At the NIHR, we are committed to improving our working methods and making it easier for people to work with us.
One of our operating principles, set out in Best Research for Best Health: The Next Chapter, is 'effectiveness'.
We are committed to:
- continuous improvement
- finding ways to simplify and streamline our processes
- improving our communications and accessibility
- harnessing the power of digital technology
- enhancing people’s experience of working with and for us
There is a strong drive across the UK research system and government to reduce unnecessary bureaucracy and allow the research community to concentrate on delivering high-quality research. We welcomed and contributed to the Independent Review of Research Bureaucracy, which identified the need to greatly reduce bureaucracy.
We have set out ambitious initiatives to ensure we have optimal systems and processes for all stakeholders, which support the delivery of impactful and timely research for patient and public benefit.
Our initiatives are informed by evidence and engagement with our stakeholders, such as researchers' experiences of the UK funding system. We welcome ongoing input via our feedback form. We are also working with other research funders and partners to share learning and align our approaches.
Work is underway to make the following improvements to research funding and management:
New Single NIHR awards management system
We are developing a unified system to cover the entire research management process for all NIHR programmes, infrastructure, personal awards and fellowships. This will streamline operations, enable data sharing and reduce duplicate information requests. We expect to begin accepting applications in the new system in the second half of 2024.
Streamlined funding application
We are streamlining our funding application process to make it less daunting and reduce the burden on researchers. We will adopt a more consistent approach across programmes and our guidance, collecting only the information that reviewers and committees need to make a funding recommendation. We will optimise the pre-population of applicant information. We have had feedback from approximately 500 stakeholders and will continue to engage as we progress.
Simplified peer review
We have adopted a simplified external peer reviewer form to make completing reviews more straightforward. We have implemented new approaches within NIHR committees to reduce duplication of effort. We continue to develop ways to improve, simplify and standardise our peer review process, including centralising contacts using our new management system and developing best practice standard operating procedures.
Detailed contracts between DHSC and organisations hosting NIHR research underpin our research funding. These contracts protect all parties involved and ensure the benefits of the research are realised for patients, health and care services and the economy. There are opportunities to reduce the administrative burden of contracting. We have standardised our contract terms where possible and proportionate to do so. We have deleted clauses from the standard NIHR contract which place unnecessary obligations on research institutions. We are also developing a standard, template collaboration agreement and working with other funders to develop and install template contracts.
Proportionate monitoring and reporting
We need reporting information from NIHR-funded researchers and award holders to:
- check that the research is progressing as expected and to support researchers as needed
- provide a strong evidence base to support the continued funding of health and care research in the UK
- improve the quality of reporting outcomes to government, the public and other organisations
We are reviewing our reporting requirements and focusing on a more proportionate approach. This includes streamlining by using the principle of ‘ask once, use multiple times’. We are also exploring digital solutions, such as automation and interoperability to pre-populate where possible.
We are working with UKRI to develop an assurance framework that reduces the burden on researchers and their institutions. In practice, this means developing assurance at an organisational level and aligning processes and standards wherever possible. This alignment will enable the longer-term aim of shared assurance. We will share this approach and work with other funders to gain sector-wide collaboration where practical. The greater the consistency we can offer research institutes, the greater the time saving to them.