Specialist advice

You may be advised to involve other collaborators, for example, patients, other clinicians, academics or methodologist with specific expertise. The RDS team includes specialist health economists and statisticians who are a vital part of protocol design and have a wealth of experience to offer.

Specific expertise is offered on:

Searching the literature – it is essential that existing sources of evidence are considered before undertaking research. For help with undertaking a literature search, contact an NHS librarian.

Epidemiology – helps gain an understanding of disease by comparing the pattern of disease in populations over time, between places and in different types of people. Help can be offered on study design (case-series, cross-sectional studies, case-control studies, cohort studies, and trials), with the size of the study, methods of measuring disease frequency, presentation of epidemiological data on risk, and proposed data analysis and interpretation.

Statistics – whatever the nature of the research, it is vital to add as much detail as possible on design and methodology, including justification of sample size and selection and exclusion criteria where applicable. In addition to calculating necessary sample sizes, statisticians can help make a plan of the analysis, which is an essential part of a proposal.

Health economics – most research questions in the area of health services have resource implications, and proposals need to reflect this. The extent of the economics component required in health research varies with the project.

For some studies, recognition of the resource issues or a simple costing exercise may be sufficient. However, intervention trials may need cost-effectiveness analysis, calculation of QALY gains, or modelling of outcomes.

Qualitative research methods – grant reviewers expect a clear outline of the overall research design and a strong justification of sampling strategies, methods of data collection and analysis. Qualitative research is a specialist area requiring particular methodologies and techniques for sampling, conduct and analysis.

Quantitative research methods – research advisers have expertise in a wide variety of quantitative techniques, including pragmatic and clinical trials and can help develop proposals and advise on the most suitable funding source.

Involving patients and the public – for most projects, a significant component of patient and public involvement is appropriate. RDS advisors can recommend the most suitable type of lay involvement for individual projects, how to identify and approach appropriate lay people, and how to apply for special funding to engage lay people in your research design.

Dissemination – many research programmes require a statement on how the outcomes will be publicised in the NHS and wider health and social care community. This could include plans to submit papers to peer reviewed journals but it is also particularly important to identify forms of presentation that will maximise impact on policy makers, practitioners and managers. Help can be given with designing and costing effective dissemination strategies that take account of the type of research and the audience for its results.