Producing evidence with a little help from a grant.

Maybe you have a really interesting clinical question which puzzles you and which requires answering or you have decided on a project idea that really excites you and your team. Your supervisor/mentor may think it has potential but you realise its going to be costly to do this right. You will need help, for example manpower and patient materials. Where is the money going to come from? Maybe you need to make  a grant application.  Applying for a grant is pretty complex and a bit of a minefield but here’s a few starter points –

Firstly you will need to find the most appropriate place to apply to. Though it is the easiest way, searching through government agency websites for grant offers can be stressful and time consuming and may not get good results. Instead you may find it more productive to explore key centres and get yourself on mailing lists. You could start with The RCN Foundation  at http://www.rcnfoundation.org.uk/  if in the UK and sign up for their Fortnightly research e-bulletin. Or you could try the National Institute for Health Research http://www.nihr.ac.uk/Pages/default.aspx. It’s generally well known that there will always be more people searching for research funding than there is research funding available, so knowing where to look is an important first step. Most good sites will try to include open calls for funding, as well as studentships/fellowships, often in regular electronic newsletters, which can save you the trouble of trawling the net. of course talking this through with someone who has already managed to secure a few grants is most helpful.

In writing a grant you need to think about the focus and direction of what will be researched and plan how the research will be carried out. You also need to plan the best ways to publicise the findings of the research  Users, be they patients or carers need to be involved in the development of the research from the outset. They can  provide a public perspective and knowledge and experience of a particular condition or service relevant to the research topic. They may have views about the best ways to involve others in research. Benefits to participants include  having their opinions heard, sharing experiences of health and social care services and opportunities for personal development including learning new skills.

You will need to ensure that your research will be organised and undertaken within a framework of best practice. You need to identify any possible problems which could influence  or impact your ability to complete. For example, could you be trying to recruit a difficult to engage group of participants e.g people who are dying?  You will need to ensure all necessary  permissions are obtained before the project begins, and that there is clarity of roles and responsibilities among the research team  and any collaborators. Any research you carry out must be conducted in accordance with the highest standards of research integrity and research methodology.  Any ethical issues must be identified from the outset and brought to the attention of the relevant  regulatory body. You will need to carry out your research in a safe working environment. For example how will your ensure your safety if you are carrying out research with participants in their own homes). It will be your responsibility and all engaged in the research, to make every effort to ensure that the outcomes obtained during the research are shared and used to the benefit of society and the economy. Research outcomes should be disseminated to widespread audiences – for example patients carers and staff.

These  are just a few points to think about – there is no doubt it’s very difficult to secure a grant but that’s because the idea needs to be very well thought through and committees making grant decisions need to be certain that money will be well spent and will have real impact on patients and/or their carers.

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