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The value of PRUK’s status as an NIHR non-commercial partners; experiences of a researcher

Dr Debi Bhattacharya (PRUK SAP member) offers her thoughts on the support available through the NIHR for anyone considering to conduct research or prepare a research funding bid.

The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) is the nation’s largest funder of health and care research. PRUK’s status as an NIHR non-commercial partner means that when preparing the grant application, I can access my local NIHR research design service.  Whether an early career or seasoned researcher, I think that it is essential to get a second or third pair of eyes reviewing one’s application.  I will still never say no to anyone offering to read and critique my grant applications before submission, particularly if they are not an expert in the field as they will quickly spot any sections that are not well described.  The RDS service will actually do a lot more than just review a grant application, if requested they can offer specialist input such as health economics and statistics. 

For me the magic bullet that PRUK’s non-commercial partner status offers is NIHR Clinical Research Network portfolio adoption.  This NIHR Portfolio is a list of studies that are eligible to receive NIHR support.  This additional support can turn a project that might otherwise fail to recruit into a ‘guaranteed will deliver on time’.  The reason that portfolio adoption is so powerful in promoting recruitment is that NHS organisations recruiting to a portfolio study receive direct benefits:

  1. They get payment for each recruit (in addition to any payment costed into the grant)
  2. They get national recognition for successes in recruitment and additional funds if they meet certain recruitment targets

Furthermore, you (the researcher) get service support costs e.g. if you wanted to recruit patients from community pharmacies, the NIHR Clinical Research Network would help you find interested pharmacies, and train the staff in Good Clinical Practice so that they are eligible to recruit for you.

Overall, I cannot emphasise enough the safety blanket that NIHR Portfolio adoption gives in terms of achieving recruitment targets.

PRUK’s top three tips for researchers

  1. Contact your local Research Design Service for support on all aspects of developing and writing a grant application including research design, research methods, identifying funding sources and involving patients and the public. We advise you to contact your regional RDS centre (across England) at an early stage in your bid development to discuss your research ideas.
  2. Contact your Local Clinical Research Network as soon as possible, as you are developing your research proposal. The team will provide advice on eligibility for accessing the NIHR Study Support Service, regulatory submissions and exploration of potential recruitment pathways. The Clinical Research Networks will work closely with R&D offices and research teams at the sites involved in your study. They provide access to best practice study tools and resources that minimise duplication across sites.
  3. Ensure you make the most of the support available from the NIHR. The Scientific Advisory Panel (SAP) are keen to ensure that our researchers are accessing the support needed to develop robust and good quality research proposals. Our application forms for research funding specify whether you have contacted the NIHR, or obtained similar support elsewhere, so this is an important consideration when the SAP assess applications for funding.

We want to thank Debi for her contribution and hope that applicants consider all the support available to them.

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