The National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) funds the Research Design Service (RDS) to provide free expert advice and support to researchers (clinicians and academics), who are applying for health and social care research funding to national, peer-reviewed, open competitions.

The RDS operates in 10 regional centres across England. The local RDS in the South Central region has sites in Portsmouth, Southampton and Oxford, and it is fortunate that your local branch of the RDS is located right here at the University of Portsmouth, in Research and Innovation Services. RDS advisers are methodologists and can offer a breadth of expertise. We support applications to charities, Research Councils, Royal Colleges as well as NIHR funding, provided the funding stream is national, peer-reviewed and competitions are open to all. We have five research advisers based at UoP, who work with colleagues across the region to support your grant application.

The advice is free, confidential and covers all aspects of developing a grant application, including:

  • research design
  • research methods
  • identifying appropriate funding sources
  • involving patients and the public
  • identifying potential collaborators (academic, clinical, lay)
  • identifying and refining the research questions
  • methodological expertise, covering: medical statistics, health economics, qualitative, mixed methods, clinical trials
  • advice on common pitfalls
  • interpreting feedback from funding panels

The RDS offers support tailored to the needs of the research team, and can be contacted as early as necessary. Advice is available via videoconference, face-to-face meeting, telephone, or email.

We offer numerous opportunities for discussion, review and feedback, including one-to-one meetings; Research Design Advisory Panel meetings, where a team of methodologists will provide feedback on your draft application; and Pre-Submission Review Panels, which mimic funding panels. We also offer free workshops and events throughout the year, including information sessions about NIHR funding streams. You can find out more about these on our web site:

You can get in touch with an RDS adviser as follows:


Website (please click the ‘request support’ button):