The NIHR – lost in the acronyms?

As I’ve commented before, the NIHR loves its acronyms. Work in the system for long enough and you can have entire conversations that consist largely of seemingly random strings of letters.

There are the research programmes – RfPB, HS&DR, HTA, EME, PHR, PGfAR, and PDG. Of course, then there’s i4i, which goes for a trendy look by using the now-ubiquitous lower case ‘i’ and adding a number into the mix.

Then there are the two centres that manage these research programmes – NETSCC and the CCF.

And let’s not forget the need to ensure your costings are in line with AcoRD guidance. And the CRN that provides the infrastructure and support for research in the NHS.

And then there are the RDSs that support researchers. There are 10 altogether. I’ll spare you the entire list, but let’s just say their acronyms are all a bit like the one for which I work – the RDS SE.

Now, I won’t dispute that these can be useful short-hand when talking to colleagues well habituated to this alphabet soup. But, they often present a real barrier to researchers on the ‘outside’.

And, to be honest, they can also be a barrier to those who work inside the system as well.

I used to be the Programme Manager for ID&P when I worked at NCCHTA, which is now NETSCC. (Translation: the manager for identification and priortisation for the National Co-ordinating Centre for Health Technology Assessment, now the NIHR’s Evaluations, Trials and Studies Coordinating Centre), where we would have monthly internal meetings, each one run by a different area. When it came time for my area to present, I put together a blockbuster game, complete with a hexagonal-celled board, for us all to play, to introduce everyone to the acronyms used by this one department alone.

The point of this is the importance of simplicity. From the start, the NIHR puts up a pretty big barrier to engaging with researchers, many of whom don’t even know what these letters stand for, let alone the acronyms for the myriad of research programmes, initiatives, documents and support organisations.

So, in an effort to cut through the minefield of letters, let me give a simple message:

I’m Claire, a research adviser. If you’d like to conduct health research into an issue you see in your clinical practice, then come talk to me. I can help you with your research question and design and also who to approach for funding. This is a free service and there are advisers located throughout England.

Find out more here.

Alternatively, comment on this post and I’ll help point you in the right direction.

ETA: There are a couple of good glossaries, of which I’ve just been reminded.
– The NIHR’s glossary is here.
– NETSCC’s glossary is here.
Many thanks to Nicola Tose for reminding me!

ETA2: Sarah Seaton has kindly added to the acronym list — see below for even more! I’m sure there are many more out there as well.

ETA3: Another one for the list: the lovely people at the Complex Reviews Support Unit (CRSU) who provide support for the delivery of complex reviews that are funded and/or supported by NIHR.

4 comments to The NIHR – lost in the acronyms?

  1. Sarah Seaton says:

    Nice post. I rememeber sitting in meetings as a new RDS Advisor feeling overwhelmed. Even now I sometimes sit there and think “what is THAT?” and I don’t like to ask as I will feel stupid!

    There’s more I could add to your list, I support lots of applicaitons to TCC, and of course I went on some training recently to do with the ACAT to help you apply the AcORD! However, this is pretty comprehensive, nice post 🙂

  2. Rosemary Humphreys says:

    If it’s difficult for you Claire, imagine what it’s like for patients and other lay people who get nvolved in research!

    • Oh, absolutely! Like speaking another language, I’m sure. And, really, none of it is meant to be a barrier – there are the glossaries, for example, and all the excellent outreach work done by INVOLVE, the funders, NIHR itself, etc. – but it *is* a barrier, nevertheless. The struggle is getting the message out that we do want involvement from everyone, especially from patients, lay people & non-NIHR’ed researchers!

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