Research Design Service: East Midlands
National Institute for Health Research

RDS Advisers

Martin Williams - Co-Director of the NIHR RDS East Midlands (Leicestershire, Northamptonshire and Rutland)
Martin has considerable expertise in grant writing, quantitative and qualitative research designs and in research management.

Sarah Armstrong - Co-Director of the NIHR RDS East Midlands (Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire and Lincolnshire)
Sarah is an associate professor in medical statistics and has worked in the unit since the Trent Institute for Health Services Research was established. She has provided statistical support to a wide range of studies but has a particular interest in randomised controlled trials.


Research Advisers
Health Economics

Murray Smith - Econometrician and Health Economist
Murray is an econometrician with a wide range of research interests that include microeconometric modelling, health informatics, health economic modelling, mathematical statistics and computer algebra. At RDS his role is to provide clients specialist advice on the health economics associated with their bid, which in the early stages often involves a value calculation of the worth the proposed intervention may bring to the NHS. His degrees (BEc(hons) and PhD) were earned in the 1980s at Monash University. He has held positions at UNSW, University of Sydney, University of Aberdeen, University of Nottingham and is currently working in the Community and Health Research Unit at the University of Lincoln.


Information Specialists
Mary Edmunds Otter - Information Librarian
Mary provides advice and support  for NHS and social care staff who require information and literature searching advice when writing bids/proposals for NIHR funding. She is able to give advice on design and methodology of systematic reviews, scoping the literature for research proposals, developing search strategies for research projects and critical appraisal.

Christine Keen - Information Officer
Christine began working for the former Trent Focus in June 2002. She has a 0.4 FTE post usually working Mondays and Tuesdays.
Her roles include:

  • Identifying content for the website and the newsletter, such as sources of funding, courses and websites specialising in sources for primary care.
  • Literature searching including scoping searches and guiding individuals towards appropriate sources.
  • Critical appraisal.
  • Special projects such as the production of research bulletins using systematic review techniques.

Chris is a chartered librarian and has previously worked in public libraries for many years. She moved into health information after completing an MSc in Health Information Management by distance learning whilst working full time. Christine is particularly interested in public involvement in health and her Masters dissertation looked at Community Involvement in Leicester City Health Action Zone. Christine is a member of the readers panel for INVOLVE commenting on draft publications.
As a keen cyclist she is also a qualified cycle trainer teaching children and adults. She welcomes external contributions for the newsletter and news page of our website.


Public Involvement
Raksha Pandya-Wood - Senior Research Fellow and Regional Public Involvement Lead
Raksha has expertise in qualitative methods and public involvement. The focus of her own part time PhD study is about understanding the impact that public involvement has on cancer research and its usability. Raksha used interviews and the Delphi technique with diverse stakeholders in deliberative research. Raksha is currently writing up her PhD. In her regional advice role at the RDS EM, she supports the development of research projects across a range of primary, secondary and social care research settings (both in clinical and academic research units). Raksha manages the public involvement fund available to researchers; to help towards developing public involvement in research design work. Raksha oversees the lay review process for the RDS. Raksha teaches public involvement in research across the region at different universities and hospitals. Raksha set up the first regional research engaging patients and public (REPP) forum for patients, researchers and stakeholders to meet and share best practice on public involvement in research. This successful regional group now operates as part of the East Midlands Academic Health Science Network’s public involvement agenda.


Statisticians and other Quantitative Methodologists
Clare Gillies - Medical Statistician
Clare Gillies is a medical statistician and has been based at the University of Leicester since 2001. She has worked on a number of projects including a PhD. investigating evidence synthesis methods for health policy decision making, with particular reference to policies concerning screening for type 2 diabetes mellitus. She is currently investigating differences in estimated healthy life years across member states of the European community. Clare also works on studies in a range of medical specialities for the RDSEM and teaches on a number of their short courses.

Raj Mehta - Medical Statistician
With a first degree in Mathematics and Statistics attained from the University of Greenwich, Raj was first appointed as a Medical Statistician at Clinical Research Centre (MRC) Northwick Park Hospital. Whilst at the MRC he obtained an MSc in Medical Statistics from the University of London – London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
Further to completing his MSc he then moved to Glaxo Smithkline (Canada), Dept Addictive Behaviour and Psychological Medicine (University of London) as a statistician before joining the University of Southampton/Research and Development Support Unit (RDSU). At the RDSU he supported a varied cohort of medical practitioners with the design and analysis of their clinical trials. Whilst at the University of Southampton he obtained a Postgraduate Certificate in Academic Practice (PCAP). Currently he is in the writing-up phase of his PhD. The theme of his PhD is the epidemiological investigation into the association between diabetes and cardiovascular related complications and mortality in a multi-ethnic population. He has special interests inlLongitudinal studies, hierarchal/multilevel techniques, survival analysis, generalised linear modelling techniques, generalised estimating equations/repeated measures methods and imputation techniques.

Caroline Mulvaney -  Senior Research Fellow in Health Services Research
Caroline joined the University of Nottingham in 2002 working in the Division of Primary Care before moving to Health Sciences. Prior to this she worked at the Universities of Leicester, Warwick and Loughborough. She has experience in quantitative research including the analysis of surveys and large datasets, managing multi-centre RCTs and carrying out systematic reviews including several Cochrane reviews. Her research has been both in primary and secondary care, and including schools and Children's Centres. She has undertaken work for the Office of the Deputy Prime Minster and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents. Her current research interests are injury prevention and public health, but she has worked on a wide range of topics including pre-school wheeze and asthma, acoustic neuromas, home fire injury risks, GP prescribing, parenting programmes, child injury prevention and cycling infrastructure. As a PI, she has successfully applied for funding from NIHR. She is a Registered General Nurse.

Nicky Spiers - Medical Statistician
Nicky Spiers is a medical statistician with a background in the epidemiology of disability and mental health. She is currently employed part-time and works on studies in a range of medical specialities for the RDS-EM.

Nick Taub - Research Fellow in Medical Statistics
Nick Taub is an advice coordinator and is co-applicant on two on-going RfPB-funded studies. Nick is a medical statistician, responsible for collaboration between the RDS and the Leicester Clinical Trials Unit, and is statistical expert on the Trent Research Ethics Committee. Nick has a background of collaboration on studies covering a wide range of medical specialties, with an emphasis on applications in psychiatric medicine, diabetes and related endocrine conditions, and disease registers.  Nick has been a reviewer for various medical and statistical journals, including: Psychological Medicine, Applied Statistics, Diabetic Medicine, Age and Ageing, and Stroke. Nick teaches on i) a range of short courses for the RDS, ii) the University’s MRes course in Applied Health Research, and iii) teaches and supervises students on the MSc course in Medical statistics. In 2006 Nick completed a PhD thesis on methods for estimating prevalence using disease register data.

Freya Tyrer - Research Fellow in Epidemiology
Freya Tyrer has been based at the University of Leicester since 2004. She specialises in observational studies and has a particular interest in mental health and intellectual disability research.


Qualitative Researchers

Rachel Evley - Senior Research Advisors in Qualitative Methods
Rachel is a Qualitative researcher and Registered Nurse and has worked in Anaesthesia & Critical Care research since 2000. Rachel has worked on mixed methods research funded by NIHR RfPB, as well as PI on several NIHR Clinical Research Network Portfolio studies.
Rachel completed her PhD thesis on safety in anaesthesia and the role of systems, technology and culture, this led to a greater awareness of drug errors within the UK anaesthetic community and a report published by the National Patient Safety Agency.
Rachel has been a reviewer for various medical journals including the British Journal of Anaesthesia and BMJ Open, she has also reviewed grant applications to the National Institute of Academic Anaesthesia.
Rachel continues her research activity with the University of Nottingham and the Royal College of Anaesthetists focused on the Perioperative pathway; she also provides research methodology expertise to inform national standard setting guidelines for anaesthesia service provision. Rachel teaches on the University of Nottingham N-Trans training programme and the MSc Quality & Patient Safety Improvement and supervises students up to PhD level.

Clare Jackson - Research Fellow
Clare has worked on applied health and healthcare research projects since 1996. Using predominantly qualitative and mixed research methods to explore the experiences and views of patients, professionals and research participants, her work has covering a diverse range of sensitive areas including obstetrics and gynaecology, consenting to surgery, primary care, paediatric intensive care, tumour banking and childhood cancer. Most recently, her work has focused on the recruitment of patients to various types of research, including clinical trials in childhood cancer. She is particular interested in the ethical issues associated with clinical trials and research involving children.

Paul Leighton -  Deputy Director (Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire and Lincolnshire) and Senior Research Fellow in Qualitative Methods
Paul has a Ph.D in sociology from the Univ of Manchester, an MA in Social Anthropology from the Univ of Kent, and has previously lectured in Human Geography at the University of Chester. He has worked for ten years in applied health and social care research, coming to Nottingham to work on the evaluation of a community delivered multi-agency programme of social and healthcare support for families in disadvantaged areas [Schneider, J., Leighton, P. & Avis, M. (2007), Supporting Children and Families - Lessons from Sure Start, Jessica Kingsley Publishing, London ]. As an RDS advisor he has since worked with teams from a broad spectrum of clinical and academic settings providing both general bid writing support and more specialist advice in qualitative research methods.
Paul maintains research activity in a number of clinical areas, currently working with research teams in audiology, dentistry, rheumatology, pain management and orthopaedic surgery. Paul is currently a co-applicant on two funded HTA awards and a funded RfPB award; he is a member of the NHS Nottingham City PCT Research Strategy Group.

Jane Stewart - Senior Research Fellow in Health Services Research
Jane has worked as an applied health services researcher since 1996. Before joining RDS EM in March 2015 she had held both University of Nottingham and NHS Trust (Nottinghamshire) research contracts. This work covered a broad spectrum of clinical settings – acute and primary/community care and a diverse range of clinical areas, including maternal mental health, serious mental health, type 2 diabetes, child and adult injury prevention, and maternity services with a focus on mental and emotional wellbeing. Primarily considering herself as a qualitative researcher, Jane also has experience of a variety of quantitative approaches – including randomised controlled trials (RCTs), case control and other observational studies. She has managed and acted as programme coordinator for a 5 year multi-centre, multi-method NIHR programme grant. Jane also developed a worked with a successful patient and public involvement in primary care research group and therefore contributes to the RDS EM patient and public involvement support to researchers. Prior to her research career Jane qualified and practised as a nurse, midwife and health visitor. 

Laura Venn - Senior Research Advisors in Qualitative Methods
Laura is a qualitative research methodologist. As well as working as a Senior Research Advisor in Qualitative Methods in the East Midlands Research Design Service she is also an Honorary Research Fellow at Durham University working on two national evaluations of social work qualifying programmes. The ‘Step Up to Social Work Evaluation’, commissioned by the Department for Education, focuses on retention and progression of social workers and ‘Think Ahead External Evaluation’, is a longitudinal evaluation of a fast-track mental health social work qualification programme. Methodologically, Laura’s strengths lie in applied qualitative research methods, embedding qualitative methods in mixed methodology studies and qualitative data analysis. Laura has experience of working on European funded research and prior to joining the RDS in January 2017 she was an SME partner on an FP7 project (FOODMETRES 2012-2016). Laura’s PhD, which she completed in 2004, investigated quality assurance and environmental management in the Agro-Food industry. Laura teaches qualitative research methods on Postgraduate courses at both Coventry and DeMontfort Universities.

Della Cohen - Unit and Finance Co-ordinator
Della is based at De Montfort University and manages the finances of RDS EM Leicester Unit in collaboration with the Director. Additionally, with the Director and her Nottingham colleagues, Della works on the financial monitoring and administration of RDS East Midlands with a view to sustaining the financial and contractual organisation of RDS East Midlands at present and continuing into the future. Della also provides regional administrative support to our Directors.

Elaine Ellard - Administrator
Elaine provides part-time general administrative support to the Nottingham base.; Her work also includes organisation of events such as the NIHR Funding Seminars.
Elaine joined the NIHR RDS East Midlands Nottingham team in September 2007, having worked in various schools for the University of Nottingham for 6 years prior to this. She brought with her a multi-disciplinary career background in from business, education and research, community and administrative work and primarily an active involvement in the world of volunteering for more than 20 years. She was instrumental in the development and support of community groups in the voluntary sector. She has also worked closely with the Social Services Department in an active and advisory capacity in the development of initiatives such groups for carers and those suffering from Dementia.
In her own time she has been an active fundraiser for the Anthony Nolan Bone Marrow Trust and organised several local clinics to recruit potential donors including one at the University of Nottingham. She is a keen supporter of Guide Dogs for the Blind, Cancer Research and used her skills to design the Teen Newsletter for the Ear Foundation (a National organisation for young deaf children who have undergone Cochlear Implants).; She has also been chairperson her local residents association. Elaine is a keen member of many local choirs which fundraise for local and national causes.

Louise Halbert- Information and Communications Manager, Regional Marketing Lead
Louise has an MSc in Marketing Management with specialism in digital and social media channels. In addition to leading the marketing of RDSEM services she is also responsible for the design, maintenance and development of the RDSEM website and data collection systems. Louise advises researchers on their project dissemination plans and teams wanting to use social media to engage with their public involvement groups. She is a member of the national RDS comms community which is responsible for identifying communication and marketing requirements on a national level. Follow Louise on Twitter for RDS EM updates @NIHR_RDSEM.

Karen Taylor - Administrator
Karen provides part time administrative support within the Nottingham Unit.  The work has a mainly organisational content responding to general issues and administrative matters primarily providing administration to the Regional Management Board, Regional Operations Group, Project Review meetings and Learning Events.
Key Tasks

  • Organising and servicing several local RDS EM and regional meetings.
  • Event organising, providing administrative support to staff, marketing, taking bookings from delegates and preparing materials/delegate packs for local Learning Events.
  • Producing promotional materials for all training initiatives using Word and PowerPoint.
  • Developing and maintaining databases.
  • Organising large mail shots for RDS activities.
  • Developing and maintaining filing systems, office based and computerised.
  • Dealing with general enquiries.
  • Liaison with the Leicester RDS and members of associated organisations.

Karen joined the organisation in April 1995 where she worked part time and part time for the Division of Primary Care Research Support Unit as a Clerical Research Assistant.

Joanne Wood - Administrator
Joanne joined Trent RDSU (formerly Trent Institute) on a full time basis in 1997 in the role of course administrator/secretary, then progressed to the Administrator for the Nottingham unit of Trent Institute. Her main responsibilities are:

  • Supervision of admin support team
  • Day to day co-ordination of admin staff and University systems
  • Overall management of finances including budget, income and expenditure monitoring
  • Management and co-ordination of personnel records and procedures