2. What to include in your application - MRC

Contents

2.2 Attachments

All full applications require a completed proposal form accompanied by a number of mandatory attachments. Attachments must conform to the following requirements:

  • in a sans-serif typeface (Arial or equivalent, not Arial Narrow) and font size of 11pt, excluding text on diagrams and the use of mathematical symbols
  • a minimum of single line spacing and standard character spacing must be used
  • margins must not be less than 2cm.

Failure to provide required components or information may mean that your proposal will be delayed or returned, or its assessment prejudiced.

Applications will be checked soon after the closing date. Any components of an application which do not meet these rules will be returned for amendment before being validated for peer review. A late response in amending returned elements of the application will result in the application being withdrawn from the round.

When uploading PDF documents, please ensure they are given a logical file name and description so that information can be found easily. Also ensure that all pages of each document are numbered.

Mandatory attachments are:

  • CVs – a maximum of two pages. For New Investigator Research Grants (NIRG), the NIRG CV and salary template must be used
  • publications – one page per named person
  • case for support – length varies, see case for support 2.2.3 for more information.
  • justification of resources – a maximum of two pages
  • data management plan – length varies, see section 2.2.7 for more information.

In addition, each call may specify additional attached components, which will be specified on the call guidance. For example:

  • covering letter – a maximum of two pages using a sans-serif typeface (Arial or equivalent) and font size of 11pt. For more information see 2.2.5 covering letter
  • MICA form – For more information see MRC Industry Collaboration Agreement (MICA)
  • heads of terms – For more information see MRC Industry Collaboration Agreement (MICA)
  • schedule of Events Cost Attribution Template (SoECAT) – upload as ‘letter of support’. For more information see 3.5.1 excess treatment costs of studies involving human participants
  • letters of support – a maximum of two pages or equivalent on headed paper or sent by email
  • technical assessment – a maximum of two pages. For more information see 2.3 research council facilities
  • final or interim report – programme grant renewals only. For more information see programme grant renewals: additional requirements
  • Gantt chart or work plan – a maximum of one page. Only allowed as a separate attachment on certain calls, for example, the developmental pathway funding scheme
  • additional questions on the use of rodents overseas (DOCX, 117KB) – a maximum of two pages. See section 4.1.4.6.

All outline applications should only include:

  • outline proposal form
  • case for support
  • CVs and publications
  • any additional attachments that are requested in the specific guidance for the relevant call.

2.2.1 CVs

Please note that CVs and publications should be uploaded as separate attachments.

CVs should be a maximum of two pages.

The CV should cover:

  • employment history – description of your current post and the sources of funding for this post (including dates); list and description of previous posts (including dates); educational qualifications (including dates)
  • whether you are clinically qualified or clinically active.

The CV should only include information relevant to the application. Unnecessary personal data (for example home address, date of birth, personal phone numbers and emails) should NOT be included.

In the CV applicants can make clear any substantive periods of absence from research or career or research disruption resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The CV is your opportunity to explain any breaks in employment or publication record, for example as a result of a career break or parental leave.

You may also use it to highlight how the COVID-19 pandemic has specifically affected the individuals involved in the application. We will assume all researchers have experienced general disruption.

Further details on the nature of the absence or COVID-19 disruption, what mitigations have been possible and how it has affected track record, productivity and career progression may be provided if desired. For example:

  • illness or shielding either for applicants or their families
  • caring responsibilities
  • restricted access to facilities and normal work environment
  • clinical responsibilities
  • impact on research and the production of preliminary data, development of collaborations or methodological or technique training and experience
  • impact on publications or other outputs, including markers of esteem.

Information provided will be used only to make appropriate adjustments when assessing an individual’s track record, productivity and career progression.

MRC is committed to eliminating unjustified discrimination and promoting equal opportunities as detailed in our equality and diversity policy.

For New Investigator Research Grants (NIRG) the NIRG CV and salary template must be used.

When attaching multiple CVs to an application, please include separate CVs and list of publications for each of the following:

  • principal investigators
  • co-investigators
  • named individual research staff.

2.2.2 Publications

Please note that CVs and publications should be uploaded as separate attachments.

List the most relevant publications – this should be a maximum one page.

MRC welcomes the inclusion of preprints in publication lists. For more information please see MRC supports preprints.

As part of our commitment to support the recommendations and principles set out by the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment , UKRI reviewers and panel members are advised not to use journal-based metrics, such as journal impact factors, as a surrogate measure of the quality of individual research articles, to assess an investigator’s contributions, or to make funding decisions.

The content of a paper is more important than publication metrics, or the identity of the journal, in which it was published, especially for early-stage researchers. Peer review and panel members are encouraged to consider the value and impact of all research outputs – including datasets, software, inventions, patents, preprints, other commercial activities in addition to research publications. We advise our peer reviewers and panel members to consider a broad range of impact measures including qualitative indicators of research impact, such as influence on policy and practice.

Find more information on peer review at the MRC.

2.2.3 Case for support

2.2.3.1 General guidance

The case for support should be a self-contained description of the proposed work with relevant background, and should not depend on additional information. MRC reserves the right to withdraw proposals that contain links to additional information which extends the case for support.

Please note: justification of resources is not required in the case for support. This is a separate document which should be attached to each Joint Electronic Submission (Je-S) system application.

The contents of the case for support will depend on the specific funding scheme. The guidelines below list general points that should be addressed when writing the case for support. There is additional guidance for programme and partnership grants.

However, each proposal is unique, and it is the responsibility of the applicant to ensure that all the reasonable questions that the reviewers and MRC research boards need to address are answered in the proposal – especially if the plan or resources are unusual or complex.

The scientific case should be set out under each of the headings specified in the guidance notes for the specific funding scheme.

This guidance should be read in conjunction with the information on the assessment criteria, which provides detailed information on what reviewers, boards and panels are looking for. All information that the applicant wishes to be considered as part of their research proposal – within the page limits stipulated – must be attached with their proposal form. The proposal cannot be supplemented by further information beyond the deadline for submissions.

The proposal and case for support will be sent out to a number of reviewers to read. Feedback from reviewers has shown that they are keen to see clarity, succinctness and accessibility.

Proposals which do not meet the following requirements will be returned unprocessed, for submission to a subsequent board meeting:

  • use sans-serif typeface (Arial or equivalent), font size of 11pt (this includes any references listed within the case for support) and margins of 2cm on all sides
  • only include one PDF document for the case for support, which must be within the page limits stipulated below
  • the only acceptable annexes are: reproducibility and statistical design (see section 2.2.3.5); research disruption COVID-19 pandemic (see section 2.2.3.6); limited additional annexes may be allowed in exceptional circumstances for proposals addressing large population studies, including clinical trials.

Proposals containing additional annexes which have not been previously discussed with the relevant programme manager will be rejected.

Any unpublished data must be included in the case for support. For applications submitted to closing dates on or after 1 April 2017 preprints may be included in publication lists. Manuscripts in press or submitted to journals should not be included.

2.2.3.2 Page length

Each scheme has its own limits on the number of pages in the case for support. In the case of specific call for proposals, you must adhere to the specific call guidelines produced.

Your proposal will be returned if you submit a proposal over the maximum page limit.

Page limits in case for support PDF documents are:

  • outline centre grant – eight
  • full centre grant – size will reflect the complexity of the grant. Please refer to the relevant programme manager for further guidance
  • Developmental Pathway Funding Scheme, outline and full – n/a = please refer to the case for support form – sent directly to researchers invited to submit a full application – for details of the character limits
  • global health, outline and full – please refer to the call guidance for details
  • new investigator research grant award – eight
  • partnership grant for three years or less – eight
  • partnership grant for more than three years or involving large facilities – 12
  • programme grant, full – 12
  • research grant of three years or less – eight.
  • research grant of more than three years – 12.

These page limits include references, but not allowable annexes.

2.2.3.3 Case for support content

The case for support must not exceed 10MB. All other attachment types have a 5MB size limit. Avoid the use of large colour figures as these will increase file size.

Please attach as a PDF document, especially if mathematical symbols are used in the content.

Please note that specific areas need to be covered in the case for support for programme grants and partnership grants.

Head it with the title of the proposed project and cover the following areas.

Importance

Explain the need for research in this area, and the rationale for the particular lines of research planned:

  • justify the research, either through its importance for human health, or its contribution to relevant areas of basic biomedical science
  • give sufficient details of other past and current research to show that the aims are scientifically justified, and to show that the work will add distinct value to what is already known, or in progress
  • where relevant, explain how plans benefit, fulfill unmet needs or contribute to current plans in the health service or industry
  • where the research plans involve creating resources or facilities, or forming consortia, networks or centres of excellence, the case will need to address the potential added value, as well as issues of ownership, direction and sustainability.
Scientific potential

People and track record:

Each of the CVs will be uploaded separately as attachments in Je-S. If it is not obvious, the applicant may elaborate on why the group is well qualified to do this research in the case for support:

  • explain how each of the investigators named in the proposal will work together and outline other major collaborations important for the research
  • acknowledge any previous or current MRC funding and describe progress to date on delivery of this research. If progress has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic please explain this. For applications involving a clinical trial, the track record of the applicants in registering and publishing previous trials will be considered before making further awards.

Environment:

  • describe how the scientific or clinical environments in which the research will be done will promote delivery of the proposed research
  • explain how the research will benefit from facilities provided by the host research organisation
  • describe any clinical, commercial, or organisational dependencies necessary to support the research, or to help translate it into practice.

Research plans:

Give details of the general experimental approaches, study designs, and techniques that will be used – the one-page annex Reproducibility and statistical design should be used to supplement information in this section, where necessary and as appropriate. It is not necessary to describe each experiment, but give enough detail to show why the research is likely to be competitive in its field. For example:

  • highlight plans which are particularly original or unique
  • describe plans to reduce bias such as blinding or randomisation – or a justification of why such measures are not possible or appropriate. A justification of the proposed sample size must be given (where appropriate), along with details of the planned statistical analyses
  • describe all foreseeable human studies and animal experiments in as much detail as possible at this stage
  • explain in greater detail how new techniques, or particularly difficult or risky studies, will be tackled, and alternative approaches should these fail
  • identify facilities or resources you will need to access
  • give sufficient detail to justify the resources requested.

If this is a pilot work or proof of principle proposal, give a brief description of likely subsequent proposals if the work is successful. Please note that any proposals that are intended to lead directly to a clinical trial must be discussed at an early stage with the relevant MRC programme manager.

Explain opportunities or plans for pursuing commercial exploitation.

Ethics and research governance

Describe briefly the ethical issues arising from any involvement of people, human samples or personal data in the research proposal. Please give details of how any specific risks to human participants will be controlled, and of any new animal research MRC would be supporting. Please refer to the ethics section for further guidance.

Describe the ethical review and research governance arrangements that would apply to the work done.

Where a project involves a clinical trial involving human subjects, the case for support should include plans to publish the project’s findings or make them publicly available without unreasonable delay – usually within 12 months of trial completion. Applicants should also confirm that they will regularly update the clinical trials ISRCTN registry and provide a link to their protocol and main results.

Exploitation and dissemination
  • is the proposed research likely to generate commercially exploitable results?
  • what arrangements and experience does the research group or the host research organisation have to take forward the commercial exploitation of research in this area?
  • other than publication in peer reviewed journals, indicate how any results arising from the research will be disseminated so as to promote or facilitate take up by users in the health services.
Project partners – see also section 2.2.6
  • all partner contributions, whether in cash or in-kind, should be explained in detail, including the equivalent value of any in-kind contributions
  • in-kind contributions can include staff time, access to equipment, sites or facilities, the provision of data, software or materials
  • the financial value of the contribution should be included on the Je-S form. Where the input is important to the project but has no significant financial value, a nominal sum of £1 may be entered as the value of the contribution.

2.2.3.4 Impact

From 1 March 2020 a Pathways to Impact attachment and Impact Statement are not required. This change is designed to simplify bureaucracy at the point of application as well as to help streamline our systems for applicants. It also enables impact to be truly embedded throughout applications as appropriate.

The impact agenda remains incredibly important. UK Research and Innovation exists to fund the researchers who generate the knowledge that society needs, and the innovators who can turn this knowledge into public benefit. Impact remains a central consideration in how UKRI makes funding decisions.

Applicants should continue to consider how they will or might achieve impact throughout their projects and include this as part of their case for support. Appropriate resources to facilitate this impact within applications should be requested. These should be justified in the justification of resources attachment

Academic impact

The demonstrable contribution that excellent research makes to academic advances, across and within disciplines, including significant advances in understanding, methods, theory and application.

When applying for research council funding via Je-S, pathways towards academic impact are expected to be outlined in the academic beneficiaries and appropriate case for support sections. An exception to this is where academic impact forms part of the critical pathway to economic and societal impact.

Economic and societal impacts

The demonstrable contribution that excellent research makes to society and the economy. Economic and societal impacts embrace the diverse ways in which research-related knowledge and skills benefit individuals, organisations and nations. These include:

  • fostering global economic performance, specifically the economic competitiveness of the UK
  • increasing the effectiveness of public services and policy
  • enhancing quality of life, health and creative output.
Public engagement

Public engagement is included within the above definitions. Engaging the public with your research can improve the quality of research and its impact, raise your profile, and develop your skills. It also enables members of the public to act as informed citizens and can inspire the next generation of researchers.

Well planned public engagement activities related to the research within the grant are encouraged. If public engagement activities are proposed the case for support should detail:

  • which groups will be targeted
  • how they will benefit
  • how activities will be evaluated.

2.2.3.5 Reproducibility and statistical design – recommended annex

The purpose of this annex is to provide important additional information on reproducibility, and to explain the steps taken to ensure the reliability and robustness of the chosen methodology and experimental design. Please note in this context, methodology refers to the rationale for choosing which method to use and not the provision of detailed descriptions of the methods to be used.

It is strongly advised that a one-page annex to the case for support is included, in addition to the page limits in section 2.2.3.2, to provide additional information specifically relating to the statistical analyses, methodology and experimental design aspects of the proposal – beyond that contained in the main case for support. Please note that you should not duplicate information presented elsewhere in the application.

This information must be provided as a clearly marked annex at the end of the main case for support, entitled ‘Reproducibility and statistical design annex’ and should not be added as a separate attachment. Standard formatting guidance applies. Applications not adhering to these conditions will be returned unprocessed.

Applications that do not provide sufficient detail to convince peer reviewers and Research boards and panels that the proposed experiments will be carried out appropriately to produce robust and reproducible research will be rejected for funding on these grounds and subject to the usual limits on resubmission.

See worked examples of experimental design.

The NC3Rs have developed a free online tool to guide researchers through the design of their experiments, helping to ensure that they use the minimum number of animals consistent with their scientific objectives, methods to reduce subjective bias, and appropriate statistical analysis.

What to include in the annex

It is expected that professional statistical (or other relevant) advice would be sought in putting this section together. Each experiment does not need to be described in detail, but sufficient information must be included that reviewers are readily able to understand the experimental plan. Where appropriate, the use of figures, tables or diagrams is encouraged.

The following highlights the key points you should include in the annex.

Experimental approach to address objectives – this information may be provided in diagrammatic or tabular form if appropriate:

  • primary and secondary experimental outcomes to be assessed (for example cell death, molecular markers, behaviour change) and how these relate to experimental objectives
  • number of experimental and control groups
  • a clear definition of the ‘experimental unit’ in the analysis and the implications thereof (that is, there is a difference between N samples from one animal, as distinct from one sample from each of N animals, or combining samples from multiple animals)
  • number of ‘experimental units’ in each experimental group
  • total number of ‘experimental units’ to be measured
  • number of times each ‘experimental unit’ will be measured
  • number of independent replications of each experiment
  • steps taken to minimise the effects of bias (for example blinding, randomisation) or an explanation of why this would not be appropriate
  • breeding strategies may be included here, if applicable.

Justification of models chosen (for example animal model, cell line etc.):

  • how and why the models or methods are appropriate to address the scientific objectives.

Sample sizes:

  • show clearly how effect sizes have been calculated and justify how they are biologically relevant
  • demonstrate that statistical power calculations are grounded in justifiable and explicit assumptions about both anticipated effect size and variability of the experimental effects
  • if statistical power calculations cannot reasonably be applied, applicants should provide a principled explanation of the choice of numbers
  • explanations based solely in terms of ‘usual practice’ or with reference solely to previously published data will not be considered adequate.

Planned statistical analyses and their relation to the choice of sample size:

  • overview of the planned statistical analyses in relation to the sample size
  • details of any statistical/methodological design advice sought (you may cost a relevant expert, such as a statistician, into your proposal if necessary and justified). A letter of support from the expert involved is permitted, but not mandatory.

If your proposal includes the use of animals, please also refer to Section 4, in addition to the guidance above, for more information on the key points you may wish to include in the annex.

What not to include in the annex

The annex should not be used as a simple continuation of the methods set out in the case for support; please do not include detailed descriptions of the methods. Applications misusing the annex in this way will be returned. The case for support should be a self-contained description of the proposed work with relevant background, and should not depend on additional information.

For proposals involving animal use, information on the rationale for using animals, choice of species, information about the animals used – for example weight, sex – and animal costs and procedure severity information should be provided elsewhere in the application as detailed in the table at section 4.8.

2.2.3.6 Research disruption caused by COVID-19 pandemic – optional annex

The purpose of this annex is to provide additional information, of relevance to the application and the research case, when needed to explain specific disruptions to previous or current research caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. For example:

  • restricted access to facilities and normal research environment
  • impact on research and the production of preliminary data, development of collaborations, loss of research resources, restrictions to research approaches
  • impact on publications or other outputs.

An annex to the case for support may be included for this purpose, in addition to the page limits in section 2.2.3.2. Although up to one page is allowed a short summary is preferred. You should not describe general disruptions that all researchers will have experienced or duplicate information presented elsewhere in the application such as in CVs or in a programme grant progress report. Although we expect all researchers to have been affected, this annex is not a requirement.

This information may be provided as a clearly marked annex at the end of the main case for support, entitled ‘COVID-19 research disruption annex’ and should not be added as a separate attachment. Standard formatting guidance applies and applications not adhering to these conditions will be returned.

2.2.4 Justification of resources

Cross council guidance on writing a good justification of resources (JoR) document is available on the Je-S help pages.

The role of the JoR is to aid reviewers when assessing proposals so that they can make an informed judgement on whether the resources requested are appropriate for the research posed.

The JoR is a mandatory attachment to the proposal and should be no more than two sides of A4. It should take into account the nature and complexity of the research proposal. It should not simply be a list of the resources required already defined in the Je-S form. All items requested in the Je-S form must be justified in the JoR.

The JoR is a free text document. We recommend that you match the costs to the proposal headings below where appropriate, so that you do not miss any costings from the Je-S form or any justifications for the items requested.

Staff – directly incurred posts. Researcher or technician

Justify why a researcher or technician is needed for the proposed work and why the proposed time input is appropriate. Is the work of appropriate scientific technical difficulty to warrant employing a research assistant? Why has the level requested for the RA been asked for?

Staff – directly allocated posts. Principal investigator (PI), co-investigator (CoI) and research co-investigator time (unless working 100% of their hours on the grant eg fellows)

Justify the time that the PI and CoI spend on the grant. A PI or CoI cannot request time for supervising postgraduate research students, writing publications after the end of the project, writing grant applications or peer review. How much time do you intend to dedicate to the project? Will you be doing all the research yourself? What work packages are the PI and CoIs involved with and why? Have you factored in enough time to work with project partners or visiting researchers and collaborators? Are you managing the staff on the project only?

Travel and subsistence

Give a full breakdown of the costs in the Je-S form. For example, how many people are travelling, where are they going and why? If you are planning to visit people to discuss your research, you should explain why those are the right people to talk to and how they can contribute to you meeting your objectives. If you plan to attend conferences, you should comment on the advantages of conference attendance. Give an indication of the number you want to attend during the grant, who will attend these and the type you want to go to, for example national or international, general or subject-specific. Travel costs incurred when using facilities should be included where necessary.

Other directly incurred costs

Give a description of what has been requested and why. Justify the need for any item requested. Explain what the item will be needed for and also justify the cost. For example if you are asking for a desktop computer and a laptop, then justify why both are needed. We expect that the university will provide computers and laptops for the PIs and CoIs and other research staff on continuing contracts.

You must provide a breakdown of any costs which are incurred for bulk items.

Directly incurred equipment

Why is the item needed? Why can the item not be used or borrowed from elsewhere?

Impact

Justify any resources requested to support realising impact. For example:

  • staff time, travel and subsistence
  • consultancy fees

Full justification – what it is and why you need it – of each item requested. Please note: patent costs and other intellectual property costs are not eligible – universities already receive funding for these from HEIF. Also estate and indirect costs should not be requested for technology transfer officers (TTOs). These are project-specific resources.

Other directly allocated costs

Justify the need for resources. Explain what these are and why you need to use them. In some cases, such as internal facilities and shared costs, the basis of costing does not need to be justified.

Estates and indirect costs

Does not need to be justified. Must not be included for technicians, research support staff, or staff employed at MRC units or institutes.

Research facilities at research organisations

Justify time only. Explain what you are using the facility for and why you need to use this particular facility.

Pooled technicians

For example workshop or laboratory technicians based at the university. Usually not named. We would expect these costs to be included in the estates or indirect costs for the RO. Where the technicians used are of a specialist nature and not included in the estates or indirect costs for the RO, they should be fully justified in the JoR as to why they are required and why the costs are not included in the ROs estate or indirect costs.

Infrastructure technicians

For example health and safety officer at university. Cost should be displayed separately to estate and indirect costs in the other directly allocated costs box.

Where the post is to fulfil a legal requirement, then the post does not need to be justified.

Exceptions, for example a PhD student

Justify why a PhD student is needed for the proposed work.

Will a student be skilled enough to tackle the research problems? Will it be feasible for them to produce a thesis? Costs for PhD studentships can only be requested on centre grants.

2.2.5 Covering letter

A covering letter may be included as part of an application. It should be no more than two A4 pages using sans-serif typeface (Arial or equivalent) and font size of 11pt.

The covering letter can be used to cover details such as conflicts of interest and names of conflicted experts that you request not to be used as reviewers. If detailing conflicted experts, the following information must be provided in the covering letter:

  • the name of the person not to approach
  • the research organisations they are based at
  • a clear reason why the person would not be able to provide an unbiased and evidence-based review.

The decision on whether or not to honour a request to exclude a reviewer lies with MRC following consideration of the justification provided. Requests submitted without a justification will not be considered.

If the application is a resubmission it should also include details of how this application differs from that submitted previously. It must not be used to cover anything which should be included in the proposal form, case for support or other required attachments.

2.2.6 Project partner letter of support

Each project partner must provide a project partner letter of support, a maximum of two pages on headed paper or by email. The letter must be an integral part of the application and must focus on the proposal it accompanies.

The individual named as contact for the project partner organisation cannot also be named as staff, for example co-investigator on a grant proposal.

Applicants should:

  • include the letter or email as an attachment to the grant on submission via Je-S. Please note that the project partner letter of support should only be added to the project partners section of the Je-S application form and should not be uploaded to the attachments section of the application as document or attachment type ‘Letter of support’
  • draft the letter or email when the proposal is being prepared; it should be targeted specifically to the project and must therefore be dated within six months of the date of submission of the proposal
  • get the letter or email signed by the named contact, stating the capacity in which they are providing the sign off to provide assurance that the project partner has authorised the proposed contribution or commitment – project partner letters of support that merely indicate that an organisation is interested in the research are not permitted.

A well-written project partner letter of support will confirm the organisation’s commitment to the proposed project by articulating the benefits of the collaboration, its relevance and potential impact. The project partner letter or email should also identify:

  • the value, relevance and possible benefits of the proposed work to the partner
  • one or more names of key experts or investigators
  • where relevant to the project, details should be provided of the projected market size, customer sales and how the organisation will commercialise the technology beyond the project
  • the period of support
  • the full nature of the collaboration and support. Project partner contributions, whether in cash or in-kind, should be explained in detail in the case for support (see section 2.2.3). Detail of how this support relates to the proposal as a whole should be included in the case for support
  • how the partner will provide added value.

The project partners should not submit any other ordinary letters of support unless in exceptional cases and where this has been agreed to with the research council. The research councils reserve the right to remove all other letters of support from the proposal. Applicants should refer to the research council or call guidance for additional information regarding acceptable letters of support.

Additional information requirements where human tissue or participants are being provided

Where the project partner – whether an individual or organisation – is responsible for recruitment of people as research participants or providing human tissue, list them as a project partner on the proposal form and enter a nominal sum of £1 for the value of the contribution.

Details should be included in the case for support. A letter of support must be attached to the application and include the following information:

  • agreement that the project partner will recruit the participants/provide tissue
  • that what is being supplied is suitable for the research being undertaken
  • that the quantity of tissue – where relevant – being supplied is suitable, but not excessive for achieving meaningful results.

2.2.7 Data management plans

All applicants must include a data management plan (DMP) as an attachment to their application on Je-S. This includes applications for the renewal of existing funding. The DMP should comply with MRC’s policy on research data sharing (PDF, 108KB).

The DMP should demonstrate how the principal investigator will meet, or already meets, their responsibilities for research data quality, sharing and security. It should refer to any institutional and study data policies, systems and procedures and be regularly reviewed throughout the research cycle. Where the organisation is ISO 27001 compliant, the registration number should also be included.

The DMP is reviewed by peer reviewers alongside the case for support. It is advisable that all DMPs use this data management plan template (DOC) to ensure consistency and make it easier to review. Carefully read and adhere to guidance; the quality of the DMP may have an impact on peer review and whether the application is successful.

For population and patient based studies the DMP should indicate how the study meets the requirements of MRC’s detailed guidance on data sharing for population and patient studies, particularly around access criteria and independent oversight – the means for ensuring the study and its variables are readily discoverable – and specifically about use of formal data standards.

For intervention studies involving human participants – such as clinical trials, clinical intervention studies, and studies of public health or behavioural interventions – the DMP should indicate how the study meets the requirements of MRC’s policy on open research data: clinical trials and public health interventions (2016), which include:

  • registration in the ISRCTN registry within 12 months of the trial starting
  • addition of the trial protocol or a link to it, to the ISRCTN registry within 12 months of the trial starting
  • timely public reporting or publication of trial results within 24 months of study completion
  • preparing data for sharing or re-use.

Partnership grants reliant on sharing or reusing research data must include a brief summary of how access to existing data will be managed and how newly generated data will be accessed and preserved throughout the duration of the award.

Level of risk

Where the research involves human participants, their data or tissues or where the research team holds identifiable data about these research participants, the level of risk regarding data management is much higher. In these instances, the DMP should be more detailed and include information on how these risks will be managed.

Length of data management plan

  • population cohorts, genetic, omics and imaging data, biobanks, and other collections that are potentially a rich resource for the wider research community – up to three pages
  • longitudinal studies, involving a series of data collections – up to four pages, unless agreed otherwise with MRC prior to submitting the application
  • all other research – for less complex research the DMP may be as short as quarter of a page up to a maximum of three pages.

How should it be written?

The DMP should be written for two audiences: (a) scientists in the broad field of the area of science covered in the application; and (b) technical experts who are familiar with the prevailing data management practices. Most of the readers will be of type (a).

The information must be concise. The detail should be proportionate to the complexity of the study, the types of data being managed, their anticipated long-term value, and the anticipated data security requirements.

What to include

The DMP template should be used to develop a plan to accompany a research proposal. If you do use the template, ensure to address all the topics listed on the template.

For studies with a history of active data sharing, the DMP should include brief summary statistics on the performance and outputs of sharing.

We expect you to seek advice from data management experts in your organisation and use other sources of good practice to improve and innovate data management. If this means your DMP departs from some aspect of this guidance – or that on data sharing, explain succinctly why and how this is more appropriate. It will aid your DMP if you can show that the infrastructure and good practice is already in place at your research organisation.

Custodians of previously collected or generated research data – legacy data -, applying for funds to use legacy data as part of a new funding request, should ensure that the DMP covers both existing and new data collection or generation.

Multiple funding agencies

Where research is cofunded between MRC and another organisation, our data sharing policy and these guidelines on the DMP will still apply. The relevant policies of the major UK funders of biomedical research are aligned on principles and most of their detailed requirements. Any apparent conflict in co-policies should be discussed with your programme manager, or email: mrcdatasharing@mrc.ukri.org.

Cost of data sharing

You should include the costs related to your data sharing in the resources section of the proposal form. This may include people, equipment, infrastructure and tools to manage, store, analyse and provide access to data.

Where the costs of managing legacy data and sharing are substantial, the proposal should differentiate the resources and funding for the following activities:

  • collecting and cleaning new data
  • own research on newly acquired and legacy data
  • ongoing data curation and preservation
  • providing access and data sharing.

2.2.8 Additional requirements for New Investigator Research Grants (NIRGs)

2.2.8.1 Statement of support

A signed statement of support (maximum of two pages) from a senior authority within the host research organisation on headed paper should be attached to all NIRG applications. For more information please refer to our guidance on NIRGs.

It will be important for the proposed host organisation to demonstrate its commitment to the applicant as a potential future principal investigator. The suitability of the environment and the organisation’s commitment are significant factors in the boards’ consideration of NIRG proposals.

2.2.8.2 Declaration

All NIRG proposals must also include a declaration that the applicant has originated the research question and written the research proposal. This should be in the form of a letter to be uploaded separately as a ‘Letter of support’.

 

Last updated: 15 October 2021

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