Finding appropriate research funders

PSPs seeking funders for their research priorities need to find those funders with an interest in: particular health problems or in the effects of treatment; and who have funds for a systematic review, a pilot study or a controlled trial or other relevant forms of research.

Funders of research addressing treatment uncertainties can be found in the public sector and the charitable sector, for example:

Finding out how funders work, their criteria, and their remits is essential.  It is important to consider which funders may be interested in which types of questions and then target them accordingly.

Some funding programmes set their priorities for research then advertise for research teams to conduct the research.  These are commissioning research programmes.   

Whether or not research funders set priorities of their own, they may invite researchers to submit their own ideas for conducting research, and may then fund these ideas within their responsive or researcher-led research programmes

Other key information for research funders is:

  • the healthcare setting in which treatments or interventions are used, and
  • why this research or evidence is important to patients and clinicians.

In September 2019, the then Director of the NIHR Health Technology Assessment Programme, Hywel Williams, spoke in a video about the inclusion of JLA topics in NIHR applications, and the need to describe the importance of the topic in more detail.

For some funders, the response to a priority topic may be to commission a systematic review, or to update an existing one, rather than necessarily seeking primary research. 

As well as identifying important questions, priority-setting discussions may have identified important outcomes or measures for health research.  For example, patients and clinicians have been involved in standardising outcomes for assessment in clinical trials on arthritis and fatigue is a recommended patient-centred outcome measure.[9]   Because of patient input, fatigue is now one of the core set of recommended outcomes for assessing a range of treatments for rheumatoid arthritis. [10]

The Research Design Service provides support to health and social care researchers across England to develop grant applications to the NIHR and other national peer-reviewed funding programmes.  Its website gives information about the types of research funded by the NIHR research programmes and explains how researchers wishing to prepare grant applications can benefit from its specialist advice and support.

The NIHR Journals Library provides a searchable archive of published and ongoing research funded by the NIHR. You can also find out more on the NIHR Funding and Awards website.  


[9] Tugwell P, Boers M, Brooks P, Simon L, Strand V, Idzerda L. OMERACT: An international initiative to improve outcome measurement in rheumatology. Trials 2007; 8(38)

[10] Kirwan JR, Minnock P, Adebajo A, Bresnihan B, Choy E, de Wit M, Hazes M, Richards P, Saag K, Suarez-Almazor M, Wells G, Hewlett S. Patient perspective: fatigue as a recommended patient centered outcome measure in rheumatoid arthritis. J Rheumatol. 2007 34 (5): 1174-7