Funding opportunity

Funding opportunity: Better methods, better research

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

Your project must focus on an area within MRC or NIHR’s remit.

You must be a researcher based at an organisation eligible for UKRI funding.

You must have a graduate degree, although we expect most applicants to have a PhD.

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

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

Who can apply

You can apply for this opportunity if you are a researcher based at an eligible research organisation. These include:

  • higher education institutions
  • UKRI-approved independent research organisations or NHS bodies
  • government-funded organisations
  • public sector research establishments
  • MRC institutes
  • MRC units and partnership institutes (including those in Gambia and Uganda)
  • institutes and units funded by other research councils.

You must have a graduate degree, although we expect most applicants to have a PhD.

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

You should check any specific eligibility criteria for the type of grant you are applying for: MRC guidance for applicants.

What we're looking for

Project categories

We are seeking research within the remit of MRC or NIHR that includes at least one 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 or 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 applicants 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 include:

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 two 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

You must apply through the Joint Electronic Submission (Je-S) system.

We recommend you start your application early. You can save completed details in Je-S at any time and return to continue your application later.

You must apply for funding through the normal application process for the type of MRC grant you wish to apply for. These are:

The MRC guidance for applicants gives more details on how to apply.

When applying, select:

  • council: MRC
  • document type: standard proposal
  • scheme: research grant
  • call/type/mode: Better methods, better research: June 2022.

If you are applying for a new investigator research grant, you should prefix the application title with ‘NIRG:’.

You can find advice on completing your application in the Je-S handbook.

Your host organisation will also be able to provide advice and guidance on completing your application.

This programme is open twice a year with deadlines in June and November.

Industrial partner information

If you want to include one or more industry partners as a project partner, you must also complete the project partner section in Je-S.

Each project partner must provide a project partner letter of support, a maximum of two pages on headed paper or a PDF of an email.

The letter must:

  • be an integral part of the application
  • focus on the proposal it accompanies which includes the requirement to include a project partner letter of support.

Full details of the content the project partner should include in their letter of support, are provided in section 2.2.6 of the MRC guidance for applicants.

MRC industry collaboration framework

If your proposal will include industry collaboration, you will need to include an:

The completed ICF form should be uploaded to the Je-S attachments section using the ‘MICA form’ document type. Please type ‘Industry Collaboration Framework form’ in the description box.

The heads of terms is a document which must be signed by each collaborator showing that they are willing to collaborate for the duration of the study.

When uploading this document to Je-S, if the ‘heads of terms’ option is not available under attachments, please upload it under the ‘MICA form’ Je-S document type and specify ‘heads of terms’ in the description field.

You should indicate in your project title that the proposal is ‘ICF’. Failure to do so may lead to the proposal not being correctly processed.

How we will assess your application

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

You will have two 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 one 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

Get help with applying through Je-S

Email

jeshelp@je-s.ukri.org

Telephone

01793 444164

Opening times

Je-S helpdesk opening times

Additional info

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