Research Design Service standard operating procedure

This page describes the role of the RDS, detailing in particular how we can advise and support you in developing grant applications. It describes both what you can expect from us, and what we anticipate from you in return.


The RDS is funded by the NIHR to assist researchers preparing research proposals for submission to national, peer-reviewed funding competitions for applied health or social care research. Priority will be given to supporting proposals to be submitted to an NIHR scheme.

Nature of support provided

RDS staff have the knowledge and expertise to advise on a wide range of research-related issues, including in particular all aspects of research design and methodology. We can also advise on issues such as involving patients and public, identifying resources and dissemination plans. Although one RDS adviser will take the lead in coordinating support, other RDS staff may become involved to bring complementary skills, and we have a wide range of other contacts in academic and clinical disciplines to facilitate any necessary additional input where required.


We provide support to NHS and other health and social care researchers. Our services are free of charge, but it is useful to give some examples of situations where we are not able to provide support free of charge:

  • the development of projects for which there is no intention to submit a grant application to a recognised funder as described above
  • doing the research; if required this would need to be costed into the project grant bid, and it would also depend upon available research capacity and interests of host institution
  • formal supervision or informal support for students
  • requesting support to conduct unfunded analysis on data already collected

It should also be noted that it is only within our remit to support applications to national peer-reviewed funding agencies.

If you are in any doubt about eligibility, please contact us to discuss your situation.

Mutual understandings

You can expect to gain access to a professional service in a timely manner. You may approach the RDS at any stage of development of a research proposal: from simply wanting to discuss an initial idea through to requesting input on a specific issue relating to a well-developed proposal. The earlier you approach us, the more comprehensive our advice can be. We prefer you to make an initial online request for support through this website (see Booking an appointment). You may, however, also make contact in person, or by telephone, email or post.

If eligible, you can expect the following from the RDS:

  • professional advice about aspects of developing a grant application and practical support for such development, free of charge. Advice will be given to all projects that have potential to achieve funding and advice will be provided throughout the submission process.
  • face-to-face meetings at a mutually convenient time and venue and/or other forms of communication as appropriate
  • support in co-ordinating the process of proposal development, as required
  • advice on drafting relevant sections of proposals, as required
  • support in identifying and approaching other potential lay and professional collaborators, as required
  • support in identifying a suitable NIHR funding stream and advising on their application processes. If not eligible for NIHR funding we would try to provide advice on other potential funding bodies depending on local knowledge
  • support for obtaining appropriate user and carer involvement in project development
  • in the case of unsuccessful applications, support with deciding what to do next
  • all discussions regarding the proposal to be treated with appropriate confidentiality

In return, the RDS expects that you will:

  • use the RDS only for eligible purposes
  • carefully consider proffered advice, discussing as necessary to ensure that the research team includes input from NHS staff and lay person(s)
  • where RDS staff are invited, and agree, to be grant co-applicants, include appropriate costs in the grant to cover any work they will undertake in the conduct, analysis and reporting of the project
  • accurately reflect the nature of RDS involvement and support in the relevant section of the grant application. RDS staff can provide you with a reminder of input given by the RDS
  • provide the RDS with a copy of any completed, submitted application in which RDS support has been involved
  • inform the RDS of the funding committee’s decision

Data protection policy

For further information about the RDS SE data protection policy please see:

NIHR Research Design Service South East terms and conditions

The NIHR RDS SE will only provide advice only if an advice request meets the eligibility criteria set out in the RDS Charter.

The NIHR RDS SE takes every care to provide accurate and up-to-date information and advice via its advice service, website, publications and any other service it provides.  However, the information we provide is subject to change and we cannot guarantee its correctness or completeness at any given time. We cannot guarantee the accuracy and appropriateness of the advice given by our service, although every effort is made to ensure high quality advice is given.

Although every reasonable effort will be made, we cannot guarantee advice will be given by a particular deadline, such as a funding deadline or within a particular timeframe.

Every effort will be made to provide advice where eligible. However we may not have the capacity to support applications in the timeframe required and reserve the right to prioritise advice giving under these circumstances.

Links provided on the NIHR RDS SE website are for information and convenience only. We do not accept responsibility for the sites linked to, or the information found there. A link does not imply an endorsement of a site. You are solely responsible for evaluating the accuracy and completeness of any information contained on the third party website, and also the value and integrity of any goods and services offered by other websites. We cannot guarantee that these links will work all of the time and have no control over the availability of the linked pages.

We do not accept liability for any loss, damage or expense resulting from the use of information, advice or any service provided by the NIHR RDS SE.

The NIHR RDS SE may change these terms and conditions at any time and without warning. The latest terms and conditions can be obtained by using the following contact details:

Helen McGregor
RDS SE Communications & Support Officer,
CHSS (Centre for Health Services Studies)
George Allen Wing, Cornwallis Building,
University of Kent,
Canterbury  CT2 7NF

01227 824281

Alternatively they can be found on this website along with any changes made. Any new versions of the terms and conditions will supersede previous versions.

Copyright © 2018 NIHR RDS SE, all rights reserved.