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NIHR launches new national service to support researchers at every stage of their research journey

Published: 02 October 2023

The NIHR has awarded £97.5 million over five years to fund its new Research Support Service. The RSS provides free and confidential support, advice and expertise for all researchers in England working across the remit of the NIHR.

The funding includes £30m for specialist centres to provide expertise in public health research.

The service will support researchers, and those aspiring to be involved in research. The RSS provides support at every stage, from pre-application through to post-award delivery.

The NIHR Research Support Service (RSS) is a national service. This allows it to offer the most effective and consistent support for researchers. Health and care researchers can access expert support, independent of their geographic location.

The RSS replaces the NIHR Research Design Service (RDS) and support funding for Clinical Trials Units (CTUs), which came to an end on 30 September 2023. The RDS will continue to support existing clients until March 2024.

The NIHR RSS is available to researchers based in England. Researchers based in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland who are seeking support should continue to access their own national services.

Delivery and core services

The NIHR RSS is delivered collaboratively through eight RSS hubs across England. Each hub is a partnership of research groups and organisations. After contacting an RSS hub, researchers will be referred to experts within the network who are best placed to provide the support they need.

Specialist centres will offer expertise and support for public health and social care research.

The core services offered by the NIHR RSS include:

  • Pre and post-award advice from methodologists. This includes statisticians, qualitative researchers, health economists, social scientists, behavioural scientists, clinical trialists and others with expertise in study development
  • Advice on patient and public involvement and engagement
  • Advice on developing and delivering inclusive research
  • Support for clinical trial development and delivery
  • Opportunities to collaborate with centres of research excellence in the development and delivery of projects
  • Signposting to other sources of advice and support to facilitate research delivery. This includes NIHR Clinical Research Facilities. It also includes Clinical Trials Units, the Health Research Authority and Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA)

The NIHR RSS works in partnership with the NIHR Clinical Research Network (CRN) to help researchers plan and deliver their projects at study sites, including within the NHS. This support is provided by the NIHR Study Support Service (SSS). The RSS will direct supported researchers to the SSS when appropriate. This includes attributing study activities at the funding and approvals stage using the national standard of the Schedule of Events Cost Attribution Tool (SoECAT).

An NIHR RSS National Collaborative Strategic Lead Function will be established during 2024 to provide strategic leadership across all the hubs. This will also allow the RSS to benefit from central coordination and operational efficiencies.

Professor Marian Knight, Scientific Director for NIHR Infrastructure, said: “At NIHR we know that funding the best health, public health and social care research requires effective support for researchers to help develop their projects and ensure they lead to real impact for patients and the public. The RSS will allow us to offer comprehensive expert support at all stages to researchers all over England, to ensure that publicly-funded research is the best it can be.”

NIHR RSS 2023-2028

RSS Hub Partners

The hubs listed below deliver a national service. Experts based in a particular hub can support researchers anywhere in England depending on their needs. Hubs are partnering with specific Clinical Trials Units (CTUs) to deliver their service. However, this does not restrict which CTU researchers can be affiliated to in delivering their research.

NIHR Research Support Service (RSS) Hub delivered by the University of Birmingham and Partners:

  • Keele University
  • University of Warwick

NIHR Research Support Service (RSS) Hub delivered by Imperial College London and Partners:

  • University College London
  • Queen Mary University of London
  • King's College London

NIHR Research Support Service (RSS) Hub delivered by King's College London and Partners:

  • Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust
  • University College London
  • University of Oxford
  • University of Leeds

NIHR Research Support Service (RSS) Hub and Specialist Centre for Social Care delivered by the University of Lancaster and Partners:

  • The University of Manchester
  • University of Liverpool
  • Manchester Metropolitan University

NIHR Research Support Service (RSS) Hub delivered by the University of Leicester and Partners:

  • Loughborough University
  • Derbyshire County Council
  • Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust
  • Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust
  • University Hospitals of Derby and Burton NHS Foundation Trust
  • University of Lincoln
  • University of Nottingham

NIHR Research Support Service (RSS) Hub delivered by Newcastle University and Partners:

  • University of Durham
  • University of Cumbria
  • Teesside University
  • University of Northumbria at Newcastle
  • University of Sunderland
  • Newcastle City Council
  • Gateshead Metropolitan Borough Council
  • Middlesbrough Council
  • North of England Commissioning Support Unit

NIHR RSS Specialist Centre for Public Health, part of the RSS Hub delivered by Newcastle University and Partners:

  • North of England Commissioning Service
  • Middlesbrough Council
  • South Tyneside Council
  • Newcastle Health Determinants Research Collaboration
  • Gateshead Health Determinants Research Collaboration
  • South Tees Health Determinants Research Collaboration
  • North East and North Cumbria Applied Research Collaboration
  • University of Sheffield
  • Bradford Institute of Health Research
  • University of York

NIHR Research Support Service (RSS) Hub delivered by the University of Southampton and Partners:

  • University of Portsmouth
  • University of Oxford
  • Oxford Brookes University
  • Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
  • Somerset NHS Foundation Trust

NIHR RSS Specialist Centre for Public Health delivered by the University of Southampton and Partners:

  • University of Oxford
  • Somerset NHS Foundation Trust
  • Oxfordshire County Council
  • Portsmouth City Council
  • Hampshire County Council
  • Southampton City Council

NIHR Research Support Service (RSS) Hub delivered by the University of York and Partners:

  • University of Sheffield
  • University of Leeds

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