Funding opportunity

Funding opportunity: Expression of interest: Adolescent Health Study call for study sites

Submit an expression of interest for funding to lead an Adolescent Health Study (AHS) study site.

We intend to fund approximately four to seven study sites across the UK. Recruitment of participants 8-18 years old will take place primarily through schools.

A coordinating hub for the study will be identified and its director appointed through a separate process.

AHS will be a 12 year study funded at £62 million, with approximately £30 million (UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) contribution) available to support the study sites. UKRI will fund 80% of your study site’s full economic cost.

You must be based at a UK research organisation eligible for UKRI funding.

Who can apply

Standard MRC and ESRC eligibility rules apply. This funding opportunity is open to:

  • UK higher education institutions
  • research council institutes
  • UKRI approved independent research organisations
  • eligible public sector research establishments
  • NHS bodies with research capacity

Check if your institution is eligible for funding.

UKRI has introduced new role types for funding opportunities being run on the new UKRI Funding Service.

For full details, visit Eligibility as an individual.

As the project lead for your organisation, you can apply if you are a resident in the UK and meet the eligibility criteria described in MRC’s guidance for applicants.

What we're looking for

We are inviting expressions of interest from eligible UK institutions to lead an AHS study site.

AHS will be a new longitudinal population study, with associated data platform, focusing on studying the critical biological, interpersonal and environmental factors influencing adolescent development. AHS aims to recruit 100,000 young people aged 8 to 18 at enrolment, primarily through schools, and will follow their health and wellbeing for a period of 12 years (two year pilot plus 10 year main phase). The study will use an accelerated longitudinal design, where all age groups are recruited simultaneously, to allow the different transitions occurring during adolescence to be studied in a rapid timeframe.

Each individual study site is expected to recruit across the full age range of AHS (8-18). In aggregate, the chosen study sites will need to reflect the ethnic and socio-economic diversity of the UK population; however, individual sites may differ in their levels of representation. You should have a track record of successful engagement with children and adolescents and working with school networks or other relevant institutions.

We intend to fund four to seven study sites across the UK, with the objective of securing the minimum number of sites needed to achieve the recruitment target and the required population profile. Therefore, each study site is expected to recruit approximately 20,000 participants; however, higher and lower recruitment targets will be considered. Applicants are encouraged to collaborate to submit regional applications where appropriate or necessary to meet the study site recruitment requirements; we do not expect to fund multiple study sites in the same region.

Study sites will be coordinated from a central hub which will be led by the AHS director and their team. Study site leads will work closely with the hub director and will be part of an Operational Board; this board will be responsible for the day-to-day coordination and delivery of AHS. The AHS hub director is being appointed through a separate process.

A core set of scientific areas and strategic priorities for data and sample collection will be pre-specified, potentially including:

  • anthropometric
  • saliva (for genetics and hormonal profiling)
  • physical and mental health
  • diet, sleep and physical exercise
  • puberty
  • socio-economic factors
  • cognitive abilities and educational experience
  • home, community and school environment
  • environmental data
  • interpersonal relationships and influences including in-person and online or digital experience

Data and sample collection beyond this core set will be determined by the director in consultation with a range of key stakeholders, and applicants are asked to propose research priorities for data collection in their expression of interest. The aim is to achieve a comprehensive and accessible platform of data on adolescence which will be of value to the wider research community.

You should consider approaches for recruiting from groups who have been less well represented in previous studies. Local engagement and co-production with participants and their families, schools, local authorities and other key stakeholders is essential.

Expressions of Interest (EoIs)

The objective of this EoI stage is to identify potential study sites that could contribute to the recruitment requirements for the AHS and to shape the study’s scientific scope and focus. Application at the EoI stage is not a prerequisite for the full funding opportunity. However, by providing your EoI you will help to shape the priorities for AHS and feedback will be provided to inform your formal application for study site funding. Where appropriate, we may encourage regional consortia development following the EoI stage.

This EoI stage also provides an opportunity for applicants to propose the top three research priorities that AHS should address. These priorities will be considered in finalising the full funding opportunity for study site applications and subsequent study design.

The full funding opportunity for study sites is anticipated to be launched in early 2024 and awards are expected to commence in October 2024.

Funding available

AHS is a £62 million project funded through the UKRI Infrastructure Fund. The initial two year pilot phase of AHS will commence in October 2024, to be followed by a 10 year main phase of recruitment. If awarded at the full funding opportunity stage, study site awards would have a duration of 12 years, with formal reviews conducted at the end of the pilot phase and at the mid term of the main phase.

The budget is approximately £30 million across all study sites over 12 years. This budget will include:

  • staff costs, including salaries and travel
  • school and participant engagement costs

Costs for sample and data collection, processing, linkage and storage will be negotiated centrally and standardised across the study sites and will be funded via the central hub; these costs will not need to be included in study site budgets. Other costs associated with the delivery of AHS and its associated data platform will also be funded by the hub.

Full details of the support available will be provided in the full funding opportunity.

How to apply

Email your expression of interest (EoI)

Your EoI should be submitted by email to ahs@mrc.ukri.org by 4 December 2023 at 4:00pm UK time.

It is not mandatory to complete the EoI stage before submission of a full application.

The full funding opportunity for study sites will be launched in early 2024 and awards are expected to commence in October 2024. We will run stage two of this funding opportunity on the new UKRI Funding Service. You cannot apply on the Joint Electronic Submissions (Je-S) system.

At the main stage, a maximum of one application can be submitted per research organisation. This is not a requirement at the EoI stage however local coordination is encouraged.

You should ensure you are aware of and comply with any internal institutional deadlines that may be in place.

What to include in your EoI

You should complete and submit the brief three page application form (see the ‘Additional information’ section).

The application form has the following sections, all of which must be completed:

  • briefly describe the relevant experience, skills and expertise of the proposed team and the contribution of any partner organisations
  • briefly describe applicants’ current or recent studies relevant to the objectives of AHS
    • what level of recruitment at the proposed study site is feasible, how will it be delivered and how will participation in the study be maintained (including estimates of attrition)?
    • how will it contribute to the wider objectives of AHS? Please include details of existing or planned relationships with schools and the local community and explain how the population you recruit will contribute to the (ethnic and socioeconomic) diversity targets of AHS
  • describe your approach to participant engagement and co-production with young people and local stakeholders, including schools and local health and education authorities
  • briefly describe your top three research priorities for AHS, and how you would propose to address these in the overall study design

Your completed application form must not exceed three pages. You should attach your documents as PDFs to avoid errors. They should be completed in single-spaced Arial 11 font or similar-sized sans serif typeface.

How we will assess your application

Review process

The expressions of interest will be reviewed by an expert panel, which will provide feedback for developing the full bid.

At the full opportunity stage, assessment will be through review by an expert panel and a young persons’ panel.

Contact details

Ask about this funding opportunity

Tamsyn Derrick, Programme Manager, Population Health Sciences

Email: ahs@mrc.ukri.org

Include ‘AHS study sites: Expressions of interest’ in the subject line.

We aim to respond within five working days. Provide as much information as possible in your email to ensure a rapid response.

Additional info

MRC recently ran a funding opportunity to develop and evaluate innovative methods to study adolescent health, which aimed to support the development and evaluation of tools and methods for engaging, recruiting and retaining adolescents aged 8 to 18 years in longitudinal population studies, and for assessing their health and wellbeing.

MRC also hosted a webinar introducing the study in April 2022, followed by two workshops in May 2022, on engagement, tools and measures for working with young people aged 8 to 18.

Watch a recording of the Adolescent Health Study webinar on YouTube.

Read a report from the UK Adolescent Health Study workshops.

Supporting documents

AHS Study Sites Expression of Interest application form (DOCX, 46KB)

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