Feedback on Expressions of Interest for “Developing the evidence base: building and delivering suitable living environments and communities for an ageing population”

The deadline for Expressions of Interests in this call for proposals was on Tuesday 18th May 2021 and we received many high-quality applications. We recently let applicants know whether they had been invited to submit a full application and the success rate at this stage was 47%. Owing to the number of applications received, and the commonality of reasons why applications did not make the shortlist, we will be providing general feedback, which is set out below.

The Expressions of Interest were assessed on a range of criteria which are set out in our Call Guidance Documentation.

Characteristics of low-scoring applications:

  • It appeared that community partners were mainly being used as a recruitment site/pool for study participants, rather than playing an active and engaged role in all aspects of the proposed study and its development.
  • In cases where researchers were “pitching” to involve one of the Trust’s partners (those being Johnnie Johnson Housing or United St Saviour’s Charity), there was a lack of clarity on why the particular organisation was being selected (for example, their size, reach or focus) and what they were going to get out of the relationship.
  • Some applicants’ videos did not address the questions we’d asked to be addressed, with some simply providing a summary of the proposal.
  • In the application form, answers lacked breadth when asked to outline the risks and contingency plans for the proposed research, with some applicants focusing only on the risks associated with COVID-19. We were looking for a more holistic picture, including potential risks relating to different aspects of the research.
  • When asked to describe the impact of the proposed research, applicants focused only on dissemination activities. We were looking for answers that also included detail on how the proposed research would make a change – for example, on the lives of older people directly, in policy, regulation or in other ways.
  • When asked to summarise how their proposal would contribute to capacity building in ageing-related research and support career development within the research team, we received a number of “boilerplate” responses detailing the institution’s policy. In addition, applicants often gave a career overview of the Principal Investigator and Co-investigators instead of explicitly explaining how and through what mechanisms they would support the wider research team.
  • With regards to equity, diversity and inclusion, some applicants focused primarily on their organisational policies and missed the opportunity to talk more specifically about how these matters would be reflected in their research project and approach. For more information on including underserved groups in research, you might be interested in a website hosted by the INCLUDE initiative from the National Institute for Health Research, which provides guidance for ensuring health research is inclusive, as well as instructions on how to register for a free online course run by INCLUDE.
  • In many cases, the financial support requested was not consistent with the information provided in the rest of the application form. For example, when applicants stated that the research team would receive training this was not listed in the budget section under career development/support costs or in-kind funding.

We appreciate the time and effort put into developing an application. It was a very difficult decision with so many interesting and innovative ideas coming forward and we wish those that did not progress to the full application stage our very best in seeking alternative sources of funding.