Your RDS adviser – a steadfast travelling companion

When I first started this blog, I wanted to use it to share the research design advice that I give health and social care researchers on a regular basis. Through it, I’ve written about a range of research topics – study design, team formation, fellowship applications, funding feedback and even why researchers should use the RDS in the first place. I’ve also used it to reflect upon my own experiences as an adviser – talking about issues that I’ve encountered and sharing the expertise of my colleagues. But what I haven’t written about is what you, the researcher, can expect from us when you first get in touch with your local NIHR Research Design Service. This is an oversight because we exist purely to support you.

RDS advisers have a wide variety of experiences, areas of expertise and funder insight that we want to share with you. We offer advice in a variety of different ways – in meetings, on teleconferences, during workshops and seminars – but our goal is always the same: we want to improve the quality of your research funding application. This means that we can help you with a wide range of issues because behind your funding application lies pretty much everything related to your research.

The journey to submitting your research application has many stages, some of which may be unexpected. We are here to be your steadfast companion on this journey.

Your application actually starts with the very topic of the research you intend to conduct. From this it flows to the research questions you’re asking and then on to your study design, data collection and analysis plans. And, from here, onward still to the dissemination of your results and your future plans. Your RDS adviser can help with every part of this journey – bringing their own expertise to bear on your plans along with that of other methodologists and service users as needed.

But even once you have this part completed, you still have yet to reach your journey’s end: there is then the matter of the funding application itself. Applications are very different from research plans or protocols despite many of the details being the same. Where the earlier stages of your journey are concerned with putting forward what you are going to do, the process of writing your funding application means that you have to sell these plans, along with yourself and your team, to your research funder. Again, your RDS adviser is there to support you – using our expertise of reviewing for funders and observing panels to offer advice on how to put forward your arguments most effectively and identifying potential pitfalls in your way. We can also offer you detailed peer and lay reviews of your application, allowing you a trial run of this part of your journey.

Yet, even once you have your final stage application submitted, the journey is often not yet over. Panels frequently require detailed responses to comments, even if they decide to provisionally fund your application. You may also be required to attend an interview as a final hurdle. Your RDS adviser can offer their support and advice, seeing you through these last, final stages of your journey.

So although the journey to submitting your research application is long and often unexpectedly meandering, your RDS adviser will be with you every step of the way.