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Research Support Service Specialist Centre for Public Health

Hosted jointly by the RSS Hubs delivered by Newcastle University and Partners and University of Southampton and Partners

The NIHR RSS Specialist Centre for Public Health aims to support the generation of high quality research evidence needed to inform decisions about which interventions have the greatest likelihood of improving population health and reducing health inequalities.

The Specialist Centre for Public Health is hosted jointly by the RSS Hubs delivered by Newcastle University and Partners and University of Southampton and Partners. They are working together to create a single access point for your research support requests. Meanwhile, a summary of what is offered by each and how to access their services can be found below.

Specialist Centre for Public Health: Newcastle University and Partners

The Specialist Centre for Public Health delivered by Newcastle University and Partners is led by Professor Ashley Adamson. The team has internationally recognised leadership in the support and conduct of public health research in a range of settings outside the NHS and healthcare. They are experienced in delivering research with Local Authorities, understanding some of the challenges this brings. Specialist centre staff have worked with individuals and research teams to develop and submit research and fellowship applications, helping secure funding for research to improve the health of the public. The team includes those who have supported NIHR Public Health Research Programme calls through the Public Health Applications and Design Advice (PHRADA ) service. They also have insight into what is needed to foster a research culture in local authorities and are committed to supporting the development of this.

The centre is a member of Fuse, a partnership of academics and public health practitioners. The team is also part of the NIHR Public Health Intervention Responsive Study Team (PHIRST) and the NIHR School for Public Health Research (SPHR). They bring experience of partnership working to this new Specialist Centre for Public Health, which is part of the RSS Hub delivered by Newcastle University and Partners.

The service will include three satellites across England each with research support capability. These will ensure the delivery of an excellent service with awareness of regional needs and priorities. The first satellite is in Yorkshire and Humber, hosted by the Bradford Institute of Health Research. It is led by Professor Jane West, a Public Health Consultant and national lead for public health in the NIHR Clinical Research Network (CRN). Through this she has unique insights into the support needs of public health research.

Two further satellites will be established during the next 12-18 months, one in the Midlands and one to the South of England.

Current support available

This specialist centre aims to provide a ‘one-stop shop’ to support high quality research to improve the health of the population. They offer support to anyone seeking advice related to carrying out research, in any setting, beyond the NHS. They want to help researchers to develop their ideas and apply for funding to generate evidence to inform decisions about how to improve the health of the population.

Building on experience with the Public Health Research and Design Advice Service PHRADA, the team are able to provide guidance on appropriate research methods and study design, as well as help to identify funding opportunities.

This is a new service. Over the next two to three years it will be developed in order to innovate and provide the full range of skills and expertise needed to support excellent public health research in all settings.

Future development of this centre

This centre is developing additional support for public health research being conducted outside of the NHS. Future support will include:

  • Governance: The current systems which work well in the NHS are not fit for purpose in other organisations like Local Authorities. Over the coming months, the centre will work with users to develop guidance around ethical approval and governance for research in non-NHS settings and establish a database of all relevant ongoing and planned research in this area.
  • Training: Another way in which the centre will be able to foster public health research is by providing access to appropriate training for people with different experience of conducting research in non-NHS settings. This will start with consultation and needs assessment.
  • Funding to support research capability: Direct resource will be provided to support research activity within Local Authorities. This will grow over the coming months and will comprise:
    • Funded Director of Public Health time
    • Public Health Engagement Leads
    • Local Authority Research Practitioners – part time embedded researchers
    • “Grassroots awards” - short awards to allow public health practitioners to become part of an established research team.

Current opportunities

  • Local Authority Research Practitioners (LARPs) - limited call:  this is a closed call for Local Authorities who currently receive funding from NIHR Clinical Research Networks for LARPs. This is to ensure we retain existing skills and valuable knowledge in Local Authorities as the CRN funding draws to a close. If you are eligible to apply, we will have written to your Director of Public Health. A full LARP call open to all Local Authorities will launch in Summer 2024. 
  • Join our mailing list to hear about news, events, and future funding calls.

To contact the Newcastle team directly, email

Specialist Centre for Public Health: University of Southampton and Partners

The Specialist Centre for Public Health delivered by the University of Southampton and Partners is a collaboration between fifteen units making up a team of highly experienced methodologists, researchers and public health practitioners. They are skilled research advisers, providing support in many different methodological areas and contexts for public health research.

Additionally, access is available to other public health researchers and practitioners with national and international track records through partner institutions and networks, to support the development and delivery of high quality public health research.

A full range of support for the development of public health research funding applications is available, from advice on very early research ideas to research design, advice on setting up studies, community partnership and involvement, and collaboration opportunities.

See a list of partners on the RSS Hub delivered by the University of Southampton and Partners page.

Support available

Support is delivered in various ways, including:

  • One-to-one advice
  • Discussion of research ideas, applications and study set-up with our multidisciplinary methodology panels and public health research experts
  • Pre-submission application review
  • Mock interviews
  • Opportunities to meet with partner clinical trials units and other researchers from the network for potential collaboration (for projects), or supervision/mentorship (for fellowships) 
  • Events focused on public health research application development

The team bring expertise in the following core methodological areas: 

  • Quantitative and qualitative study design and analysis, including clinical trials, epidemiology, medical statistics, mixed methods, co-design, health economics, health psychology
  • Patient, public, service user and community involvement and engagement
  • Research design to maximise Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI)

A broad range of support is available for Patient and Public Involvement and Engagement (PPIE) from a dedicated PPIE team. This includes:

  • Advice on funders' requirements relating to PPIE
  • Support identifying and approaching PPIE contributors
  • Support and advice on undertaking community involvement and working with underserved communities
  • Support undertaking novel approaches to PPIE or community engagement
  • Facilitating PPIE sessions and collating feedback
  • Reviewing PPIE sections of research applications
  • Support and advice on addressing challenges relating to EDI and diversity within PPIE
  • Support and advice on innovative PPIE approaches
  • Advice on costing PPIE activities into grant applications
  • Providing Public Involvement Funds to support the payment of pre-grant PPIE activities

Other support includes:

  • Advice on research contracts, governance, ethics, data management and public health research delivery in non-NHS settings
  • Advice in finding funding sources
  • Refining research questions, aims and objectives
  • Planning projects, teams and budgets
  • Impact planning
  • Writing techniques/pitching an application

In addition to the national support offer above, for those interested in public health research within Berkshire, Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Hampshire and Isle of Wight (BOBHI), this centre can also offer: 

  • Bespoke training, events and support to increase capability in public health research
  • Specialist support to facilitate meaningful involvement and collaboration with local populations, particularly within underserved communities
  • A public health research ethics committee
  • Support for the delivery of funded public health research
  • Partnership with local authorities to understand and respond to public health research needs and aspirations and increase public health research capacity.
  • Community research partnerships (including third sector) and network development

Research strengths and areas of interest

In addition to the expertise available in the linked hub, this team brings expertise in the following areas:

  • Economic/social return on investment
  • Governance and ethics
  • Health and social inequalities research
  • Implementation science
  • Public health intelligence
  • Public policy
  • Real-world and realist evaluation
  • Systems research

The team have particular expertise in the following areas:

  • Methods
    • Asset mapping with communities
    • Community participatory research methods
    • Community research networks
    • Geospatial data analysis
    • Intervention co-design
    • Lifecourse epidemiology
    • Peer researchers, youth peer researchers
    • Public health research involving industry partners
    • Science communication / engagement 
    • Use of public health models and frameworks for intervention design
    • Trials/other studies conducted outside the NHS
  •  Subject areas
    • Agency and well-being in young people
    • Food poverty
    • Intersectionality
    • Health and the criminal justice system
    • Nutrition across the life course
    • Maternal and child health
    • Prevention of long term conditions
    • Research with, and for, marginalised groups including people experiencing homelessness, and people who inject drugs
    • Violence prevention

For enquiries please contact

Contact Us

To request advice and information from the RSS Specialist Centre for Public Health, please fill out this online contact form.