Funding opportunity

Funding opportunity: Develop and evaluate innovative methods to study adolescent health

Apply for funding to develop and evaluate innovative tools and methods for health and wellbeing research in older children and adolescents between eight and 18 years old.

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

Projects can have general health relevance or can be tailored to specific health research areas and may span relevant interests of more than one UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) research council.

Your proposal could:

  • aim to improve, adapt or validate existing research methods or tools
  • identify innovative new approaches.

Projects should last between 18 and 24 months.

The full economic cost of your project can be between £62,500 and £187,500. MRC will fund 80% of the full economic cost.

Who can apply

You must:

  • be a researcher employed at an eligible research organisation
  • have at least a postgraduate degree, although we expect most applicants to have a PhD or medical degree
  • focus your application on the development and evaluation of a tool or method for adolescent health and wellbeing research
  • show that you will direct the project and be actively engaged in the work.

Check if you’re eligible for funding.

We welcome applications from collaborative and interdisciplinary teams. Applications may span relevant interests of several UKRI research councils.

The principal investigator can only lead on one application. They can also be a co-investigator on one other application. We encourage you to focus on application quality, not the number you can submit. Read our guidance for applicants about multiple applications.

Projects may include international co-investigators where they provide expertise that is not available in the UK. Please contact us using the email details in the ‘contact’ section to confirm eligibility of international co-investigators prior to submission.

We also strongly encourage applications from currently underrepresented groups including female and ethnic minority researchers, and researchers with disabilities or long-term conditions.

You can also include one or more project partners within your application.

What we're looking for

MRC is looking to support the development and evaluation of tools and methods specifically for working with older children and adolescents in longitudinal population studies.

This can include:

  • improvement, adaptation and validation of existing tools and methods
  • development of novel and innovative approaches.

The tools and methods developed through this opportunity will need to be delivered for testing during the pilot phase of the MRC Adolescent Health Study (AHS). AHS is a new, planned large-scale MRC longitudinal population study to accelerate research to understand health trajectories and outcomes in adolescents. The tools and methods developed will also build stand-alone capability in the wider research community.

Projects can have general health relevance or can be tailored to specific health research areas. They must be designed for use in the age group of older children and adolescents aged between eight and 18 years.

You should consider how your project outputs would have a positive impact on the engagement and participation of young people in research.

About AHS

AHS is a new, planned longitudinal population study funded through the UKRI Infrastructure Fund. It will recruit 100,000 young people aged eight to 18 years at enrolment and follow their health and wellbeing for a period of 10 years.

You can find out more by reading our information about AHS.

Scope

This opportunity will support the development and evaluation of tools and methods specifically for working with older children and adolescents in longitudinal population studies. The outputs should aid and enhance:

  • engagement
  • recruitment
  • retention
  • assessment.

We welcome applications:

  • for methods and tools relevant for use in the age range of eight to 18 years
  • to develop and evaluate tools and methods for use in specific, narrower age ranges within the eight to 18 year range.

If your project is focusing on tools and methods for the assessment of health and wellbeing you could collect information on any of the following factors, all of which will be relevant to AHS:

  • biological
  • behavioural
  • family and social relationships
  • socio-economic
  • psychological
  • medical
  • environmental
  • genetic.

We recognise that at different ages, different approaches may be needed, especially for younger participants. For example, specific tools and methods may be required to measure the transition through puberty.

Where a tool or method is tailored to a narrower age range, applicants should consider how it could be embedded in a longitudinal population study where data collection will be repeated across the age range.

The aim of this funding opportunity is to develop and evaluate tools and methods that will help to enhance AHS and will give it the best possible chance of success. Separate opportunities will be launched for:

  • an AHS Director
  • study sites.

Priority areas

Proposals are welcomed across the full remit of the opportunity to understand trajectories of human health and wellbeing. However, we particularly encourage research that addresses needs in the following areas, which have been identified as strategic gaps through recent AHS virtual programme community workshops:

  • the use of digital platforms and other tools for engagement and networking, both between study participants or with schools, parents or guardians and other key stakeholders
  • novel and innovative approaches and digital technologies for data collection, for example, through gamification
  • approaches for incentivising participants and schools which could, for example, include the sharing of anonymised data for analysis
  • innovative tools and methods for ensuring the reliability, validation and standardisation of sample and data collection, particularly where it is performed at home in all or a subset of participants
  • novel and innovative tools and methods for passive data collection that are ethical and acceptable
  • novel ways of collecting consent and reconsent across the age range from participants and parents or guardians
  • tools and methods to simplify data and sample collection and to reduce the burden on participants and researchers
  • innovative biomarkers that are valid in the age range of the study
  • tools and methods that are acceptable and informative within groups currently underrepresented in research
  • adaptation and validation of existing tools and methods so that they are acceptable and appropriate for young people aged eight to 18.

You can access the draft report from the community workshops in the ‘additional info’ section.

Involvement and outputs

Projects should involve adolescents and other stakeholders as relevant, such as, but not limited to, schools and parents or guardians, noting that AHS will be a schools-based study. We expect applications to demonstrate how co-production will be embedded into the design and delivery of the project.

Outputs should be:

  • feasible and acceptable for use within the age range of AHS and across diverse population sub-groups, including those with additional needs
  • adaptable and able to evolve throughout the lifetime of AHS, to remain relevant and informative in the future.

The use of multidisciplinary teams is encouraged where appropriate, along with creative and innovative approaches and the forging of unusual connections.

Whilst tools and methods should be designed for use in longitudinal population studies, they may also be applicable for use with adolescents in other types of research study, for example cross-sectional or clinical cohort studies. There is no guarantee that the tools and methods developed will be used in AHS, either during the pilot or main phase.

Existing cohorts may be used to develop and evaluate tools or methods where relevant.

Applications may have the potential for global health relevance but must be directly applicable to research carried out in the UK.

Research outputs should be widely and freely accessible as soon as possible, in line with the UKRI open access policy.

What we want to see in your application

Within the application, you must be able to:

  • demonstrate the need for the tool or method
  • describe how the tool or method would work (or be used) in research with young people
  • explain how co-production with young people will be incorporated into the study. If you do not intend to use co-production, you must explain why
  • how the tool or method could be scaled for use in a large longitudinal population study and adapted over a 10-year period.

Your application will be strengthened by demonstrating that the proposed tool or method will be acceptable to potential users.

Although tools and methods will be developed and evaluated primarily for AHS, we also want to see in the application how the tools or methods developed would be implemented, adopted and have impact more widely.

Applications should indicate how outputs will be ready for testing at scale during the pilot phase of AHS.

While international collaborations are welcomed, projects should be relevant to developing and evaluating tools and methods for use in UK longitudinal population studies.

Out of scope

The following is not in scope and should not be part of your application for this funding opportunity:

  • applications to lead AHS study sites
  • applications to lead AHS
  • development of tools or methods that are not tailored for use in the age range of eight to 18 years. However, the oldest participants in AHS will be recruited at age 18 and followed up until age 28. Methods that can continue to be used in this wider age range (eight to 28 years) would be acceptable
  • development of tools or methods that can only be used with just a few individuals
  • research on adolescent health that does not develop a relevant tool or method
  • establishment of new longitudinal research cohorts
  • studentships or individual career development support, for example fellowships.

Funding available

£600,000 is available to support proposals under this opportunity. MRC expects to fund approximately six projects. The MRC contribution can range between £50,000 and £150,000.

Funds may be requested to support costs attributable to the study, including:

  • investigator and research staff time
  • consumables
  • data management
  • equipment
  • reasonable adjustment costs for researchers with additional needs
  • travel.

No more than 50% of project costs should be allocated to feasibility testing.

MRC will typically fund 80% of the full economic costs of your project.

Timing and duration

AHS is due to commence in summer 2024.

Projects must be 18 to 24 months in duration.

Projects should start as soon as possible and no later than three months after the award date. This will enable the tools and methods developed to be available for testing during the initial two-year pilot phase of AHS.

How to apply

Applying through Je-S

You must apply through the Joint Electronic Submission (Je-S) system.

You can find advice on completing your application in:

We recommend you start your application early.

Your host organisation will also be able to provide advice and guidance.

Submitting your application

Before starting an application, you will need to log in or create an account in Je-S.

When applying:

  1. Select ‘documents’, then ‘new document’.
  2. Select ‘call search’.
  3. To find the opportunity, search for: Develop and evaluate innovative methods to study adolescent health.

This will populate:

  • council: MRC
  • document type: standard proposal
  • scheme: research grant
  • call/type/mode: Develop and evaluate innovative methods to study adolescent health.

After completing the application, you must select ‘submit document’. This will send your application to your host organisation’s administration.

You can save completed details in Je-S at any time and return to continue your application later.

Deadline

MRC must receive your application by 27 October 2022 at 16:00.

You will not be able to apply after this time. Please leave enough time for your proposal to pass through your organisation’s Je-S submission route before this date.

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

Indicate that the proposal is a research grant

Select the ‘grant type’ option from the proposal document menu, within the Je-S proposal form. Within the section, select the radio button adjacent to the ‘research grant’ option and select the ‘save’ button.

What to include with your application

In addition to the Je-S application, you will also need to include the following mandatory attachments:

  • curriculum vitae (CV) for each named researcher, including investigators and named researchers. Each CV should be no more than two sides of A4
  • publications (up to one side of A4 per named person)
  • case for support (must not exceed four sides of A4)
  • justification of resources (no more than two sides of A4)
  • data management plan (DMP). Page length can vary, see section 2.2.7 of our attachments guidance. You must use the available DMP template form
  • young person lay summary uploaded as an ‘additional document’ attachment. Maximum of two sides of A4. It should describe the proposal, its potential for impact and approach to engagement in terms that are accessible by young people. This will be assessed by a young persons’ panel.

If there will be a researcher co-investigator on your project, you will need to include a statement of support for researcher co-investigators. This should be no more than two sides of A4 or equivalent on headed paper or a PDF of an email.

Optional attachments include:

  • covering letter: this can be up to two sides of A4 using a sans-serif typeface (Arial or equivalent) and font size of 11pt
  • letters of support: each letter can be up to two sides of A4 or equivalent on headed paper or a PDF of an email.

You can find full details of what to include in mandatory and optional attachments in section 2.2 attachments guidance.

Board and panel portfolio

Please complete the section as follows:

  • select board option: Population system medicine board
  • select panel option: General Population Science

Save the changes to complete the section

Guidance for applicants

The MRC guidance for applicants:

  • helps you check your eligibility
  • guides you through preparing a proposal
  • shows you how to prepare a case for support
  • provides details of any ethical and regulatory requirements that may apply.

Industrial partner information

If you want to include one or more industry partners as a project partner, you must also complete the project partner section in Je-S.

Each project partner must provide a project partner letter of support, a maximum of two pages on headed paper or a PDF of an email. The letter must:

  • be an integral part of the application
  • focus on the proposal it accompanies which includes the requirement to include a project partner letter of support.

Full details of the content the project partner should include in their letter of support, are provided in section 2.2.6 of the MRC guidance for applicants.

MRC industry collaboration framework

If your application involves the collaboration of one or more industrial partners, you should review the information published within the MRC industry collaboration framework (ICF) to decide if you should submit your application under the ICF.

After reading the ICF information, if you decide that your application will include industry collaboration, you will need to include the following within your application for each collaborating industry partner:

The completed ICF form should be uploaded to the Je-S attachments section using the ‘MICA form’ document type. Please type ‘Industry Collaboration Framework form’ in the description box.

The company letter of support must use the available template and be uploaded to the relevant project partner entry you are required to add to your Je-S application.

Career breaks and research disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic

You have the option to include a one page annex to the case for support. You can use it to provide additional information explaining any disruptions you have encountered to previous or current research, caused by the COVID-19 pandemic (where relevant to your pending application). You can also use it to explain any other career breaks.

For further information relating to the annex, please see the MRC guidance for applicants (section 2.2.3.6).

How we will assess your application

All eligible proposals that are in scope of the funding opportunity will be reviewed and assessed by a specially convened, multidisciplinary expert review panel. The panel will also include contributions from key stakeholders and young people.

The expert review panel will use the following criteria to assess your application:

  • the importance of and need for novel tools and methods in the specified area, taking account of the current landscape
  • appropriateness and feasibility of the tools and methods developed for use in AHS and potential for building wider capability in the field of adolescent health research
  • the proposed approach including study design, innovation, co-production strategy and the inclusion of skills and disciplines as appropriate to achieve the aims and objectives
  • the potential for widespread and long-term use and impact of what is developed
  • the research team, research environment, stakeholder and project partners
  • the appropriateness of plans for project management, risk mitigation, decision-making, dissemination of outputs and knowledge exchange
  • value for money.

In addition to the above, applications will be assessed by a separate young persons’ panel, to assess the feasibility and acceptability of the proposed research to the participants.

Representatives from the young persons’ panel will attend the expert review panel to provide collective feedback.

The expert review panel meeting will take place approximately eight to 10 weeks after the closing date.

MRC head office staff will communicate funding decisions to applicants within ten working days of the funding meeting.

Applicants will also receive a summary of the panel’s discussion, prepared by the MRC head office.

Applications that are outside the scope of the opportunity will not be assessed.

Equal opportunities

MRC is committed to achieving equality of opportunity for all funding applicants and aims to create an inclusive environment that encourages excellence in scientific research through good equalities practice. Diversity is one of the core MRC values, and we are working to ensure that the ways in which we fund embrace a diversity of thought, people, geographical locations and ideas. Read about our equality, diversity and inclusion initiatives.

No eligible funding applicant should receive less favourable treatment on the grounds of any protected characteristics and all proposals must be assessed on merit in accordance with the criteria, aims and objectives set for each scheme or opportunity for funding.

We support researchers and their research teams to work flexibly and in a way that meets their personal circumstances. Read MRC’s guidance on career breaks and flexible working.

Any issues that may arise throughout the funding process regarding equality and diversity should be emailed to equalitymrc@ukri.org.

Contact details

Get help with developing your proposal

For help and advice on costings and writing your proposal, please contact your research office in the first instance, allowing sufficient time for your organisation’s submission process.

Ask about this funding opportunity

You can get in touch with the Adolescent Health Study team using this email address to discuss your proposal ideas and whether they are in remit for this opportunity.

Adolescent Health Study team

Email: ahs@mrc.ukri.org

Get help with applying through Je-S

Email

jeshelp@je-s.ukri.org

Telephone

01793 444164

Opening times

Je-S helpdesk opening times

Ask about MRC policy and eligibility

Research funding policy and delivery team

Email: rfpd@mrc.ukri.org

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