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Research Design Service

Got a research idea and not sure how to turn it into a funding application? Talk to our Research Design Service (RDS).

The RDS provides support to health and social care researchers across England on all aspects of developing and writing a funding application, including research design, research methods, identifying funding sources and involving patients and the public. Advice is confidential and free of charge.

Advice on developing COVID-19 research

The Research Design Service (RDS) provides free and confidential advice on research design, writing funding applications and public involvement, to health and social care researchers across England.

RDS advisers have a wealth of experience and proven track records in supporting high quality funding applications. 

The RDS supports applications not only to NIHR research programmes, but also to other open, national, peer-reviewed funding competitions for applied health or social care research, including research charities. The RDS can support a broad range of familiar quantitative, qualitative and mixed-methods research designs, as well as newer and more novel approaches.

To make the best use of the RDS, contact your regional service at an early stage to discuss your research ideas.

How the RDS can help

The RDS offers high quality, responsive, specialist advice and support on research design and methodology, to researchers making funding applications for submission to NIHR research programmes and national, peer-reviewed funding competitions for applied health or social care research.

The RDS could help your team with:

  • designing a study
  • research methods (qualitative and quantitative)
  • identifying suitable sources of funding
  • involving patients and public in research design
  • identifying potential academic, clinical, small-to-medium-sized enterprise (SME) and public collaborators
  • identifying and refining the research question
  • medical statistics
  • health economics
  • advice on common pitfalls
  • interpreting feedback from funding panels.

Find out more about working with the service in the RDS charter. RDS also offers guidance on public involvement in funding applications and runs events about developing research proposals.

Who the RDS can help

The RDS can help you if you are:

  • developing funding applications for applied health or social care research
  • applying for personal fellowships
  • writing applications to national, open, peer-reviewed funding competitions.

The RDS supports a broad range of people, including:

  • doctors, nurses and allied health professionals
  • patients and service users
  • academics and NHS and social care managers.

RDS priority is to support applications to NIHR research programmes. They also support applications to research councils and other open, national, peer-reviewed funding programmes.

The RDS Resources Microsite is a collection of helpful documents, guidance and toolkits that can help support your application. 

The Public Health Research Applications and Design service (PHRADA) is provided by the NIHR RDS across England to support applicants to develop competitive applications to the NIHR Public Health Research (PHR) programme.

Why choose the RDS


RDS research advisers offer a unique breadth of expertise and have a proven track record in improving research applications.


The RDS can help you to identify possible gaps in your research team and collaborators who can add value to your research, including health and social care clinicians, policy makers, academic researchers, small-to-medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and patients and the public.

Tailored support

The RDS can offer support tailored to the needs of your research team. Advice is available at face-to-face meetings, by telephone or email, at research clinics or as feedback from panel review meetings.

Contact your local RDS

The national RDS network operates from 10 regional centres across England.

Region and websiteEmail addressPhone number
East Midlands Leicester: 0116 252 3276
Nottingham: 0115 970 9310
East of England 01206 874856
London 020 7848 6782
North East and North Cumbria 0191 208 7000 
North West 01524 593 209
South Central 02381 204778
South East 01227 824281
South West 01392 726 724
West Midlands 01214 148533

Yorkshire and the Humber 0114 222 0828


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