Specialist advice

RDS advisers have expertise across a range of disciplines and methodologies relevant to health and social care. The lead adviser we assign to help you has access to a wider range of expertise within the RDS team to help develop your research proposal.

Specific expertise is offered in:

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 and quantitative methods– Where your research involves collecting quantitative outcome measures,  you must include a detailed description of your study design and methodology, including justification of sample size and selection and randomisation of study participants. Our statisticians can advise on study design, sample size, randomisation methods, selection and sampling methods and the methodology to be used for analysis of the data collected during the trial. Our advisers also have expertise in univariate and multivariate statistics, scale development and other quantitative methods.

Health economics – most health services research questions have resource implications. Proposals need to reflect this. The extent of the economics component needed varies with the project. For some, recognising the resource issues or a simple costing exercise may suffice. Intervention trials however, may need cost-effectiveness analysis, calculation of QALY gains, or modelling of outcomes.

Qualitative research methods – research funders expect a clear outline of overall research design, with a strong justification of sampling strategies, and methods of data collection and analysis. Qualitative research requires employing methodologies and techniques for sampling, conducting and analyzing data. We can advise on a number of qualitative techniques including interviewing and focus groups, consensus methods (Dephi method, Nominal Group Technique), participant observations/ non participant observation and ethnography and documentary research.

Public Health: Public health research is about health and disease at a societal or community level, and encompasses studies of:

  • the burden of disease or health risks, including epidemiology, for example incidence or prevalence of disease, and needs for and use of health services
  • risk factors for developing disease
  • interventions to promote health and prevent and control disease or reduce inequalities in health. These interventions may be led by health services, for example screening or immunisations, or may tackle the determinants of health in society including housing, or  air quality; or behaviours, such as smoking, diet or sexual active
  • health policy and health system organization

Public health research involves a range of disciplines, including statistics; behavioural, social and environmental science; economics; and laboratory and clinical medicine.

Health Psychology: Our advising team includes specialists in health psychology who can advise on appropriate methods for researching areas such as health behaviour change and self-management of long-term conditions. They can provide specialist advice on health psychology theory and research evidence.

Social care Research questions on needs, resources and outcomes in social care research are important and can influence policy, theory and practice. They often relate to the economic aspects of community care, residential and nursing home provision or even long-term care finance and mental health policy; costing social care services, exploring the relationship between workforce indicators and quality of care outcomes, or measuring social care-related quality of life and subsequently calculating QALYs in social care terms can only be a few examples

Public involvement (PI) – for most projects, a significant component of public involvement is appropriate. Public involvement (also referred to as user/lay involvement) is the formation of a partnership between patients and/or public and researchers which enables: prioritisation of research questions; design and management of studies; data collection and analysis and dissemination of findings. RDS specialist PI advisers can advise on how to identify and approach members of the public and the most suitable type of involvement for individual projects, and how to apply for funding to enable PI consultation at the early ideas stages of your research.

Dissemination – all research programmes require a statement on how the outcomes will be publicised in the NHS and wider health and social care community and also to patient groups. 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. We can offer help with designing and costing effective dissemination strategies that take account of the type of research, the developmental stage of the project/research programme, key stakeholders and target audience. Further information can be found on the NIHR dissemination page.