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Research Support Service

Free support for researchers to apply for funding, and to develop and deliver clinical and applied research 

The NIHR Research Support Service (RSS) provides free and confidential advice to develop funding applications within the remit of the NIHR, including clinical, applied health and social care research, and post-award advice to award holders. Access to support, advice and expertise is available for all researchers across England applying to NIHR research programmes or research training awards as well as to non-NIHR funders such as charities.

The RSS replaces the NIHR Research Design Service (RDS) and support funding for Clinical Trials Units (CTU) which came to an end on 30 September 2023. 

Support in health, public health and social care research 

The RSS is delivered collaboratively through eight hubs, each a partnership of research groups and organisations. 

All hubs support a broad range of research designs, from pre-application through to post-award delivery, as well as providing specialist topic or methods expertise. There are also specialist centres with expertise in public health and social care research.

RSS support includes:

  • pre and post award advice from methodologists, including statisticians, qualitative researchers, health economists, social scientists, behavioural scientists, clinical trialists and others with expertise in research designs, approaches and methods of analysis
  • advice on study development and delivery
  • advice on patient and public involvement, and on developing and delivering inclusive research
  • opportunities to collaborate with centres of research excellence
  • signposting to other sources of advice and support including Clinical Trials Units and the NIHR Clinical Research Network Study Support Service.

Getting started - accessing research support 

The NIHR Research Support Service operates nationally. Researchers should approach the RSS Hub they believe best meets their needs, to access the most appropriate support independent of their location.  Start by looking through each summary below to begin selection of the hub to explore in more detail - or choose the public health or social care options.  Please do not contact multiple hubs.

If you have a general question about the RSS you can contact the National Collaborative team on

If you want support with a funding application, please contact one of the RSS Hubs directly.

RSS Hub delivered by University of Birmingham and Partners

Delivered by the University of Birmingham and Partners at Keele and Warwick Universities, including the Birmingham, Keele and Warwick Clinical Trials Units. Staff have a wide range of methodological expertise, including design and
delivery of observational research and trials.

RSS Hub delivered by Imperial College London and Partners

Supports applicants from all disciplines and levels of expertise to design and deliver high quality and efficient research to improve health and social care. 

RSS Hub delivered by King's College London and Partners

Supports research in mental health and brain disorders, across a range of research designs including clinical trials and observational studies. This hub brings together experts in research methodology and clinicians in psychiatry, psychology and neuroscience. 

RSS Hub delivered by Lancaster University and Partners

In partnership with the Universities of Liverpool (including Liverpool Clinical Trials Centre), Manchester and Manchester Metropolitan, this hub offers a broad range of methodological expertise and research support from world-leading interdisciplinary experts to support the design and delivery of inclusive, co-produced, environmentally sustainable research, on and with under-researched topics and communities.

RSS Hub delivered by University of Leicester and Partners

In partnership with the Clinical Trials Units in Derby, Lincoln and Nottingham, the Universities of Lincoln, Loughborough and Nottingham, and Nottingham University NHS Trust, Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust and Derbyshire County Council, this hub supports research across the full breadth of specialisms, designs and funders.

RSS Hub delivered by Newcastle University and Partners

Supports research across the full breadth of specialisms, designs, and funders, including studies involving under-researched sectors. Hosted in Newcastle University’s Population Health Sciences Institute, the hub sits within a world class research, health care and training ecosystem, recognised by its Academic Health Science Centre, Newcastle Health Innovation Partners. 

RSS Hub delivered by University of Southampton and Partners

In partnership with the University of Oxford, Oxford Brookes University, Oxford Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, and the University of Portsmouth, this hub welcomes support requests from novice through to experienced researchers in all areas of applied health and care research. This hub especially welcomes requests for support in public health research conducted outside of the NHS, and other under-researched areas.

RSS Hub delivered by University of York and Partners

Provides methodological expertise, research advice and collaboration across a range of study designs, topics and settings including NHS primary and secondary care, community and third sector.

RSS Specialist Centre for Public Health

The NIHR RSS Specialist Centre for Public Health works nationally to support the development of research capacity and capability to enable practitioners, researchers and anyone working outside of the NHS to carry out high quality public health research. Their expert team provides pre-award application advice tailored to researchers' needs and post-funding support. They can also offer training, support with governance and ethics and resource to support research in Local Authorities.

RSS Specialist Centre for Social Care

The NIHR RSS Specialist Centre for Social Care brings together world-leading interdisciplinary experts with a broad range of experience in social care research, working nationally to support researchers across the full range of social care services and settings. The centre provides a breadth of methodological expertise and research support to researchers of all levels and experience, to design and deliver innovative social care research that is inclusive, co-produced and environmentally sustainable.

Are you new to NIHR?

Find out more about applying for funding from NIHR

RDS resources

A collection of helpful documents, guidance and toolkits built up by the RDS (now replaced by the RSS) to support applications

NIHR Study Support Service

The RSS works in partnership with the NIHR Clinical Research Network. Together, we support study design, ensuring studies are optimised for delivery at sites. The RSS will direct the researchers they are supporting to the Study Support Service (SSS) for more delivery-related advice.

Researchers should contact the SSS for support to attribute study activities during the funding stage. This is through the completion of a Schedule of Events Cost Attribution Tool (SoECAT). This is the national tool which confirms service support and excess treatment attributions. The SSS can also advise on national study feasibility and deliverability in Health and Social Care settings. Once a study has started, continued support from the SSS is available to help alleviate challenges to recruitment and/or delays.