Research Design Service
National Institute for Health Research

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Keep Calm and Call the RDS

Keep Calm and Call the RDS

01 December 2018

Sue Povall, Public Health and Policy Research Fellow - RDS North West

She stared at her desk. She had knots in her belly, an elephant on her chest and her head was spinning. One of the research team had noticed an NIHR themed call that was perfect for the next stage of their research. The deadline was in six weeks! The research lead was going to be away for three of those weeks. She, the most junior member of the research team, had been told to put the outline application together.

She had been to events hosted by the Research Design Service (RDS) where successful grant applicants spoke about taking 12 months to refine their application before submitting it. They spoke about making sure your research is novel and of importance to the health and social care services. That it is value for money. Of public involvement from the start to ensure the research is important to patients and the public. Of making sure you have the right team. That you have a Clinical Trials Unit involved early on too. Of the value of peer review of draft applications from people outside of the research team. Of making sure that all your i’s are dotted and t’s are crossed, and that the language is clear and simple, bearing in mind that the review panels are unlikely to have specialists in your research area on them. Of not submitting something that was not ready – “do not give the review panels an easy reason to reject your application”.

How was she going to do all of this in s.i.x.w.e.e.k.s? She felt sick.

“Are you OK?”. It was a colleague that she knew worked as a frontline adviser for the RDS. She told him what she needed to do.

“You need to have something to pull off the shelf if you are going to make a six week deadline”, he said. “Actually, I think that call has two submission deadlines. The second one four months after the first. That would give you more time. Look, why don’t you apply for support from RDS and we’ll see how we can help”. She could feel herself starting to relax.

Then she realised … they had done a feasibility study and were just finishing a standalone pilot study, both funded through NIHR. So, they had the team, the public involvement group and the research design. The pilot had tested the design to make sure everything worked well together. They had links with the CTU. And they had some preliminary results that would feed into a sample size calculation for the full trial, and that had indicated that their intervention should be of benefit. She’ll have to update the literature review. The second deadline would still work for the research team, and the PI would be back well before then to work with her on the application. They would also have time to send the application out for peer review.

She went on the RDS website and submitted her request for advice. Things were looking brighter already.

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