6. Research Involving Existing Facilities and Resources


6.1 Research involving cohort resources

All applications for funding for new or existing population cohort studies are required to submit an outline for assessment by the Cohort Strategic Review Group (CSRG) prior to submission of a full application to a board. Applications for funding for clinical cohorts (usually set up around specific diseases or conditions) need not follow this process.

Outlines should be prepared following the MRC Cohort Outline Application Template (PDF, 39KB) and should be no more than 6 pages of A4 in length. Outline applications should be submitted via email to by 4pm on the day of the submission deadline. See the CSRG page.

If invited by CSRG to submit a full proposal to an MRC Board, applicants will be expected to submit their full proposal within 3 months. Full applications should address any concerns raised by CSRG and also cover the points highlighted below.

It is important that all grant applications which include elements of infrastructure support for new or existing cohorts make clear what new health research questions or hypotheses it will be possible to answer over the next five to ten years using the cohort resource. This is required regardless of whether or not the grant application is requesting funding towards investigating any of these specific research questions.

For existing resources, grant applications must contain an explicit statement on what research has been done using the cohort, including publications, and what the impacts have been.

Applications must also detail:

  • Why can this science be addressed using this cohort above other resources?
  • What does this cohort offer that other cohorts do not (nationally and internationally) and how does it relate to other relevant cohorts? Applicants should either list the assets (measures, specimens, population group) as an Annex or reference the cohort website.
  • What are the plans for establishing the cohort as a resource – how is it/will it be used by the wider research community?

The grant application must make clear what new activities, including new data sweeps or new analysis of existing cohort data, will be carried out as part of the grant. Applicants must be clear which costs relate to de novo data collection, analysis of new data and/or maintenance or use of existing data.

There should be complete transparency in the funding being requested, particularly when resources are funded by more than one funder. Applicants must make clear which elements of the cohort resource and studies are funded by whom and over what period.

Data sharing and preservation

In line with MRC policy on data sharing and preservation (PDF, 108KB), applicants must specify the proposed arrangements for data access, data sharing and curation. Appropriate costs to support these elements of the work must be included in the funding requested and applicants should take care to clarify exactly which costs are associated with data sharing, data curation and/or data access.

Applications should also outline:

  • Governance arrangements for data sharing and data access by the wider research community. This should include the process by which third parties apply to use the cohort and how and by whom proposals are assessed.
  • Where and how the cohort meta-data will be made available.
  • The time-frame under which any new data obtained will be added to the cohort resource. Renewals must also demonstrate that previous funding for data sweeps has enriched the cohort.


6.2 High throughput sequencing hubs (accessing next generation sequencing)

The MRC has established four high-throughput sequencing (HTS) hubs with associated technical and bioinformatics support. The hubs are designed to support small and medium-sized projects by providing scientific, technical and bioinformatics expertise and capacity in the application of high-throughput DNA sequencing.

The MRC’s preferred organisations for sequencing research are the MRC hubs. Where local facilities are not available, we expect researchers seeking MRC support to access services through the hubs in the first instance. Whilst there may be cheaper alternatives for next generation sequencing (NGS) services, the hubs are positioned to provide a higher-end service that justifies potentially higher premiums (eg expert input at the project development stage and analysis stage) and ultimately provide better value for money.

There is no special MRC fund or assessment procedure for applicants who wish to utilise the HTS facilities within the Hubs. Applicants requesting MRC grant support to use the hub resource should have liaised with the relevant hub manager in advance and be able to confirm within the application that the necessary access and support will be available. For contact details and further information please visit the MRC HTS resources page.

6.3 Access to facilities provided by other organisations, such as synchrotron radiation facilities 

While in general charges may be levied by other organisations for access to these facilities and the costs must be included by applicants in their proposals, there are some special agreements and funding arrangements in existence, in particular for access to synchrotron facilities.

Applicants whose proposed research involves the use of the Diamond Light Source or European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF) should indicate this in the case for support section of the application form. Requests for beam time should not be included in the proposal to the MRC, although travel costs associated with beam time usage may be sought through the grant proposal where they are not recoverable elsewhere.

Proposals for beam time are made directly through Diamond Light Source or the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) through whom access can also be booked to the Institut Laue-Langevin (ILL) and the ESRF.

Applicants wishing to use other STFC facilities should first discuss with the STFC and the MRC the basis for charging before submitting a grant proposal to the MRC. Applicants wishing to use facilities at Grenoble (ESRF and ILL) should note that UK access is provided through STFC.

6.4 High performance computing facilities

Applicants wishing to use the high performance computing resources of EPSRC, whether or not MRC financial support is required, should submit a Je-S application. For further information see EPSRC high performance computing and support and ARCHER.