Funding

2. The application

2.1 The proposal form

The proposal form provides a summary of the whole project. Some of the sections overlap with mandatory attachments, such as pathways to impact, as the attachments provide the detail required for decision-making purposes.

The main headings include the following (further guidance is available through the Je-S help text provided for each section):

Heading

Information required

Organisation where the grant should be held

This should be the lead RO responsible for administering the grant.

Project title

This should be no more than 150 characters and reflect the aim of the project.

Start date and duration

The anticipated start date should be realistic and would normally be between one month and six months after the date of the decision-making board or panel. Please refer to call guidance as this may vary.

The duration of a grant will typically be from 12 to 60 months. It should reflect the work to be undertaken and may be, restricted/specified in the call/scheme guidance.

Once a grant has been issued, grant holders are required to make every effort to start on the agreed date. The start of the grant may be delayed by up to 3 months from the start date shown in the offer letter, the duration of the grant remaining unchanged. The grant may lapse if it is not started within this period.

Applicants

This should include the PI and all CoIs involved in the project.

Objectives

What is the project aiming to achieve? The objectives of the proposed project should be listed in order of priority and should be those that the investigators would wish the MRC to use as the basis for evaluation of work upon completion of any grant awarded.

Summary*

A plain English (layman’s) summary of the proposed work, explaining:

  • The context of the aims and objectives of the research
  • The potential applications and benefits

Technical summary*

A more in-depth summary aimed at reviewers who have some knowledge of the area of science involved.

Academic beneficiaries

How will the research benefit other researchers in the field?

Identify whether there are any academic beneficiaries in other disciplines and if so, how they will benefit? What will be done to ensure they benefit?

Communication plan

This should include potential impacts for academic and non-academic users. The MRC attaches great importance to the communication of research findings both within and beyond the academic community.

Impact summary*

To prevent duplication, applicants should make reference to the ‘Impact Summary’ from the Pathways to Impact document rather than re-stating this information.

The Impact Summary should address the following two questions:

1. Who will benefit from this research?

List any beneficiaries from the research, for example those who are likely to be interested in, or to benefit from, the proposed research both directly or indirectly. It may be useful to think of beneficiaries as ‘users’ of the research outputs, both immediately, and in the longer term.

Beneficiaries must consist of a wider group than that of the investigators’ immediate professional circle carrying out similar research. For example:

  • Are there any beneficiaries within the commercial private sector who will benefit from the research?
  • Is there anyone, including policy-makers, within international, national, local or devolved government and government agencies or regulators who would benefit from this research?
  • Are there any beneficiaries within the public sector, third sector or any others who might use the results to their advantage? Examples include museums, galleries and charities.
  • Are there any beneficiaries within the wider public?

2. How will they benefit from this research?

Describe the relevance of the research to these beneficiaries, identifying the potential for impacts arising from the proposed work. Please consider the following when framing your response:

  • Explain how the research has the potential to contribute to the nation’s health, wealth or culture.

For example: Fostering global economic performance, and specifically the economic competitiveness of the United Kingdom? Increasing the effectiveness of public services and policy? Enhancing quality of life, health and creative output?

  • What are the potential impacts likely to be, and what is their importance?
  • What are the realistic timescales for the benefits to be realised, and how will this research contribute?
  • What research and professional skills will staff working on the project develop which they could apply in all employment sectors?

Where a project is potentially ODA compliant, the Impact Summary should also address how it meets ODA requirements. For example:

  • Explain the specific problem or outcome which will have an impact on a developing country or countries on the DAC list
  • Explain why this is a problem for the developing country or countries

Summary of resources required for the project

Staffing, equipment and other resources required to carry out the project.

Other Support

Support on current projects from other sources. Applicants will often be already holding grants from the MRC and other funding bodies for research related to the topic for which new funds are being sought. Applicants must declare any relevant financial support which has been awarded or applied for. This should also include any funding that has been obtained or requested for any aspect of the project currently being applied for.

Project co-funders

A project co-funder is an organisation which is jointly funding a project with the MRC. The relationship can be directly with the MRC or the RO. This could include charities, industrial or commercial companies and government organisations. The terms of the co-funding should be detailed in a memorandum of agreement/understanding. Contributions from project co-funders should be detailed in the ‘Project co-funders’ section of the JeS application form

Technical and ethical considerations

Please complete each of these sections with the required information by ticking the appropriate boxes.

* These summaries, including your name and institution, will be published on publicly available sites should the project be funded. Please ensure confidential information is not included in these summaries. If you do include information on the use of animals, please be aware that this information will be freely available to all external users.

2.2 Attachments

All full applications require a completed proposal form accompanied by a number of mandatory attachments. Attachments must conform to the following requirements:

  • All attachments must be completed in a sans-serif typeface (Arial or equivalent, not Arial Narrow) and font size of 11pt, excluding text on diagrams and the use of mathematical symbols.
  • A minimum of single line spacing and standard character spacing must be used.
  • Margins must not be less than 2cm.

Failure to provide required components or information may mean that your proposal will be delayed and/or returned, or its assessment prejudiced.

Applications will be checked soon after the closing date. Any component(s) of an application which do not meet these rules will be returned for amendment before being validated for peer review. A late response in amending returned elements of the application will result in the application being withdrawn from the round.

When uploading PDF documents, please ensure they are given a logical file name and description so that information can be found easily. Also ensure that all pages of each document are numbered.

Mandatory attachments Conditions
CVs* A maximum of two sides of A4
Publications One side of A4 per named person
Case for support Length varies, see case for support table for more information
Justification of resources A maximum of  two sides of A4
Pathways to impact A maximum of  two sides of A4
Data management plan Length varies, see section 2.2.8 for more information

*For New Investigator Research Grants the NIRG CV and Salary Template must be used

In addition each call may specify additional attached components, which will be specified on the call guidance. For example:

Additional attachments Conditions
Covering letter

A maximum of  two sides of A4 using a sans-serif typeface (Arial or equivalent) and font size of 11pt

For more information see 2.7 Covering letter
MICA form For more information see MRC Industry Collaboration Agreement (MICA) 
Heads of terms For more information see MRC Industry Collaboration Agreement (MICA) 
Additional costs proforma: NHS support and treatment costs

 

Upload as ‘letter of support’

For more information see 3.5 NHS Costs

 

Letters of support

A maximum of  two sides of A4 or equivalent on headed paper or sent by email

Technical assessment

A maximum of  two sides of A4

For more information see 2.3 Research Council facilities

Final/Interim Report Programme Grant renewals only. For more information see Programme Grant renewals: additional requirements
 
Gantt Chart/Work Plan

A maximum of one side of A4

Only allowed as a separate attachment on certain calls eg DPFS.
Additional questions on the use of rodents overseas (DOCX, 44KB)

A maximum of two sides of A4


See section 4.1.4.6.

All outline applications should only include:

  • Outline proposal form
  • Case for support
  • CVs and publications
  • Any additional attachments that are requested in the specific guidance for the relevant call 

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2.2.1 CVs

Please note that CVs and publications should be uploaded as separate attachments.

CVs should be a maximum of two sides of A4.

 The CV should cover:

  • Employment history:
    • A description of your current post and the source(s) of funding for this post (including dates)
    • List and description of previous posts (including dates)
    • Educational qualifications (including dates)
  • Please also state whether you are:
    • Clinically qualified
    • Clinically active

The CV should explain any breaks in employment or publication record, for example as a result of a career break or parental leave. The MRC is committed to eliminating unjustified discrimination and promoting equal opportunities as detailed in our equality and diversity policy.

For New Investigator Research Grants the NIRG CV and Salary Template must be used.

When attaching multiple CVs to an application, please include separate CVs and list of publications for each of the following:

  • Principal Investigators
  • Co-Investigators
  • Named individual research staff

2.2.2 Publications

Please note that CVs and publications should be uploaded as separate attachments.

The publications list should highlight relevant and recent publications and should be a maximum of one side of A4.

The MRC welcomes the inclusion of preprints in publication lists. This will come into effect with applications submitted to closing dates on or after 1 April 2017. For more information please see ‘MRC supports preprints’. 

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2.2.3 Case for support 

2.2.3.1 General guidance

The case for support should be a self-contained description of the proposed work with relevant background, and should not depend on additional information. MRC reserves the right to withdraw proposals that contain links to additional information which extends the case for support.

Please note: justification of resources is not required in the case for support. This is a separate document which should be attached to each Je-S application.

The contents of the case for support will depend on the specific funding scheme. The guidelines below list general points that should be addressed when writing the case for support. There is additional guidance for Programme and Partnership grants. However, each proposal is unique, and it is the responsibility of the applicant to ensure that all the reasonable questions that the reviewers and MRC research boards need to address are answered in the proposal – especially if the plan or resources are unusual or complex.

The scientific case should be set out under each of the headings specified in the guidance notes for the specific funding scheme. 

This guidance should be read in conjunction with the information on the assessment criteria, which provides detailed information on what reviewers, boards and panels are looking for. All information that the applicant wishes to be considered as part of their research proposal (within the page limits stipulated) must be attached with their proposal form. The proposal cannot be supplemented by further information beyond the deadline for submissions.

The proposal and case for support will be sent out to a number of reviewers to read. Feedback from reviewers has shown that they are keen to see clarity, succinctness and accessibility.

Proposals which do not meet the following requirements will be returned unprocessed, for submission to a subsequent board meeting:

  • Use sans-serif typeface (Arial or equivalent), font size of 11pt (this includes any references listed within the case for support) and margins of 2cm on all sides
  • Only include one PDF document for the case for support, which must be within the page limits stipulated below
  • The only acceptable annexes are:
    • Reproducibility and statistical design (see section 2.2.3.4)
    • Progress report on previous MRC grants where applicants are MRC staff 
    • Limited additional annexes may be allowed in exceptional circumstances for proposals addressing large population studies, including clinical trials

Proposals containing additional annexes which have not been previously discussed with the relevant Programme Manager will be rejected

  • Any unpublished data must be included in the case for support. For applications submitted to closing dates on or after 1 April 2017 preprints may be included in publication lists. Manuscripts in press or submitted to journals should not be included.

2.2.3.2 Page length

Each scheme has its own limits on the number of pages in the case for support. In the case of specific call for proposals, you must adhere to the specific call guidelines produced.

Your proposal will be returned if you submit a proposal over the maximum page limit.

Page limits in case for support PDF documents:

Scheme

Page limit

Centre grant – outline

Eight

Centre grant – full

Size will reflect the complexity of the grant – please refer to the relevant programme manager for further guidance

Developmental Pathway Funding Scheme – outline and full

N/A – Please refer to the Case for Support Form for details of the character limits

Global health – outline and full

Please refer to the call guidance for details

New investigator research grant award

Eight

Partnership grant – three years or less

Eight

Partnership Grant – more than three years or involves large facilities

Twelve

Programme grant – full

Twelve

Research grant – three years or less

Eight

Research grant – more than three years

Twelve

These page limits include references, but not allowable annexes.

2.2.3.3 Case for support content

  • The case for support must not exceed 10MB. All other attachment types have a 5MB size limit. Avoid the use of large colour figures as these will increase file size. There is no guarantee that documents will be reproduced in colour for the peer review process.
  • RCUK also requires information on public engagement in science. To prevent duplication, applicants should make reference to the ‘Impact summary’ from the pathways to impact document, rather than re-stating this information.
  • Please attach as a PDF document, especially if mathematical symbols are used in the content.

Please note that specific areas need to be covered in the case for support for Programme Grants and Partnership Grants. Please see our guidance on Programme Grants and Partnership Grants for more information.

Title

The title of the proposed project

Importance

Explain the need for research in this area, and the rationale for the particular lines of research planned.

  • Justify the research, either through its importance for human health, or its contribution to relevant areas of basic biomedical science.
  • Give sufficient details of other past and current research to show that the aims are scientifically justified, and to show that the work will add distinct value to what is already known, or in progress.
  • Where relevant, explain how plans benefit, fulfill unmet needs or contribute to current plans in the health service or industry.
  • Where the research plans involve creating resources or facilities, or forming consortia, networks or centres of excellence, the case will need to address the potential added value, as well as issues of ownership, direction and sustainability.

 

Scientific potential

 

People and track record

  • Each of the CVs will be uploaded separately as attachments in Je-S. If it is not obvious, the applicant may elaborate on why the group is well qualified to do this research in the case for support.
    • Explain how each of the investigators named in the proposal will work together and outline other major collaborations important for the research.
    • The applicant should acknowledge any previous or current MRC funding and describe progress-to-date on delivery of this research. The quality and productivity of the recent work will be a factor in assessing the likely quality of future work.
    • If the applicant has not been active in research recently, simply state this.
    • Describe any other factors which the applicant considers may promote delivery of the proposal.

Environment

  • Describe how the scientific or clinical environment(s) in which the research will be done will promote delivery of the proposed research.
  • Explain how the research will benefit from facilities provided by the host RO.
  • Describe any clinical, commercial, or organisational dependencies necessary to support the research, or to help translate it into practice.

Research plans

  • Give details of the general experimental approaches, study designs, and techniques that will be used (the one-page annex ‘Reproducibility and statistical design’ annex should be used to supplement information in this section, where necessary and as appropriate. See below for further details). It is not necessary to describe each experiment, but give enough detail to show why the research is likely to be competitive in its field. For example:
    • Highlight plans which are particularly original or unique
    • Describe plans to reduce bias such as blinding or randomisation (or a justification of why such measures are not possible/appropriate). A justification of the proposed sample size must be given (where appropriate) along with details of the planned statistical analyses.
    • Describe all foreseeable human studies and animal experiments (in as much detail as possible at this stage)
    • Explain in greater detail how new techniques, or particularly difficult or risky studies, will be tackled, and alternative approaches should these fail
    • Identify facilities or resources you will need to access
    • Give sufficient detail to justify the resources requested
  • If this is a pilot work or proof of principle proposal, give a brief description of likely subsequent proposals if the work is successful. Please note that any proposals that are intended to lead directly to a clinical trial must be discussed at an early stage with the relevant MRC programme manager
  • Explain opportunities or plans for pursuing commercial exploitation

Ethics and research governance

  • Describe briefly the ethical issues arising from any involvement of people, human samples or personal data in the research proposal. Please give details of how any specific risks to human participants will be controlled, and of any new animal research the MRC would be supporting. Please refer to Ethics section for further guidance.
  • Describe the ethical review and research governance arrangements that would apply to the work done.

Exploitation and dissemination

  • Is the proposed research likely to generate commercially exploitable results?
  • What arrangements and experience does the research group or the host research organisation have to take forward the commercial exploitation of research in this area?
  • Other than publication in peer reviewed journals, indicate how any results arising from the research will be disseminated so as to promote or facilitate take up by users in the health services.

Project partners (see also section 2.2.7)

  • All partner contributions, whether in cash or in-kind, should be explained in detail, including the equivalent value of any in-kind contributions
  • In-kind contributions can include staff time, access to equipment, sites or facilities, the provision of data, software or materials.
  • The financial value of the contribution should be included on the Je-S form. Where the input is important to the project but has no significant financial value, a nominal sum of £1 may be entered as the value of the contribution.

 

Additional requirements for New Investigator Research Grants:

A signed statement of support (maximum of 2 sides of A4) from a senior authority within the host RO on headed paper should be attached to all applications. For more information please refer to our guidance on NIRGs.

It will be important for the proposed host organisation to demonstrate its commitment to the applicant as a potential future PI. The suitability of the environment and the organisation’s commitment are significant factors in the Boards’ consideration of NIRG proposals.

All NIRG proposals must also include a declaration that the applicant has originated the research question and written the research proposal. This should be in the form of a letter to be uploaded separately as a ‘Letter of Support'.

2.2.3.4 Reproducibility and statistical design (recommended annex)

The purpose of this annex is to provide important additional information on reproducibility, and to explain the steps taken to ensure the reliability and robustness of the chosen methodology and experimental design. Please note in this context, methodology refers to the rationale for choosing which method to use and not the provision of detailed descriptions of the methods to be used.

It is strongly advised that a one-page annex to the case for support is included, in addition to the page limits in Section 2.2.3.2, to provide additional information specifically relating to the statistical analyses, methodology and experimental design aspects of the proposal (beyond that contained in the main case for support). Please note that you should not duplicate information presented elsewhere in the application.

This information must be provided as a clearly marked annex at the end of the main case for support, entitled ‘Reproducibility and statistical design annex’ and should not be added as a separate attachment. Standard formatting guidance applies. Applications not adhering to these conditions will be returned unprocessed.

Applications that do not provide sufficient detail to convince peer reviewers and Research Boards and Panels that the proposed experiments will be carried out appropriately to produce robust and reproducible research will be rejected for funding on these grounds and subject to the usual limits on resubmission.

The NC3Rs have developed a free online tool to guide researchers through the design of their experiments, helping to ensure that they use the minimum number of animals consistent with their scientific objectives, methods to reduce subjective bias, and appropriate statistical analysis. The NC3R’s Experimental Design Assistant can be found on the NC3R’s website.

What to include in the annex

It is expected that professional statistical (or other relevant) advice would be sought in putting this section together. Each experiment does not need to be described in detail, but sufficient information must be included that reviewers are readily able to understand the experimental plan. Where appropriate, the use of figures, tables and/or diagrams is encouraged.

The following table highlights the key points you should include in the annex.

Experimental approach to address objectives.

 

This information may be provided in diagrammatic or tabular form if appropriate.

  • Primary and secondary experimental outcomes to be assessed (e.g. cell death, molecular markers, behaviour change) and how these relate to experimental objectives
  • Number of experimental and control groups
  • A clear definition of the ‘experimental unit’ in the analysis and the implications thereof (i.e. there is a difference between N samples from one animal, as distinct from one sample from each of N animals, or combining samples from multiple animals)
  • Number of 'experimental units' in each experimental group.
  • Total number of  'experimental units' to be measured
  • Number of times each 'experimental unit' will be measured
  • Number of independent replications of each experiment.
  • Steps taken to minimise the effects of bias (e.g. blinding, randomisation) or an explanation of why this would not be appropriate
  • Breeding strategies may be included here, if applicable.

 

Justification of model(s) chosen (e.g. animal model, cell line etc.

  • How and why the models and/or methods are appropriate to address the scientific objectives

 

 

Sample sizes

  • Show clearly how effect sizes have been calculated and justify how they are biologically relevant
  • Demonstrate that statistical power calculations are grounded in justifiable and explicit assumptions about both anticipated effect size and variability of the experimental effects
  • If statistical power calculations cannot reasonably be applied, applicants should provide a principled explanation of the choice of numbers
  • Explanations based solely in terms of ‘usual practice’ or with reference solely to previously published data will not be considered adequate.

 

Planned statistical analyses and their relation to the choice of sample size

  • Overview of the planned statistical analyses in relation to the sample size
  • Details of any statistical/methodological design advice sought (you may cost a relevant expert, e.g. statistician, into your proposal if necessary and justified). A letter of support from the expert involved is permitted, but not mandatory

 

 

If your proposal includes the use of animals, please also refer to Section 4.1.4., in addition to the guidance above, for more information on the key points you may wish to include in the annex.

What not to include in the annex

The annex should not to be used as a simple continuation of the methods set out in the case for support; please do not include detailed descriptions of the methods. Applications misusing the annex in this way will be returned. The case for support should be a self-contained description of the proposed work with relevant background, and should not depend on additional information.

For proposals involving animal use, information on the rationale for using animals, choice of species, information about the animals used (e.g. weight, sex), animal costs and procedure severity information should be provided elsewhere in the application as detailed in the table at Section 4.1.8).

2.2.4 Justification of resources

Cross council guidance on writing a good justification of resources (JoR) document is available on the Je-S help pages.

The role of the JoR is to aid reviewers when assessing proposals so that they can make an informed judgement on whether the resources requested are appropriate for the research posed.

The JoR is a mandatory attachment to the proposal and should be no more than two sides of A4. It should take into account the nature and complexity of the research proposal. It should not simply be a list of the resources required (already defined in the Je-S form). All items requested in the Je-S form must be justified in the JoR.

The JoR is a free text document. We recommend that you match the costs to the proposal headings below (where appropriate) so that you do not miss any costings from the Je-S form or any justifications for the items requested.

Cost to the proposal

Justification needed

Questions to consider and answer in the justification

Staff – directly incurred posts
Researcher/technician

Justify why a researcher/technician is needed for the proposed work and why the proposed time input is appropriate.

Is the work of appropriate scientific technical difficulty to warrant employing a research assistant? Why has the level requested for the RA been asked for?

Staff – directly allocated posts
Principal investigator (PI), co-investigator (CoI) and research co-investigator time (unless working 100 per cent of their hours on the
grant eg fellows)

Justify the time that the PI and CoI spend on the grant.

A PI or CoI cannot request time for supervising postgraduate research students, writing publications after the end of the project, writing grant applications or peer review.

How much time do you intend to dedicate to the project? Will you be doing all the research yourself? What work packages are the PI and CoIs involved with and why? Have you factored in enough time to work with project partners or visiting researchers and collaborators? Are you managing the staff on the project only?

Travel and subsistence

Give a full breakdown of the costs in the Je-S form. For example how many people are travelling, where are they going and why?

If you are planning to visit people to discuss your research, you should explain why those are the right people to talk to and how they can contribute to you meeting your objectives. If you plan to attend conferences, you should comment on the advantages of conference attendance. Give
an indication of the number you want to attend during the grant, who will attend these and the type you want to go to eg national/international/ general/subject-specific.

Travel costs incurred when using facilities should be included where necessary.

Other directly incurred costs

Give a description of what has been requested and why?

Justify the need for any item requested. Explain what the item will be needed for and also justify the cost. For example if you are asking for a desktop and a laptop, then justify why both are needed.

We expect that the university will provide computers and laptops for the PIs and CoIs and other research staff on continuing contracts.

You must provide a breakdown of any costs which are incurred for bulk items.

Directly incurred equipment  Why is the item needed? Why can the item not be used/borrowed
from elsewhere.
Impact Justify any resources requested to support the impact plan. For example:
  • staff time, travel and subsistence
  • consultancy fees
Full justification (what it is and why you need it) of each item requested.
Please note: patent costs and other IP costs are not eligible; Universities already receive funding for these from HEIF.
Also estate and indirect costs should not be requested for Technology Transfer Officers (TTOs). These are project-specific resources.
Other directly allocated costs Justify the need for resources. Explain what these are and why you need to use them. In some cases, such as internal facilities and shared costs, the basis of costing does not need to be justified.
Estates and indirect costs Does not need to be justified. Must not be included for technicians, research support staff, or staff employed at MRC units/ institutes
Research facilities (at research organisations) Justify time only. Explain what you are using the facility for and why you need to use this particular facility.
Pooled technicians  For example workshop or laboratory technicians based at the university. Usually not named.   We would expect these costs to be included  in the estates/indirect costs for the RO. Where the technicians used are of a specialist nature and not included in the states/indirect costs for the RO, they should be fully justified in the JoR as to why they are required and why the costs are not included in the ROs estate/ indirect costs.
Infrastructure technicians For example health and safety officer at university. Cost should be displayed separately to estate and indirect costs in the other directly allocated costs box. Where the post is to fulfil a legal requirement, then the post does not need to be justified.
Exceptions
eg PhD student

Justify why a PhD student is needed for the proposed work. 

Please see section 3.2.5

Will a student be skilled enough to tackle the research problems? Will it be feasible  for  them to produce a  thesis?

Costs for PhD studentships can only be requested on partnership or centre grants.

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2.2.5 Pathways to impact

This should be a maximum of two A4 pages and is primarily for detailing the activities which will promote potential economic and societal benefits. Only use as much space as needed; it is not necessary to fill two pages.

To prevent duplication, applicants should make reference to the ‘Impact Summary’ from the Pathways to Impact document rather than re-stating this information.

Our primary criterion is research excellence. RCUK introduced ‘Pathways to Impact’ to encourage you to think about what can be done to ensure your research makes a difference. Through pathways to impact we want to encourage you to explore, from the outset, throughout the life of your project and beyond who could potentially benefit from your research and what you can do to facilitate this.

2.2.5.1 Pathways to impact statement

You should upload your statement as an attachment on Je-S and describe what specific actions will be taken to ensure that the potential beneficiaries identified in the impact summary (on the proposal form) have the opportunity to benefit from the research.

A clearly thought through and acceptable pathways to impact statement should:

  • Identify and actively engage relevant users of research and stakeholders at appropriate stages
  • Articulate a clear understanding of the content and needs of users and consider ways for the proposed research to meet these needs or impact upon understandings of these needs
  • Be specific – what is going to be done throughout the lifetime of the grant to facilitate maximum impact of the research?
  • Outline the planning and management of associated activities including timing, personnel, skills, budget, deliverables and feasibility. Ensure that planned activities are appropriate to the research that will be undertaken. We would expect all investigators to be able to undertake activities beyond scientific presentation. However we are aware that the pathways to impact for basic research are likely to be different to those for translational research. Examples of the variety of short and long-term impacts realised from different types of MRC funding are available  and through the evaluation  reports  of the latest available MRC Researchfish data.
  • Include evidence of any existing engagement with relevant end users.

Describing pathways to impact will apply for the vast majority of proposals. In the few exceptions where this is not the case, the pathways to impact statement should fully justify the reasons why this is not possible.

Research council guidance for completing the sections on pathways to impact is available.

Top tips for articulating potential impact:
  • Draft the impact summary very early in your preparation, so that it informs the design of your research.
  • Remember to consider and include project-specific costs relating to proposed impact activities eg engagement workshops or marketing materials
  • Do not cut and paste the text provided within the impact summary into pathways to impact. The purpose of the impact summary is to provide a short description of the beneficiaries and potential impacts, which could be used in the public domain. Pathways to impact should set out what you will do to realise the potential impacts.
  • Public engagement is a popular form of impact activity. For such activities to be as effective as possible, try to think of your research in the context of two-way engagement, not just outreach.

In completing both the impact summary and pathways to impact statement, bear in mind the broad range of impacts that your research may have, spanning the advancement of scientific knowledge, health and
wellbeing, economic competitiveness, policy development and the provision of skilled people to the workforce. We will use pathways to impact in the assessment of grant applications, but the primary route for capturing the impact of the science that we fund will continue to be through Researchfish.

2.2.5.2 Definition of impact

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.

When applying for research council funding via Je-S, pathways towards academic impact are expected to be outlined in the academic beneficiaries and appropriate case for support sections. An exception to this is where academic impact forms part of the critical pathway to economic and societal impact.

Economic and societal impacts: The demonstrable contribution that excellent research makes to society and the economy. Economic and societal impacts embrace the diverse ways in which research-related knowledge and skills benefit individuals, organisations and nations. These include:

  • Fostering global economic performance, specifically the economic competitiveness of the United Kingdom
  • 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. It also enables members of the public to act as informed citizens and can inspire the next generation of researchers.

2.2.5.3 Assessment

All applications to the MRC will continue to be assessed according to the following criteria:

1.   Importance: how important are the questions, or gaps in knowledge, that are being addressed?

2.   Scientific potential: what are the prospects for good scientific progress?

3.   Resources requested: are the funds requested essential for the work, and do the importance and scientific potential justify funding on the scale requested?

As part of their assessment of the proposal, reviewers and board/panel members will be asked to consider the potential economic and societal impact of the proposed research, including:

  • identification of realistic potential improvements to human or population health
  • contribution to relieving disease/disability burden and/or improving quality of life
  • identification of potential impacts of research and plans to deliver these  

More information on MRC's assessment criteria can be found on the peer review guidance document (PDF, 638KB).

2.2.5.4 Further information

Further information regarding all aspects of RCUK’s approach to impact in research, including further guidance on completing your ‘Pathways to Impact’ statement is available on the RCUK website.

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2.2.6 Covering letter

A covering letter may be included as part of an application. It should be no more than two A4 pages using sans-serif typeface (Arial or equivalent) and font size of 11pt. The covering letter can be used to cover details such as conflicts of interest and names of conflicted experts that you request not to be used as reviewers. If detailing conflicted experts, the following information must be provided in the covering letter:
1.    The name of the person not to approach
2.    The RO(s) they are based at
3.    A clear reason why the person would not be able to provide an unbiased and evidence-based review

The decision on whether or not to honour a request to exclude a reviewer lies with the MRC following consideration of the justification provided. Requests submitted without a justification will not be considered.

If the application is a resubmission it should also include details of how this application differs from that submitted previously. It must not be used to cover anything which should be included in the proposal form, case for support or other required attachments.

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2.2.7 Project partner letter of support

Each project partner must provide a project partner letter of support, a maximum of two sides of A4 (or equivalent) on headed paper or by email. The letter must be an integral part of the application and must focus on the proposal it accompanies. The individual named as contact for the project partner organisation cannot also be named as staff, for example co-investigator on a grant proposal. 

Applicants should: 

  • Include the letter or email as an attachment to the grant on submission via Je-S. Please note that the Project Partner Letter of Support should only be added to the Project Partners section of the Je-S application form and should not be uploaded to the attachments section of the application as document/attachment type ‘Letter of Support’.
  • Draft the letter or email when the proposal is being prepared; it should be targeted specifically to the project and must therefore be dated within six months of the date of submission of the proposal. 
  • Get the letter or email signed by the named contact, stating the capacity in which they are providing the sign off to provide assurance that the project partner has authorised the proposed contribution or commitment (project partner letters of support that merely indicate that an organisation is interested in the research are not permitted).

A well written project partner letter of support will confirm the organisation’s commitment to the proposed project by articulating the benefits of the collaboration, its relevance and potential impact. The project partner letter or email should also identify:

  • The value, relevance and possible benefits of the proposed work to the partner
  • One or more names of key experts / investigators
  • Where relevant to the project, details should be provided of the projected market size, customer sales and how the organisation will commercialise the technology beyond the project. 
  • The period of support
  • The full nature of the collaboration/support. Project partner contributions, whether in cash or in-kind, should be explained in detail. in the case for support (see section 2.2.3) Detail of how this support relates to the proposal as a whole should be included in the case for support and in the pathways to impact attachment. 
  • How the partner will provide added value. 

The project partners should not submit any other ordinary letters of support unless in exceptional cases and where this has been agreed to with the research council. The research councils reserve the right to remove all other letters of support from the proposal. Applicants should refer to the research council or call guidance for additional information regarding acceptable letters of support.

Additional information requirements where human tissue/participants are being provided:

Where the project partner (whether an individual or organisation) is responsible for recruitment of people as research participants and/or providing human tissue,  list them as a project partner on the proposal form and enter a nominal sum of £1 for the value of the contribution. Details should be included in the case for support. A letter of support must be attached to the application and include the following information:

  • Agreement that the project partner will recruit the participants/provide tissue
  • That what is being supplied is suitable for the research being undertaken
  • That the quantity of tissue (where relevant) being supplied is suitable, but not excessive for achieving meaningful results

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2.2.8 Data management plans (DMP)

All applicants submitting funding proposals (research and fellowship grants) to the MRC must include a data management plan (DMP) as an attachment to their application on Je-S. This includes applications for the renewal of existing funding. The DMP should comply with the MRC’s policy on research data sharing (PDF, 108KB). MRC institutes and units are required to submit a DMP as part of the Quinquennial Review (QQR) report.

The DMP should demonstrate how the PI will meet, or already meets, their responsibilities for research data quality, sharing and security. It should refer to any institutional and study data policies, systems and procedures and be regularly reviewed throughout the research cycle. Where the organisation is ISO 27001 compliant, the registration number should also be included.

The DMP is reviewed by peer reviewers alongside the case for support. It is advisable that all DMPs use the template (DOC, 100KB) to ensure consistency and make it easier to review. Carefully read and adhere to guidance; the quality of the DMP may have an impact on peer review and whether the application proceeds to board/panel.

For population and patient based studies the DMP should indicate how the study meets the requirements of the MRC’s detailed guidance on data sharing for population and patient studies, particularly around access criteria and independent oversight ( the means for ensuring the study and its variables are readily discoverable) and specifically about use of formal data standards.

Partnership grants reliant on sharing and/or reusing research data must include a brief summary of how access to existing data will be managed and how newly generated data will be accessed and preserved throughout the duration of the award.

For MRC institutes and units a DMP is developed as part of the Quinquennial Review (QQR) report (directors may choose to develop more than one DMP, specific to particular programmes).

Level of risk

Where the research involves human participants, their data or tissues or where the research team holds identifiable data about these research participants, the level of risk regarding data management is much higher. In these instances, the DMP should be more detailed and include information on how these risks will be managed.

Length of data management plan 

Type of study Page length

Population cohorts, genetic, omics and imaging data, biobanks, and other collections that are potentially a rich resource for the wider research community.

Up to three A4 pages

Longitudinal studies, involving a series of data collections

Up to four A4 pages (unless agreed otherwise with the MRC prior to submitting the application)
All other research

For less complex research the DMP may be as short as quarter of a page up to a maximum of 3 x A4 pages

How should it be written?

The DMP should be written for two audiences: (a) scientists in the broad field of the area of science covered in the application; and (b) technical experts who are familiar with the prevailing data management practices. Most of the readers will be of type (a).

The information must be concise. The detail should be proportionate to the complexity of the study, the types of data being managed, their anticipated long-term value, and the anticipated data security requirements.

What to include

The DMP template should be used to develop a plan to accompany a research proposal. If you do use the template, ensure to address all the topics listed on the template.

For studies with a history of active data sharing, the DMP should include brief summary statistics on the performance and outputs of sharing (see section on reporting on data sharing)

We expect you to seek advice from data management experts in your organisation and use other sources of good practice to improve and innovate data management. If this means your DMP departs from some aspect of this guidance (or that on data sharing), explain succinctly why and how this is more appropriate. It will aid your DMP if you can show that the infrastructure and good practice is already in place at your RO. 

Custodians of previously collected/generated research data (‘legacy data’), applying for funds to use legacy data as part of a new funding request, should ensure that the DMP covers both existing and new data collection/generation.

Multiple funding agencies

Where research is co-funded between the MRC and another organisation, our data sharing policy and these guidelines on the DMP will still apply. The relevant policies of the major UK funders of biomedical research are aligned on principles and most of their detailed requirements. Any apparent conflict in co-policies should be discussed with your programme manager, or by emailing MRCdatasharing@headoffice.mrc.ac.uk.

Cost of data sharing

You should include the costs related to your data sharing in the resources section of the proposal form. This may include people, equipment, infrastructure and tools to manage, store, analyse and provide access to data.

Where the costs of managing legacy data and sharing are substantial, the proposal should differentiate the resources and funding for the following activities:

  • Collecting and 'cleaning' new data
  • Own research on newly-acquired and legacy data
  • Ongoing data curation and preservation
  • Providing access and data sharing

2.2.9 Additional requirements for New Investigator Research Grants

2.2.9.1 Statement of support

A signed statement of support (maximum of 2 sides of A4) from a senior authority within the host RO on headed paper should be attached to all NIRG applications. For more information please refer to our guidance on NIRGs.

It will be important for the proposed host organisation to demonstrate its commitment to the applicant as a potential future PI. The suitability of the environment and the organisation’s commitment are significant factors in the Boards’ consideration of NIRG proposals.

2.2.9.2 Declaration

All NIRG proposals must also include a declaration that the applicant has originated the research question and written the research proposal. This should be in the form of a letter to be uploaded separately as a ‘Letter of Support'.

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2.3 Research Council Facilities

Should they be required as part of the research project, applicants can choose one of two RCUK national facilities.

  1. Ion Beam Centre - University of Surrey, Guildford
  2. Solid-State NMR Facility - The University of Warwick

If you are planning to use a national research council facility as part of the proposed research, you'll be asked to provide a technical assessment from the service provider. You are required to contact the facility before applying to the MRC to check if your proposed research is feasible and obtain a technical assessment which needs to be attached to the application.

When you have completed the ‘Research Council Facilities’ section of the Je-S form and added either of the above detailed two facilities, you will then be required to attach the ‘Technical Assessment’ form completed by the service provider.

Please note that the ‘Technical Assessment’ attachment type is added via the attachments section of the Je-S application. This attachment type is only made available to select following the addition of either NMR Facility or Ion Beams Centre to the Je-S form.

The technical assessment is required to detail the outline discussions that have taken place with the research facility, to ensure the facility will be available to you at the required time. Please also confirm the start and end date of use of the facility, support requirements and a brief summary of the facilities use and importance of their use for the project. Please include any other information you consider relevant. 
Please ensure the technical assessment attachment does not exceed a maximum of 2 pages.

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2.4 Application checking - common reasons for returning applications to research offices

  • Attachments over permitted page length (eg CV, publication list, Case for Support, Justification of Resources, Pathways to Impact)
  • CV and publications uploaded as one attachment
  • Missing CV for researcher named on grant
  • Letter of support not dated 
  • Letter of support not signed
  • Letter of support for human tissue use not provided (see Ethics and approvals section)  
  • Publishing/open access cost requested
  • Equipment costs requested at 100 per cent - with no justification
  • Equipment broken down into component parts to avoid £10K limit
  • Unauthorised attachments (eg Gantt chart in separate document rather than in case for support)
  • Track changes on document
  • Insufficient animal use justification
  • NIRG RO letter of support does not include salary details
  • NIRG CV not on template
  • MICA Heads of Terms or MICA Form missing

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2.5 Peer review

When the application is received, it will be peer reviewed by independent scientific experts from the UK and overseas. More information on Peer review at the MRC can be found on our Peer review webpages.

2.5.1 Nominating peer reviewers

Applicants can nominate up to 3 independent reviewers whom MRC may approach for assessment of the research proposal.

Please note only one of the three nominated reviewers will be approached and we may decide not to approach any of the applicant’s nominated reviewers.
  • Nominated reviewers must be experts in the research field and/or be able to provide an expert view on the value and benefits of the research proposal.
  • Investigators shall not provide reviewers from their own organisation, or from current or proposed project co-funders, or where any possible conflict of interest may arise.
  • International reviewers can be included.
Please note the MRC considers possible conflicts of interest when selecting experts to review a proposal. Reviewers are asked to identify any possible conflicts of interest before they begin reviewing a proposal and to decline to review a proposal if there are any. The MRC treat any such disclosures appropriately and fairly. The covering letter can be used to name conflicted experts that you request not to be used as reviewers (see section 2.2.6).

2.5.2 Applicants' response to reviewers’ comments

When an application has been short listed for a Board Meeting, Principal Investigators have up to 3 pages (A4) within which to respond to the comments given by the reviewers.

  • The response should be clearly presented, concise and should not exceed three pages, irrespective of the number of reviews / additional points made by the triage/shortlisting panel that applicants should respond to (eg with reference to experimental design). Additional page(s) will only be granted if the triage panel have requested eg a Gantt chart, flow chart, diagram that requires additional space.
  • Use an A4 format with Arial typeface and a minimum font size of 11pt.
  • The response is to all reviews received. A subsequent response to any late reviews must also retain response text on all earlier reviews and not exceed the specified page format.
  • If the response needs to be amended eg because of further later peer review comments, the existing copy will need to be removed and a new version uploaded

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