We re-opened today for new outline research project grant applications.

We are currently receiving over 90 outline applications per round and cannot stress enough that this is an extremely competitive process with only around one third being invited to submit a full application. You might meet the brief and pass our eligibility criteria, but with demand so high, it’s just not possible to invite all applications to the next stage and the list has to be ranked. Your outline application will therefore be reviewed for feasibility, value-for-money and overall contribution to the portfolio, with the following criteria also being weighted highly in the ranking:

  • How the project will contribute to the achievement of the Dunhill Medical Trust’s strategic objectives
  • How the project will help expand and/or sustain research capacity in the Trust’s areas of focus
  • How the project will make a difference to the understanding of the mechanisms of ageing or the lives of older people and the time frame in which it will do so (your “pathway to impact”).

Accompanying guidance is provided alongside each question, but some common issues we observed in the last round were:

  • If you do not mention the Trust’s objectives at all in your answer and assume that because the topic of your application is a disease that affects older people, this does not give us confidence that you have actually engaged with the Trust’s priorities. You can read about our strategic objectives on our website.  Tell the story.  How does your work draw on that of others and how might it help us to gain new insights into understanding the mechanisms of ageing and/or improving the health and social care of older people?
  • Whilst we are keen to encourage new PIs, we would expect to see a more experienced researcher as Co-Investigator in the wider team with some commentary and examples of how you will be supported as a new PI. Will someone mentor you, how that will be structured? We don’t need excessive detail, but we would like to be assured that you have thought about it and considered how you need to be supported.
  • Where applicable, the Trust is keen to support multi-disciplinary projects with teams that are made up of individuals with the required skills to carry out the project successfully. Please tell us how each team member will contribute to the project and what expertise they bring. Make sure you have the right team for your project. If your project is addressing a topic relating to the eye, but there are no ophthalmologists on the team, that would be a concern for us. If there is no need for an ophthalmologist, perhaps because it is a basic science application, please explain why.
  • Is the project practical and feasible? If you’re intending to conduct it in care homes, do you already have relationships and permissions in place?  If you’re planning on using invasive techniques on vulnerable older people, how will this impact the drop-out rate in your research cohort and have you people with the appropriate expertise and experience on the team – taking a multidisciplinary approach?  Have you thought about convening a PPI group?
  • Your impact doesn’t have to be changing major government policy or seeding the next multi-million £ company. It can be modest, such as contributing to the evidence base to show your local CCG the value of your intervention. If your work is at the fundamental science end of the spectrum, it might be that it will fill in some essential gaps that will allow other scientists to move forward on understanding a particular disease mechanism. We don’t need a detailed pathway to impact plan at outline stage, but we would like to see some indication that you have thought about how you are going to achieve impact from your project and the specific actions you plan to take.

For help on thinking about impact, we recommend you take a look at the Fast Track Impact website. Research England has also recently published a helpful document highlighting how “public engagement”, “dissemination” and “impact” fit together.  Remember – they’re not all the same thing!

Do also take a look at our previous blog piece, which has further advice and read up on the details of the research project grant scheme and the accompanying FAQs.