Tips and resources for researchers

Pathways to impact

A well-articulated and credible ‘pathway to impact’ is an important part of your Research Project Grant application. It is recommended that the ‘pathway to impact’ plan is considered early in your preparation, so that it informs that design of your research. 

Impact from research can take many forms, including enhancing quality of life and health, influencing policy and practice, translating research into new products and services etc. Writing a ‘pathway to impact’ encourages you to think about what can be done, from the outset, to ensure your research makes a difference. It also helps you articulate why your research is important and helps you to identify who could potentially benefit from your project and what you can do to support this happening. You should avoid using generic statements and provide a credible impact plan, including specific examples of actions you will be taking to achieve the impacts described and the time-frame in which these are likely to occur.

Research Councils UK defines impact in the following ways: 

    • Academic impact: the demonstrable contribution that excellent research makes to academic advances, across and within disciplines, including significant advances in understanding, methods, theory and application. 
    • Economic and societal impacts: the demonstrable contribution that excellent research makes to society and the economy. Economic and societal impacts embrace all the extremely diverse ways in which research-related knowledge and skills benefit individuals, organisations and nations by: 
      • fostering global economic performance, and specifically the economic competitiveness of the UK,
      • increasing the effectiveness of public services and policy, 
      • enhancing quality of life, health and creative output. 

Public engagement may be included as one element of your ‘pathway to impact’. Engaging the public with your research can improve the quality of research and its impact, raise your profile, and develop your skills. 


Patient and Public Involvement and Engagement

Public involvement in research is defined as research that is done with or by the public and not to, about or for them. When we talk about ‘involvement’ we mean getting actively involved in the research process itself rather than being participants or subjects of the research.

Public engagement is where information and knowledge about research is provided and shared. Examples of engagement include: 

    • an open day at a research centre where members of the public are invited to find out about research 
    • raising awareness of research through media such as television programmes, newspapers and social media 
    • sharing the findings of a study to research participants, colleagues or members of the public. 

INVOLVE, funded by the NIHR, provides support for active public involvement in NHS, public health and social care research. As a national advisory group, their role is to bring together expertise, insight and experience in the field of public involvement in research, with the aim of advancing it as an essential part of the process by which research is identified, prioritised, designed, conducted and disseminated. 

Their website is full of useful resources, including briefing notes for researchers on how to involve members of the public in research. It also includes supplements with detailed information on public involvement in specific types of research and specific involvement activities; case studies showing how member of the public have been involved in research projects; and templates of useful documents such as job descriptions and terms of reference for committees and steering groups. 


Preparing your research protocol

The research protocol is an essential part of a research project. It is a full description of the research study and can be used to monitor the study’s progress and evaluate its outcomes. There are a number of websites providing guidance for preparing research protocols, depending on the study type. 

    • SPIRIT (Standard Protocol Items: Recommendations for International Trials): provides evidence-based recommendations for the minimum content of a clinical trial protocol. SPIRIT is widely endorsed as an international standard for trial protocols. 
    • PRISMA (Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses): PRISMA is an evidence-based minimum set of items for reporting in systematic reviews and meta-analyses. PRISMA focuses on the reporting of reviews evaluating randomised trials, but can also be used as a basis for reporting systematic reviews of other types of research, particularly evaluations of interventions. Protocol guidance can be found here
    • NHS Health Research Authority: provide guidance and templates for preparing research protocols for qualitative research and Clinical Trials of an Investigational Medicinal Product (CTIMP). There are also a number of other resources available to help with planning your research project. 
    • NIHR Research Design Service (RDS): supports researchers to develop high quality research proposals for submission to national funders for applied health or social care research and NIHR funding programmes. There are regional RDS centres across England where advisers offer free and confidential advice for researchers, to help with several aspects of an application, including identifying and refining the research question and research methods (qualitative and quantitative). 
Equality and Diversity

Diversity is essential for excellence and increases the capacity to develop, innovate and grow. In respect of our research funding portfolio, we are committed to ensuring that the best researchers from a diverse population are attracted into research careers and supporting development of those careers. Therefore, we do expect applications to demonstrate credible and feasible plans to support the development of professional research careers in our areas of interest. Applications should include tangible examples of support to be given (e.g. training, mentoring etc.). It is also important to describe any wider institutional frameworks and support, which support researchers. For example: 

    • Athena SWAN: The Equality Challenge Unit (ECU)’s Athena SWAN award is a national charter mark that recognises the achievement of gender equality in higher education, encompassing representation, progression and success for all. It was originally established in 2005 to encourage and recognise commitment to advancing the careers of women in science, technology, maths and medicine in higher education and research. In 2015 the charter was expanded to recognise work undertaken in arts, humanities, social sciences, business and law, and in professional and support roles, and for trans staff and students. Members who sign up to the charter are expected to apply for an Athena SWAN award, at Bronze, Silver or Gold level.
    • Concordat to Support the Career Development of Researchers: An agreement between funders and employers of research staff to improve the employment and support for researchers and research careers in UK higher education. It sets out clear standards that research staff can expect from the institution that employs them, as well as their responsibilities as researchers. 

Grants for academic and clinical researchers

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