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Research for Social Care Programme - Frequently Asked Questions


30 September 2020


2.0 September 2021


This document provides answers to questions frequently asked by applicants to funding calls by the NIHR Research for Social Care (RfSC) programme.

RfSC scope and aims

What is the scope and remit of the RfSC call?

The RfSC call will fund research which generates evidence to improve, expand and strengthen the way adult social care is delivered for users of care services, carers, and the public.

RfSC research is expected to have a high degree of involvement from relevant users of social care and social care practitioners throughout the research. 

RfSC welcomes high quality proposals from researchers and practitioners which are focused on:

  • Social care needs and relevant outcomes (which could be quality of life, social or health care related, as appropriate to the study, population etc.)
  • Developing a more robust evidence base for current ways of working
  • Developing and evaluating new ways of delivering social care
  • Secondary data analysis, record linkage and reviews
  • Research methods development
  • Care users’ and carers’ circumstances and needs
  • Those who deliver social care including unpaid carers and the staff and professionals involved in the delivery of social care e.g. social workers.

We are aware that social care is broad and if you are unsure as to whether a topic is within scope for the call please see the call specification, or contact the team and submit a RfSC pre-submission enquiry form.

What organisations are eligible to apply for funding from RfSC?

Applications will be made through universities, local authorities, and NHS bodies or other providers of NHS services in England, which will act as the contracting organisation, be the recipient of the funds, and will be responsible for the delivery of the research. The sponsor of the research (that is the organisation directly responsible for securing the arrangements to initiate, manage and finance the study) can be either the contracting organisation or a collaborating partner, as long as that organisation is capable of fulfilling the role of a research sponsor as set out in the UK Policy Framework for Health and Social Care Research.

Applications are expected to have strong involvement and collaboration with organisations that are responsible for delivering social care services e.g local authorities and third sector, where appropriate.

Partner organisations from outside of England may be included, provided a strong case is made that it is best placed to provide the necessary expertise to carry out the planned research.

How are research costs, NHS treatment costs and support costs categorised?

  • Research Costs are the costs of the research activity itself, data collection, analysis and other activities needed to answer the research questions. Research costs are met by the funder (e.g. RfSC). 
  • Support Costs include the additional user-related care costs associated with the research, which would end once the R&D activity has stopped, even if the care service involved continued to be provided.They are met by the Clinical Research Network (CRN) 
  • Treatment Costs (i.e. Intervention/service Costs) are the care costs that would continue to be incurred if the care service in questions continued to be provided after the R&D activity has stopped. 
  • Excess Treatment Cost (ETC) is the difference between the total Treatment Costs and the costs of the standard care currently provided. Treatment costs should be met by the commissioner of the care service (e.g. NHS, local authorities, third sector etc.).

For example:

Interviews need to be conducted to obtain users’ views on a new piece of assistive technology being assessed for people with dementia in care homes. 

  • In this example, the interviews would be considered the research activity (as they will end with the research project and are not required for safety reasons) and would be funded as a Research cost by the funder i.e. RfSC.
  • Consenting/recruiting the users to take part in this research project would be considered a Support cost and funded by the CRN. 
  • The assistive technology is considered a Treatment cost and would be funded by the organisation responsible for delivering/funding it in practice e.g. the care home.

What kinds of support is available to Social Care researchers to put together their research proposal?

RfSC is committed to support social care researchers to develop high-quality and competitive research projects. Researchers are strongly encouraged to contact their local Research Design Services at their earliest convenience to discuss potential project ideas. The School for Social Care also conducts routine webinars and events to build capacities among researchers. Researchers are also encouraged to contact NIHR Clinical Research Network to get practical support to plan a research project. Researchers can also fill in the RfSC pre-submission enquiry form at the beginning of the competition round to get some basic feedback on the scope of their projects.

My proposed project is very local, to do with service design for a small group in a particular community. Is this likely to be acceptable?

RfSC supports projects with proposed outcomes that are likely to make a difference for social care service-users, carers and practitioners. We recognise, for example, that a small change sometimes can make a big difference. We suggest that alongside demonstrating the rigour and appropriateness of the research design, also pay particular attention to the sections of the application form that allow you to include some discussion of the potential transferability of findings to other locations or perhaps other groups.

If my application is unsuccessful, can I revise and resubmit?

Although we do not prohibit the submission of applications which were submitted unsuccessfully in previous competitions, applicants should recognise that the original application was judged to be uncompetitive in that round, or significantly flawed, and is therefore likely to need substantive modification to have a realistic chance of being funded in future competitions.

 Applicants considering resubmission should therefore pay particularly close attention to any specific feedback provided on their previously unsuccessful application, as well as to the generic advice provided in the RfSC guidances and on the website.

Please note that resubmitted applications will be treated as a new application, and there is no guarantee that addressing the feedback points from the previous unsuccessful application will result in funding. There is also no guarantee that the application will be assessed by the same assessors of the national committee. Applicants looking to resubmit an application should seek advice from the appropriate regional Research Design Service (RDS).

What is considered to be appropriate patient and public involvement (PPI) in a RfSC application?

There is no standard model for appropriate PPI as RfSC applications vary immensely. However, the RfSC Committee is committed to ensuring there is a strong PPI involvement embedded at every step of the project lifecycle. To start, researchers may find it helpful to consult the Supporting Information for Applicants, and the Support for study teams page.

A list of PPI resources for applicants to NIHR research programmes is available on the NIHR website, including: Briefing notes for researchers on how to involve service users, carers and the public, including definition of involvement engagement and participation; and Payments Guidance for researchers and professionals with information on budgeting for involvement.

Please see the NIHR INCLUDE Guidance for more information about how to include under-served groups effectively.

One of the best resources for early advice on PPI involvement is your local Research Design Service. Each NIHR RDS has a PPI Manager who can help you plan and source local information and assistance from social care users , PPI organisations and their contact networks.