Funding opportunity

Funding opportunity: Better methods, better research

Apply for funding to improve the methods used by others in biomedical and health research.

You must:

  • focus your project on an area within MRC’s or NIHR’s science remit
  • be based at a UK research organisation eligible for MRC funding, (this includes MRC units and centres)
  • have at least a postgraduate degree

Your project can be up to £625,000. MRC and NIHR will usually fund up to 80% of your project’s full economic cost.

Projects typically have a duration from 18 to 36 months.

This is an ongoing scheme. Application rounds open twice per year, closing in June and November.

Who can apply

Before applying to MRC for funding, please check the following:

Eligibility for this opportunity

To be eligible to apply for this opportunity you must:

  • be a researcher employed by an eligible research organisation
  • have at least a postgraduate degree, although we expect most applicants to have a PhD or medical degree
  • show that you will direct the project and be actively engaged in the work
  • focus your application to develop new guidance on biomedical and health research methods
  • produce guidance that aims to improve the understanding and use of better methods related to the remit of MRC or NIHR
  • producer guidance that aims to be accessible to those without specialist methodology knowledge

We recognise the diversity of skills necessary for a successful research team, and encourage proposals to recognise the contribution of technical professionals. This includes through the use of researcher co-investigator status, as appropriate.

We encourage applications from collaborative teams, which may include international co-investigators who provide expertise that is not available in the UK. Please contact us to confirm eligibility prior to submission.

We welcome collaboration with industry, which should be managed through the MRC industry collaboration framework.

Equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI)

MRC is committed to achieving equality of opportunity for all funding applicants and encourages applications from a diverse range of researchers from all backgrounds.

We support individuals and research teams to work in a way that suits their personal circumstances. This includes:

  • career breaks
  • support for people with caring responsibilities
  • flexible working
  • alternative working patterns

Read MRC’s guidance on flexible working and career breaks. Applicants can also find out more about MRC’s current EDI initiatives and read UK Research and Innovation’s draft equality, diversity and inclusion strategy.

What we're looking for

Project categories

We are seeking research within the remit of MRC or NIHR that includes at least 1 of the following project categories.

Methodology research

Your project can include research into methodologies underpinning health or biomedical research that extends beyond a single case study or application.

Research outputs should be designed to maximise:

  • accessibility
  • informative value
  • utility across broader research communities, sectors or systems

Improving methods used

Your research should respond to an evidenced barrier to uptake of optimal research methods. It should be framed within a pathway to improve community practice by methodologists, non-methodologists, or both. This can include:

  • research standards
  • theory
  • implementation
  • adoption of optimal methods

Improving research outputs

Your methodology research should make the outputs of biomedical and health research more useful to others. For example, this can be across:

  • scales
  • experimental approaches
  • systems
  • disciplines
  • translational pathways

Research themes in scope

We encourage you to learn from others where possible, and welcome multidisciplinary teams or approaches.

You can choose from a number of research themes that are in scope for your project, such as the ones outlined. However, this list is not exhaustive. You are encouraged to contact the programme manager ahead of developing a full application. You can find the contacts in the ‘contact details’ section.

Research themes in scope are outlined below.

Integrative biological systems

You can include:

  • molecules to humans and mechanisms
  • methods for discovery and translation

Phenotyping, endotyping, populations and people

You can include:

  • cohorts
  • epidemiology and public health (including geography and anthropogenic change)
  • complexity for ageing and multimorbidity
  • precision medicine
  • prevention
  • measures
  • health psychology, behaviours and social science for health

Clinical and translation for health

You can include:

  • health economics, policy and evidence development
  • decision making, including clinical, operations and management
  • fiduciary activities, such as:
    • jurisprudence
    • ethics
    • regulatory science
    • data protection
    • privacy
    • intellectual property rights
  • digital health and in silico vigilance, including:
    • performance monitoring
    • safety
    • validation
    • calibration
    • audit
    • reporting
  • trials, assessment and comparisons
  • underpinning methods for advanced therapies

Global health

You can include:

  • implementation
  • transportability, both complexity and context

Health research systems and culture

You can include:

  • research on health research
  • knowledge exchange, reporting and learning research systems
  • public trust
  • commercial engagement and responsible innovation

Activities we do not fund

Technology or biomarker development is out of remit for funding. However, we may consider projects that include new methodological approaches that are essential to improve their implementation or broader uptake.

If you are seeking support for development of a methodology for a specific research question, you should instead apply for funding via opportunities offered by MRC research boards. If you are applying via an MRC board opportunity, please include a covering letter noting the relevance to the ‘better methods, better research’ programme.

If you are seeking support for biomarker identification and validation, you should also apply through the relevant MRC research board.

See MRC remit, programmes and priorities.

Funding available

The budget for each opportunity is £2 million.

The annual budget is £4 million annually with 2 opportunities occurring each year.

The full economic cost of your project will typically be up to £625,000. MRC and NIHR will fund 80% of the full economic cost.

Funding of more than £625,000 will be considered but requires written approval from the programme manager ahead of submitting an application.

If you hold active or pending funding from NIHR, you may apply to embed an additional ‘better methods, better research’ award into existing research activity through the current ‘better methods, better research’ opportunity.

Embedded awards need to demonstrate additional methodological insight and added value from the integration of this research into an ongoing study.

How to apply

Transition from Je-S to TFS

From January 2024, research council opportunities will be launched and managed through the new UK Research and Innovation Funding Service (TFS).

Responsive mode opportunities (such as this) will gradually transition from the Joint Electronic Submissions (Je-S) system to TFS during 2023.

Please revisit this opportunity page during May 2023, when we will be able to confirm how you are able to apply.

How we will assess your application

Your proposal is assessed through a 2-stage peer review process. A triage panel will consider your application roughly 1 month before the full panel meeting.

You will have 2 weeks to respond to external written peer review and any feedback from the triage panel, if your application goes to the full panel meeting.

We aim to communicate funding recommendations within 1 week of the full panel meeting.

Your application will be assessed on:

  • the quality and prioritisation of proposed research
  • project management, risk mitigation and decision-making approaches, including community consultation as appropriate
  • the assurance of wider implementation or learning from project outputs, including approaches for benchmarking (method performance and implementation costs), outreach and the ability to influence wider audiences
  • value for money and impact

Contact details

Get help with developing your proposal

For help and advice on costings and writing your proposal, please contact your research office in the first instance, allowing sufficient time for your organisation’s submission process.

Ask about this funding opportunity

Dr Rosalind Roberts, Programme Manager

Email: rosalind.roberts@mrc.ukri.org

Ask about MRC policy and eligibility

Research funding policy and delivery team

Email: rfpd@mrc.ukri.org

Additional info

This is the integrated website of the seven research councils, Research England and Innovate UK.
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