NIHR research programmes. They also support applications to research councils and other open, national, peer-reviewed funding programmes.

RDS Resources is a collection of helpful documents, guidance and toolkits that can help support your application. 

Why choose the RDS


RDS research advisers offer a unique breadth of expertise and have a proven track record in improving research applications.


The RDS can help you to identify possible gaps in your research team and collaborators who can add value to your research, including health and social care clinicians, public health practitioners, policy makers, academic researchers, small-to-medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and patients and the public.

Tailored support

The RDS can offer support tailored to the needs of your research team. Advice is available at face-to-face meetings, by telephone or email, at research clinics or as feedback from panel review meetings.

Contact your local RDS

The national RDS network operates from 10 regional centres across England.

Region and websiteEmail addressPhone number
East Midlands Leicester: 0116 252 3276
Nottingham: 0115 970 9310
East of England 01206 874856
London 020 7848 6782
North East and North Cumbria 0191 208 7000 
North West 01524 593 209
South Central 02381 204778
South East 01227 824281
South West 01392 726 724
West Midlands 01214 148533

Yorkshire and the Humber 0114 222 0828


From the RDS Desk

Monthly tips, insights and experiences of the funding application process from the Research Design Service.

Read our RDS blog posts