Programme grant - MRC


Assessment of applications

Your proposal will be peer reviewed by independent scientific experts from the UK and overseas. More information on peer review at the MRC can be found on the peer review page.

Reviews are based around three core criteria:

  • importance
  • scientific potential
  • resources requested.

Before applying for a programme grant, consider each of the specific criteria below to ensure that your application fully addresses each of these areas. Consider whether you, your co-applicants and your research environment fulfil the required criteria before deciding to apply.

Failure to address any of the criteria sufficiently in your application could result in an early stage rejection.


  • How important are the research questions, or gaps in knowledge, that would be addressed?
  • Is the proposed work a programme – a coordinated and coherent group of related projects to answer an interrelated set of questions?
  • Does the work require long-term and extensive support?

Scientific potential

Research quality

  • What are the prospects for good scientific progress?
  • How convincing and coherent is the management strategy proposed?
  • How well have project risks been identified, and will they be mitigated?
  • Robust methodology and experimental design should be at the centre of any proposal to aid reproducibility of research findings. Has the applicant clearly set out and justified the following: measures for avoidance of bias – for example blinding, randomisation; number of experimental and control groups and sample size per group; how the sample size was calculated,  showing power calculations and including justification of effect size; overview of the planned statistical analyses in relation to the primary outcomes to be assessed; frequency of measurements or interventions to be used;circumstances in which power calculations are not appropriate to determine sample size.

Research environment and people

  • From the applicant’s track record of research, do they have the potential to successfully manage and deliver a major research programme?
  • What is the track record and standing in the field of the named applicants?
  • How appropriate is the expertise of the applicants to the proposed work?
  • Is the proposed environment suitable and does it have the variety of expertise and disciplines to support a programme?
  • Has the host institution demonstrated a clear commitment to the proposed programme for the duration of the grant?
  • Are any collaborators well chosen?
  • Does the environment provide appropriate opportunities for training and career development of personnel supported on the grant?
  • Are there any dependencies on other organisations or funding of which the MRC should be made aware?


What is the potential economic and societal impact of the proposed research? Please comment on:

  • identification of realistic potential improvements to human or population health
  • contribution to relieving disease or disability burden or improving quality of life
  • identification of potential impacts of research and plans to deliver these – in the pathways to impact statement.


Are there any ethical or research governance issues? Please comment on:

  • whether the proposed research is ethically acceptable
  • any ethical issues that need separate consideration
  • appropriateness of ethical review and research governance considerations
  • any potential adverse consequences for humans, animals or the environment and whether these risks have been addressed satisfactorily in the proposal.

Data management plan

Does the data management plan indicate whether the applicants have or are likely to have a sound plan for managing the research data funded through the award, taking account the:

  • types, scale and complexity of data being – or to be – managed
  • likely long-term value for further research including by sharing data
  • anticipated information security and ethics requirement.

MRC Industry Collaboration Framework (ICF)

Any research proposal involving a collaboration with one or more industrial partners – (contributing either in cash or in kind) is handled by MRC through the Industry Collaboration Framework (ICF). All ICF proposals will be identifiable to reviewers as they will have the word ‘ICF’ at the start of the project title.

If the proposal has been identified as an ICF, it will also need to convince the relevant research board or funding panel that:

  • the appropriateness of the partnership between the collaborative partners
  • whether that in the absence of the requested funding and the collaboration the planned research could not be undertaken, or that it could not be undertaken to the quality level or timescale proposed
  • if the in-kind costs provided by the industry partner have been costed appropriately.

Resources requested

  • Are the funds requested essential for the work and justified by the importance and scientific potential of the research?
  • Is the applicants’ stated time commitment to the work appropriate and sufficient?
    Where the MRC is being asked to fund investigator salaries, are the requests in each case reasonable?
  • Does the proposal demonstrate value for money in terms of the resources requested?
  • Is any animal use fully justified in terms of need, species, number, conformance to guidelines?

Last updated: 18 August 2022

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