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Methodological research to underpin NICE decision making

This call is now closed for applications and is only available for reference purposes.


The Medical Research Council (MRC) is the lead partner in the OSCHR methodology work stream. The aim of the work stream is to develop a high quality national platform in methodology research underpinning health research and regulatory decision making which will position the UK as a world class leader in methodological innovation in health research.


NICE is an important public stakeholder and the need for methodological research to underpin its decision-making was highlighted in the recent House of Commons Health Select Committee Report (2008). MRC has been working with NICE to identify its research priorities and as an initial phase of this work a Scoping Study was commissioned by the MRC to identify more precisely NICE’s methodological research needs. The methodological topics identified by the scoping study have been considered by the MRC-NIHR Methodology Research Programme (MRP) Panel and this call has been developed in consultation with them and other key stakeholders. The highlighted research needs, although specific to NICE, may also have relevance to the needs of other healthcare regulatory agencies and decision makers (for example, MRHA) and we would urge applicants to consider the utility of their research for other agencies. To understand the nature of the scoping study the executive summary is provided for download (Annex 1).


The scope of the call

The scope of the call reflects the breadth of issues and methodological research questions that have been highlighted within the Scoping study. The full list of areas where methodological research needs have been identified within the Scoping study is available for download (Annex 2) but can be grouped into following high level areas:

1. Analysis and design of effectiveness studies and their synthesis

2. Synthesis of evidence from patients, the public and stakeholders

3. Economic analysis and uncertainty

4. Measurement and valuation of benefits

5. Decision making at NICE


Although MRC will consider proposals that have not been identified as part of the NICE Scoping study, only methods development research that has a demonstrable relevance to the needs of NICE will be supported by this call.

The following areas identified by the scoping study have been highlighted to be particularly important to several stakeholders:

  • Research aimed at re-evaluating the EQ-5D tariff.
  • Capturing new measures into QALY estimation and the use of disease-specific measures in decision making.
  • Identification of important (dis) benefits that are and are not captured in the QALY approach and methods for their valuation and use in the deliberative process.
  • Methods for synthesis and integration of non-experimental evidence (including from patients) with experimental evidence for use in the deliberative process.
  • Methods for estimation of NICE’s cost-effectiveness threshold.
  • Establishing optimal methods for collection, analysis, critical appraisal and synthesis of non-experimental evidence arising from disease registers, electronic data sets to enable it to be used in the deliberative process (including methods to establish and validate minimum datasets).


Funding available

Up to £2 million is available through this call. As the awards will support high quality, policy relevant research the MRC expects awards to be completed within 24 months. Due to the expected length of the awards, it is hoped that applicants will have the necessary teams in place to commence the awards within a short time frame. All awards will include full economic costing (80 per cent FEC).


Assessment process

Proposals will be reviewed and assessed following the standard process for MRC grants. Proposals need to have methods development as their primary purpose and for the methods developed to be applicable beyond the context of a specific case study. In addition, the MRC-NIHR MRP Panel will also consider the:

  • Fit of the proposal to the methodological research needs of NICE,
  • Quality of the methods development research proposed,
  • Novelty/ priority/ importance /timeliness of the research methods.


Proposals will be sent out for external peer review, as is common practice with MRC standard research grants, however applicants will not be invited to respond to reviewers’ comments. The final funding decisions will be made either by the MRP Panel or a sub-committee appointed specifically for the purpose by the MRP if a high number of applications is received. The applications will be assessed against the criteria outlined in the applicants’ handbook including the justification of the resources requested (value for money). Decisions made by the MRP and its commissioning sub-committee panel are final.


Contact and guidance

General contact for pre-award enquiries, please contact:

MRC Pre-awards administration team


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