Funding opportunity

Funding opportunity: Develop guidance for better research methods

Apply for funding to develop new guidance on biomedical and health research methods.

The guidance should aim to:

  • improve the understanding and use of better methods related to the remit of MRC or NIHR
  • be accessible to those without specialist methodology knowledge

You must be a researcher employed by an eligible research organisation (this includes MRC units and centres).

Funding is for up to 18 months and can cover 100% of directly incurred costs. Indirect and estate costs are not eligible.

This is a recurring funding opportunity. Applications open once a year, closing in June.

Who can apply

Before applying for funding, check the following:

Eligibility for this funding opportunity

To be eligible to apply for this funding opportunity you must:

  • be a researcher employed by an eligible research organisation
  • 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
  • produce 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 applications to recognise the contribution of technical professionals. This includes through the use of researcher co-investigator status, as appropriate.

International applicants

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 at support@funding-service.ukri.org to confirm eligibility prior to submission.

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. You can also find out more about MRC’s current EDI initiatives and read UK Research and Innovation’s EDI strategy.

What we're looking for

Scope

Gaps remain between the development of improved biomedical and health research methodologies, widespread awareness and uptake, and their recognition as best practice.

Where multiple methodologies are available, it can be difficult to understand when, where or how each methodology should be best applied.

This funding opportunity will support the development of guidance in priority areas of methodological uncertainty, with the aim of catalysing uptake of improved research methods.

Following an award, teams must begin the proposed work within six months to ensure that the resulting guidance for better research methods retains its relevance as assessed when awarded.

Who to involve

Your proposed guidance should allow others to navigate the methodological options available and provide frameworks to ensure the optimal research approach or approaches are used.

Any area of unmet methodological need within MRC or NIHR remit will be considered.

To develop your guidance, you should engage and involve relevant groups. These could include:

  • methodologists
  • non-methodologist researchers
  • technical professionals
  • health and allied health professionals
  • industry
  • non-expert stakeholder groups, such as:
    • funding bodies, policy and decision-makers
    • the public and patients as required by the identified area of need

The guidance you produce will need to be accessible, appropriate and informative to the groups involved.

What we will fund

The funding provided can be used to cover incurred costs for:

  • background review or scoping activities
  • consensus activities and workshop costs, including travel and subsistence, if applicable
  • writing and open-access publication costs
  • production of other learning resources, if appropriate

Funding available

Funding can last up to a maximum of 18 months and can cover 100% of directly incurred costs. Indirect and estate costs are not eligible.

Project partners

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

How to apply

UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Funding Service

We are running the funding opportunity on the new UKRI Funding Service. You cannot apply for this funding opportunity on the Joint Electronic Submissions (Je-S) system.

If you do not already have an account with the UKRI Funding Service, you will be able to create one by selecting the ‘start application’ button at the start of this page. Creating an account is a two-minute process requiring you to verify your email address and set a password.

If you are a member of an organisation with a research office that we do not have contact details for, we will contact them to enable administrator access. This provides:

  • oversight of every UKRI Funding Service application opened on behalf of your organisation
  • the ability to review and submit applications

Research offices that have not already received an invitation to open an account should email support@funding-service.ukri.org

To find out more about the role of research office professionals in the application process, watch a recording of a recent research office webinar on YouTube.

Submitting your application

Applications should be prepared and submitted by the lead research organisation but should be co-created with input from all investigators, and project partners, and should represent the proposed work of the entire consortia.

To apply:

  1. Select the ‘Start application’ button at the start of this page.
  2. This will open the ‘Sign in’ page of UKRI’s Funding Service. If you do not already have an account, you’ll be able to create one. This is a two-minute process requiring you to verify your email address and set a password.
  3. Start answering the questions detailed in this section of ‘How to apply’. You can save your work and come back to it later. You can also work ‘offline’, copying and pasting into the text boxes provided for your answers.
  4. Once complete, use the service to send your application to your research office for review. They’ll check it and return it to you if it needs editing.
  5. Once happy, your research office will submit it to UKRI for assessment. Only they can do this.

As citations can be integral to a case for support, you should balance their inclusion and the benefit they provide against the inclusion of other parts of your answer to each question. Bear in mind that citations, associated reference lists or bibliographies, or both, contribute to, and are included in, the word count of the relevant section.

Deadline

MRC must receive your application by 12 June 2024 at 4:00pm UK time.

You will not be able to apply after this time.

You should ensure you are aware of and follow any internal institutional deadlines that may be in place.

MRC, as part of UKRI, will need to share the application and any personal information that it contains with NIHR so that they can participate in the assessment process. Find out more about how NIHR uses personal information.

MRC will publish the outcomes of this funding opportunity at: board and panel outcomes.

If your application is successful, some personal information will be published via the UKRI Gateway to Research.

UKRI Funding Service: section guidance

Summary

In plain English, provide a summary of your proposed project. This summary will be sent to potential reviewers.

This summary may be made publicly available on external facing websites, so please ensure it can be understood by a variety of readers, for example:

  • opinion-formers
  • policymakers
  • the general public
  • the wider research community
Guidance for writing a summary

Succinctly describe your proposed work in terms of:

  • its context and relationship to the remit of MRC or NIHR
  • the challenge the project addresses
  • its aims and objectives
  • its potential applications and benefits

Word count: 550

Applicants

List the key members of your team and assign them roles, for example:

  • principal investigator
  • co-investigator
  • researcher
  • technician

You should only list one individual as principal investigator.

Vision and approach

What are you hoping to achieve and deliver in your proposed work?

What the assessors are looking for in your response

Explain how your proposed work:

  • is of excellent quality and importance within or beyond the field(s) or area(s)
  • has the potential to advance current understanding, generates new knowledge, thinking or discovery within or beyond the field or area
  • is timely given current trends, context and needs
  • impacts world-leading research, society, the economy or the environment

Within the vision section we also expect you to:

  • provide evidence of the need for the guidance you propose to develop, such as:
    • current literature
    • resources
    • methodological practice
    • value to be added by its development
  • explain how the guidance will result in clarity and wider implementation of methods
  • identify the potential direct or indirect benefits and who the beneficiaries might be

When identifying benefits and beneficiaries consider:

  • the importance for improving human or population health
  • the potential to relieve disease and disability burden and improve quality of life
  • the potential to benefit, fulfill unmet needs, or contribute to current plans in the health service or industry
  • contributions to relevant areas of basic biomedical science
What the assessors are looking for in your response

Explain how you have designed your approach so that it:

  • is effective and appropriate to achieve your objectives
  • is feasible, and comprehensively identifies any risks to delivery and how they will be managed
  • if applicable, uses a clear and transparent methodology
  • if applicable, summarises the previous work and describes how this will be built upon and progressed
  • will maximise translation of outputs into outcomes and impacts
  • describes how your, and if applicable your team’s, research environment (in terms of the place, its location, and relevance to the project) will contribute to the success of the work

Within the approach section we also expect you to:

  • provide details of the methodology you will use to develop your guidance. Include the methodology for identifying stakeholders, eliciting their views and co-producing guidance
  • justify the breadth of guidance to be delivered, considering the trade-off between impact and feasibility
  • include the proposed scope and format of consensus activities
  • explain the format of the proposed outputs and the dissemination strategy, including optimal targeting, delivery and promotion, and legacy plans
  • consider the risks of barriers to consensus and uptake, and appropriate mitigation strategies
  • include the proposed project timeline

References should be included within the page count.

Create a document that includes your responses to all bullet points. The document should not exceed four sides of A4 paper in Arial (or equivalent) 11point font. Save this document as a single PDF file, no larger than 8MB and upload it, following the guidance provided within the service application.

Project partners

Provide information related to collaborating project partners and the contributions and support they are providing your project.

MRC supports collaborative research projects and team approaches. Collaborators based in different organisations to the investigators named within your application, or from industry, can be formally recognised within your application as a named project partner.

If you do not have any project partners, simply add ‘N/A’ into the text box, mark this section as complete and move to the next section.

If you do have one or more project partners that have agreed to support your project, please provide them with the guidance included within this section and request they provide responses to the questions below.

MRC expect the project partner to provide you with information confirming the nature of the collaboration, including the value of their contribution. We also require each partner to provide other relevant information that will clearly identify the relevance and possible benefits of the proposed work to the project and to the project partner. The information provided will be used during the assessment of your application.

When the partner has provided you with the required information, check that the responses adequately provide the information MRC requires and then copy and paste their responses into the text box provided.

When you have pasted the responses for each separate partner within the text box provided, please mark the section as complete and move onto the next application question.

Statement of support from project partners

Please note, while a statement of support is required to be provided by each project partner, a formal letter of support from the project partner is not required.

Where a partner has provided a formal letter of support, the relevant text confirming the responses to each question should be extracted from the letter and pasted into the text box (using the template format as detailed within the the Funding Service application). Under no circumstances should any letter of support (including signature and letter head), be uploaded to the text section or any other section of your application.

The statement of support from project partners should:

  • provide the name of the project partner organisation
  • detail the partner website address (or postal address)
  • confirm the following, related to the partner contact information:
    • partner contact name (title, first name, family name format)
    • job role or title
    • the person’s department (if applicable)
    • confirm ‘yes’, that any person included within the application as a partner contact, are made aware their person their personal information has been shared with UKRI and their personal information will be processed as set out in UKRI’s privacy notice
  • confirm the total cash or detail a £ value for any in-kind contributions being provided by the partner organisation. You are encouraged to provide a detailed description to ensure assessors can evaluate the contribution fully (the list below are examples; please add you own descriptors if a different type of contribution better describes the contribution being provided):
    • cash contribution: £
    • staff time: £
    • access to equipment: £
    • provision of data: £
    • consumables and materials: £
    • expertise: £
    • use of facilities: £
    • recruitment of people as research participants: £
    • providing human tissue: £
  • confirm any costs being requested by the project partner, such as minor travel and subsistence costs or if the partner is claiming costs as a subcontractor (please provide a costs breakdown to provide the assessors with detail of any costs requested by the project partner). If the project partner is not claiming any costs, indicate: ‘Zero costs requested by this project partner’
  • confirm if your project partner has a dual role as a subcontractor
  • confirm if the project partner you have named in your response to the first question, is from industry (or a company) ‘yes or no’? If you have responded ‘yes’, please ensure you have completed the previous industry collaboration framework section
  • confirm the partner’s commitment to the project, by requesting they provide a statement of support, including information that explains:
    • the full nature and relevance of the collaboration and support being provided by the partner
    • how this will benefit both the project and partner
    • any additional value the collaboration will bring to the project
    • where relevant, projected market size, customer sales and how the organisation will commercialise the technology beyond the project
    • the period of support the collaboration will cover

Please note, it is expected that the partner statement should be as concise as possible and therefore should not duplicate any information provided within any of the responses to the preceding questions.

When completed, the statement of support should be included within the text box provided.

Word limit: 10,000

Applicant and team capability to deliver

Why are you the right individual or team to successfully deliver the proposed work?

What the assessors are looking for in your response

Evidence of how you, and if relevant your team, have:

  • the relevant experience (appropriate to career stage) to deliver the proposed work
  • the right balance of skills and expertise to cover the proposed work
  • the appropriate leadership and management skills to deliver the work and your approach to develop others

Use the Résumé for Research and Innovation (R4RI) format to showcase the range of relevant skills you, and if relevant your team (investigators, researchers, other (technical) staff for example research software engineers, data scientists and so on, and partners), have and how this will help to deliver the proposed work. You can include individuals’ specific achievements but only choose past contributions that best evidence their ability to deliver this work.

Complete this section using the R4RI module headings. You should use each heading once and include a response for the whole team, see the UKRI guidance on R4RI. You can enter ‘N/A’ for any you think irrelevant, and will not be penalised for doing so, but it is recommended that you carefully consider the breadth of your experience. You should complete this as a narrative and you should avoid CV type format.

The R4RI module headings include:

  • contributions to the generation of new ideas, tools, methodologies, or knowledge
  • the development of others and maintenance of effective working relationships
  • contributions to the wider research and innovation community
  • contributions to broader research or innovation users and audiences and towards wider societal benefit
  • additions: you can use this heading to provide information which provides context to the wider application, such as detail of career breaks or disruptions from the COVID-19 pandemic

Word count: 1,000

Related applications

Has a related application been previously submitted to MRC or another funding organisation?

What the assessors are looking for in your response

If the application is a resubmission, provide information on how this new application differs from that submitted previously and how you have responded to feedback. It must not be used to cover anything which should be included in the vision and approach.

If the application was previously submitted to another funder, you should provide:

  • the name of the funding body
  • a brief description of the project

Word count: 500

Ethics and responsible research and innovation (RRI)

What are the ethical or RRI implications and issues relating to the proposed work? If you do not think that the proposed work raises any ethical or RRI issues, explain why.

What the assessors are looking for in your response

Using the text box, demonstrate that you have identified and evaluated the relevant ethical or responsible research and innovation considerations, and how you will manage them.

If you are collecting or using data you should identify:

  • any legal and ethical considerations of collecting, releasing or storing the data including consent, confidentiality, anonymisation, security and other ethical considerations and, in particular, strategies taken to not preclude further re-use of data
  • formal information standards with which study will be compliant

Word count: 500

Resources and cost justification

What will you need to deliver your proposed work and how much will it cost?

What the assessors are looking for in your response

You can request 100% of directly incurred costs. Indirect and estate costs are not eligible.

Download the full economics costing template (DOCX, 96KB), complete it and then upload it as explained.

Using the text box, demonstrate how the resources you anticipate needing for your proposed work:

  • are comprehensive, appropriate, and justified
  • represent the optimal use of resources to achieve the intended outcomes
  • maximise potential outcomes and impacts

This section should not simply be a list of the resources requested, as this will already be given in the detailed ‘costs’ table. Costings should be justified on the basis of full economic costs (FEC) of the project, not just on the costs expected from UKRI. For some items we do not expect you to justify the monetary value, rather the type of resource, such as amount of time or type of staff requested.

Where you do not provide adequate justification for a resource, we may deduct it from any funding awarded.

You should identify:

  • support for activities to either increase impact, for public engagement, knowledge exchange or to support responsible innovation
  • support for background review or scoping activities
  • consensus activities and workshop costs, including travel and subsistence
  • writing and open-access publication costs
  • production of other learning resources

Word count 1,000

How we will assess your application

Assessment process

We will review your application in a two-stage peer review process.

Examination of applications

All applications will be examined to ensure they meet the eligibility criteria and scope of the funding opportunity. If your application is deemed to be outside the scope of the funding opportunity you will be advised by email, and your application will be rejected. We aim to notify you of a rejection around four weeks after the closing date of the funding opportunity.

All applications within scope of the funding opportunity will be reviewed against the specified assessment criteria using the following two-stage assessment process.

Peer review

We will invite independent experts to review your application against the specified criteria for this funding opportunity. These experts will provide written comments and a score of one to six for your application.

You cannot nominate reviewers to comment on your application.

Shortlisting

The shortlisting meeting will be held roughly one month before the full panel meeting.

A subgroup of the panel will consider your application using written comments from both assigned panel members and peer reviewers to decide which applications will be taken forward to the full panel meeting.

If your application is shortlisted, you will have 14 days to respond to reviewers’ comments and any feedback from the shortlisting panel.

Shortlisted applications will then go to the panel, who will make a funding recommendation.

Panel

Following peer review, shortlisting and response to reviews the panel will collectively assess and score your application against the specified criteria. The panel will produce a ranked list of applications and make a final funding recommendation.

The panel meeting will take place on 23 November 2023.

We aim to communicate funding decisions within 10 days of the full panel meeting.

Timescale

We aim to complete the assessment process within six months of receiving your application.

Feedback

After the panel meeting you will receive feedback by email, summarising the panel’s discussion of your application.

We aim to provide this within six weeks of the funding meeting.

Find out more about what happens after you submit your application.

Assessment criteria

The criteria we will assess your application against can be found in the ‘How to apply’ section and are listed under the ‘What the assessors are looking for in your response’ headings.

Principles of assessment

We support the San Francisco declaration on research assessment (DORA) and recognise the relationship between research assessment and research integrity.

Find out about the UKRI principles of assessment and decision making.

Sharing data with co-funders

MRC, as part of UKRI, will need to share the application (including any personal information that it contains) with NIHR, so that they can participate in the assessment process.

For more information on how NIHR uses personal information, visit policies and guidelines (NIHR).

We reserve the right to modify the assessment process as needed.

Publication of outcomes

MRC, as part of UKRI, will publish the outcomes of this funding opportunity at Better methods better research (BMBR) – funding decisions.

If your application is successful, some personal information will be published on the UKRI Gateway to Research.

To see summaries of successful BMBR applications, you can search project reference IDs from the funding decision spreadsheet on Gateway to Research.

What we are looking for

Vision

To what extent does the application clearly demonstrate the proposed work:

  • is of excellent quality and importance within or beyond the field(s) or area(s)
  • has the potential to advance current understanding, generates new knowledge, thinking or discovery within or beyond the field or area
  • is timely given current trends, context and needs
  • will impact world-leading research, society, the economy or the environment
  • will fill an unmet need for methodological guidance in the proposed area
  • will result in clarity and wider implementation of methods

Approach

To what extent does the application demonstrate a clearly designed approach to ensure it:

  • is effective and appropriate to achieve their objectives
  • is feasible, and comprehensively identifies any risks to delivery and how they will be managed
  • uses a clear and transparent methodology, if applicable to the application
  • summarises the previous work and describes how this will be built upon and progressed, if applicable to the application
  • will maximise translation of outputs into outcomes and impacts
  • describes how their, and if applicable their team’s, research environment (in terms of the place, its location and relevance to the project) will contribute to the success of the proposed work
  • includes appropriate project management, risk mitigation and decision-making approaches

Applicant and team capability to deliver

To what extent does the application provide clear evidence how the applicant, and if relevant their team have:

  • the relevant experience (appropriate to career stage) to deliver the proposed work
  • the right balance of skills and expertise to cover the proposed work
  • the appropriate leadership and management skills to deliver the work and their approach to develop others
  • considered if the applicants have experienced any disruptive or unequal impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and make appropriate adjustments

Resources and cost justification

To what extent does the application clearly demonstrate how the resource costs they anticipate and identify, are needed for their proposed work, and they:

  • are comprehensive, appropriate, and justified
  • represent the optimal use of resources to achieve the intended outcomes
  • maximise potential outcomes and impacts

Ethics and responsible research and innovation (RRI)

To what extent does the application clearly identify and evaluate the relevant ethical or responsible research and innovation considerations, and how they will be managed, including:

  • is the proposed work ethically acceptable
  • are there any ethical issues that need further consideration, such as dual use or misuse of research
  • are the proposed ethical review and research governance approaches appropriate
  • will there be any potential adverse consequences for humans, animals or the environment and have these risks been appropriately considered
  • if applicable, have the applicants properly considered the replacement, refinement or reduction of the animals in their experiments

Contact details

Get help with your application

For help on costings and writing your application, contact your research office. Allow enough time for your organisation’s submission process.

Ask about this funding opportunity

Email: support@funding-service.ukri.org

We aim to respond to emails within two working days.

Phone: 01793 547490

Our phone lines are open:

  • Monday to Thursday 8:30am to 5:00pm UK time
  • Friday 8:30am to 4:30pm UK time

Additional info

Supporting documents

MRC policies and standards

UKRI policies and standards

Webinar for potential applicants

A webinar was held for potential applicants on 17 May 2023.

Watch the webinar recording.

Passcode: V=0P$Ji7

Updates

  • 21 July 2023
    Added webinar recording link to the 'Additional info' section.
  • 17 July 2023
    Opening and closing dates updated.

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