Funding opportunity

Funding opportunity: New collaborations to support eating disorders research

Apply for funding to work with other researchers to support eating disorders research and increase capacity in the field.

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

We welcome proposals from a wide range of disciplines, including:

  • medical
  • biological
  • social sciences
  • behavioural sciences
  • arts and humanities.

We expect a clear commitment to involving people with lived experience of eating disorders. This should be demonstrated through the development and implementation of the proposed collaborations.

MRC will fund 74% of the full economic cost. We do not expect to fund requests above £1 million.

We will fund your project for three years.

Who can apply

We welcome proposals from a wide range of disciplines, including:

  • medical
  • biological
  • social sciences
  • behavioural sciences
  • arts and humanities.

We particularly encourage applications that encompass disciplines not traditionally involved in eating disorders research to facilitate collaborative novel thinking with regard to the understanding, prevention and treatment of eating disorders.

This funding opportunity is open to applicants from eligible UK-based organisations in accordance with standard UK Research and Innovation practice.

Principal and co-investigators must be based at an eligible research organisation and have a verified Je-S account to apply.

See more details on institutional and individual eligibility.

Applications involving early and mid-career researchers are encouraged.

Principal investigators and co-investigators must hold a position at their institution for the duration of the grants. Early and mid-career researchers that do not fit the eligibility criteria may be included in the collaboration as researcher co-investigators.

The funding is not intended to support the continuation of existing research grants or groups, staff between posts or funding (as ‘bridging’ funds), or MSc or PhD studentships.

We expect a clear commitment to involving people with lived experience (PWLE) of eating disorders, including carers, both in the development and implementation of the proposed collaboration.

Recognising the value of regional research and leadership and to encourage capacity building across the UK, applications coming from a single organisation are not permitted. However, for administrative purposes, proposals will be led and submitted by a single UK academic institution or independent research organisation eligible to receive research council funding.

Furthermore, only one application as lead is permitted per applicant institution. Additional involvement in other applications is permissible.

Collaborations with industrial partners should be managed through an MRC Industry Collaboration Framework.

You may also include international co-investigators if they provide expertise not available in the UK. This must be discussed with the programme manager before submission of the application.

What we're looking for

The aim of this funding opportunity is to support novel collaborations in eating disorders research.

We want to increase capacity in the field by funding collaborations across diverse groupings of disciplines, including fields adjacent to or not previously involved in eating disorders research.

We will support teams that will enable the exploitation of existing resources, including cross-sectional and longitudinal datasets, as well as the development of new hypotheses and novel approaches.

We aim to improve the underpinning capability for research on the understanding, prevention and treatment of eating disorders across demographics, leading to reduced impact on those with lived experience of eating disorders and their families in the long term.

Applications may be broad in scope or focused on a particular aspect of the broad spectrum of eating disorders, including disordered eating. However, it is expected that all applications will appropriately acknowledge the complexity and variability of these conditions.

Applications should specifically consider the diverse presentation of eating disorders, and the inclusion of underrepresented groups in respect to ethnicity, social class, neurodivergence, gender and sexual orientation.

A key objective of this opportunity is to encourage interdisciplinary collaboration by mobilising academia, industry, the charity sector, local authorities and service providers from associated areas to align their interest to eating disorders research including, but not limited to:

  • mental health conditions, such as depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, as well as overlapping symptoms without clinical diagnosis
  • neurodevelopmental disorders
  • addictive disorders
  • physiological disorders, such as diabetes and obesity
  • socio-cultural risk and protective factors, including body image and social media
  • health inequalities, including lifecourse approaches which draw on longitudinal data
  • integration of creative and arts-based therapies into diagnoses and treatment
  • the role and potential of real and virtual community-based approaches.

Examples of the variety of ways the award could be used are described below. However, this list is not exhaustive, and we welcome further ideas that fit within the overall scope:

  • establish practises and methodology that bring medical, biological and social science, arts or humanities together
  • establish a unique shared resource or help to exploit it, for example staff, systems, equipment, seminars or workshops
  • establish a coordinated set of needs-led and complementary networking activities across disciplines, including outreach work, with a defined output, for example between:
    • clinicians or practitioners and academic researchers
    • researchers utilising biological, psychological or sociocultural methods, including creative and arts-based therapies
    • researchers working on different conditions
  • enable knowledge sharing or creation across disciplines and organisations (including research, public and charitable organisations)
  • establish activities focused on increasing the potential or novel analysis of existing data in this area. This might be through data linkage or addition of measurements to existing cross-sectional and longitudinal data sets, or activities to promote the use and understanding of existing data
  • foster or enable a national strategy across the field
  • establish standardisation of measurements, tasks or models across the broad range of eating disorders
  • develop approaches to eating disorders research that are firmly embedded in the experiences of people with lived experience (PWLE), including family or carers. This could include supporting connections between groups of PWLE of eating disorders with researchers and clinicians
  • organise training, career development and capacity building for researchers, service providers, clinicians and healthcare students as well as PWLE involved in research.

Funds to support small scale, pump-priming projects may be considered, but specific research questions should not be the focus of the collaboration. These projects should be interdisciplinary, high risk or high gain projects which will demonstrate the novel capability of the collaboration or generate novel hypotheses and approaches to further eating disorders research. This includes through secondary analysis of existing data.

Applications taking the below topics into consideration are encouraged, however this is not an exhaustive list and we welcome further ideas that fit with the overall scope:

  • qualitative and quantitative research to increase data on under-represented groups living with eating disorders, such as:
    • males
    • middle-aged and older people
    • ethnic minorities
    • LGBTQ+ individuals
    • neurodiverse people
  • qualitative and quantitative research to improve understanding of the large and specific impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on eating disorders, taking into account the intersection with socioeconomic factors and ethnicity.

All areas of research relevant to the UK Research and Innovation (MRC, ESRC and AHRC), Medical Research Foundation and NIHR remit will be considered. Applicants are encouraged to explore how awards could be used to develop interactions across different topics.

How to apply

Intention to submit

You will need to email the intention to submit form to siv.vingill@mrc.ukri.org by 6 October 2022 at 16:00. We will provide further details when the opportunity opens.

Providing an intention to submit is mandatory. Proposals will not be accepted from applicants who have failed to submit an intention to submit.

Please include the names of the principal investigator, potential co-investigators and any collaborating organisations confirmed at this stage. This is to help us prepare for peer review and manage conflicts at the panel assessment stage and will not involve any expert assessment.

All applications need to be submitted through the lead research organisation, which in turn must be registered with the Joint Electronic Submission (Je-S) system. All applicants should consult the team responsible for proposal submissions at their research organisation to confirm how much time they will need to process the application and complete the submission process.

Please leave enough time to ensure that all co-investigators are fully registered on the system. This process from start to finish can take up to a month. People with lived experience or collaborators from the public can be included as project partners.

Full proposals

Full proposals should be submitted through Je-S by 16 November 2022 at 16:00. The proposal should follow standard MRC guidelines and consist of a completed Je-S form and the following attachments.

Attachments

Case for support

This should be a maximum of eight sides of A4. The case for support forms the main body of your proposal and should follow the standard guidance for applicants.

Reproducibility and statistical design

This should be a maximum of one side of A4. The purpose of this annex is to provide important additional information on reproducibility, and to explain the steps taken to ensure the reliability and robustness of the chosen methodology and experimental design.

In this context, methodology refers to the rationale for choosing which method to use and not the provision of detailed descriptions of the methods to be used.

It can be used to provide additional information specifically relating to the statistical analyses, methodology and experimental design aspects of the proposal (beyond that contained in the main case for support). You should not duplicate information presented elsewhere in the application.

Supporting data of people with lived experience (PWLE): involvement and engagement strategy

This should be a maximum of two sides of A4. All awards in this opportunity will be expected to have been informed by the needs of PWLE of eating disorders, which can include carers, family members and members of the public.

Proposals are expected to include plans for their meaningful involvement during the award. Assessment by PWLE of eating disorders forms an integral part of each stage of the review process.

The application must include a document detailing how the proposal has been informed by the needs of PWLE of eating disorders, and how they will be involved in the collaboration, should the application be successful. We require a clear commitment to their involvement in the dissemination of the findings.

The application should contain a clear lay summary and use accessible language across disciplines. Insights from your PWLE involvement and engagement activities should be incorporated throughout your application. Please answer the following questions using the attached template:

  • how was it determined that the proposal addresses an important unmet need for PWLE of eating disorders
  • how have PWLE of eating disorders helped define the collaboration aims and its objectives
  • what are the proposed plans for meaningful involvement of stakeholders, including PWLE of eating disorders (which can include carers and family members), and members of the public during the award should the application be successful?
Justification of resources

This should be a maximum of two sides of A4.

Data management plan

This is a mandatory attachment. Please use the indicated data management plan template.

CVs and list of publications

CVs must be a maximum of two sides of A4 and the list of publications must be a maximum of one side of A4 for the principal investigator and each co-investigator.

Letters of support from project partners and collaborators

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.

MRC Industrial Collaboration Framework (ICF) form (if applicable)

These attachments apply to applications with an industrial project partner. Please read the MRC ICF guidance to understand if this applies to your proposal.

Creating your Je-S application

The opportunity will be available to select on Je-S from 15 September 2022.

All investigators (principal investigator and co-investigators) are required to have a verified Je-S account type.

How we will assess your application

All eligible proposals that are within the scope of the opportunity will be reviewed and assessed by a specially convened independent, multidisciplinary expert panel against the criteria below.

The panel will include representatives from a range of fields, alongside people with lived experience of eating disorders.

Assessment criteria

Importance

This includes:

  • how the collaboration will provide distinct and important contribution to the current research landscape
  • originality of the proposal and whether similar collaborations exist in the UK or elsewhere
  • impact of the grant funding on current or future research
  • potential for social and economic benefit, including community and health partners, but especially for those experiencing health inequalities
  • consideration of underrepresented groups in eating disorders.

Research potential: collaboration plans

This includes:

  • potential of the approach to advance research and innovation in this area
  • potential for meaningful collaboration across disciplines
  • appropriateness of the network activities
  • clarity of plans for sustaining the collaborative activities beyond the funded period of the grant
  • robustness of methodology and experimental design for any small scale or proof of principle work.

Research potential: participants in the collaboration and existing funding

This includes:

  • feasibility of the plans and whether the team of investigators has the track record to show that they will be able to deliver the proposed work within the planned duration
  • potential of application to increase capability in the field.

Research potential: environment

This includes:

  • commitment of host research organisations to supporting the proposed collaboration, for example by reducing or waiving co-investigator salary, associated estates costs and other in-kind contributions
  • quality of opportunities for training and career development of personnel.

Research potential: management

This includes:

  • effectiveness of the proposed planning and management and whether they are proportionate to the scale and complexity of the activity to be undertaken
  • whether the applicants have described where shared equipment or expertise will be sited, how it will be supported by the host research organisations and whether there is equitable access for relevant collaborators
  • consideration of any ethical or research governance issues
  • whether the data management plan indicates that the applicants have (or are likely to have) a sound plan for managing the research data funded through the award, and making it more broadly available in line with MRC’s data sharing policy.

Resources requested

This includes:

  • justification and appropriateness of resources
  • whether the collaboration represents value for money.

People with lived experience (PWLE) involvement and engagement

This includes:

  • whether the proposal, its objective, the data it plans to gather or the resources it will provide is informed by the needs of stakeholders, including PWLE of eating disorders
  • whether there will be meaningful involvement of PWLE during the award, taking into account the diversity of PWLE of eating disorders across the population

quality and feasibility of the plans to involve key stakeholders, PWLE of eating disorders and members of the public in dissemination and evaluation of the research to ensure that the outcomes matter to PWLE and the public.

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

Siv Vingill, Programme Manager, Neurosciences and Mental Health

Email: siv.vingill@mrc.ukri.org

Additional info

The most recent NHS Mental Health of Children and Young People in England survey (2021) showed that the proportion of children and young people with possible eating problems has increased since 2017. In addition, eating disorders services have seen an increase in demand during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In parallel, the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Eating Disorders report highlights that this area is underfunded compared with similar research topics.

MRC, the Medical Research Foundation, ESRC, NIHR and Beat ran a workshop in June 2022 with people with lived experience (PWLE) and leading experts from multiple disciplines to identify strategic areas for future research investment (see ‘supporting documents’ below for the workshop summary).

In recognition of the high prevalence and impact of eating disorders and based on the outcomes from this workshop, UK Research and Innovation (MRC, ESRC and AHRC), the Medical Research Foundation and NIHR will make available up to £4.25 million for new high-quality, internationally competitive research collaborations to enhance understanding of the biological, psychological and social causes of eating disorders.

Therefore, this will provide insight into prevention strategies and enhanced multi-faceted treatment programmes across all demographics.

The inclusion of PWLE of eating disorders is an integral part of research. The Medical Research Foundation, MRC, ESRC, AHRC and NIHR are all interested in the involvement of PWLE within both research and assessment processes.

PWLE should be identified and engaged with from an early stage, including in the drafting of applications. Incorporating PWLE perspectives will enable meaningful research to be funded, in turn strengthening the evidence base that is relied upon to inform policy and practice.

The collaborations established as part of this opportunity should therefore seek to bolster our current understanding of eating disorders, including prevention and treatments, by co-creating proposals with PWLE that focus on areas where the biggest impact could be made.

The Medical Research Foundation is MRC’s registered charity and is funded by the giving public.

Supporting documents

Mandatory intention to submit form (DOCX, 24KB)

PWLE involvement and engagement strategy: supporting data (DOCX, 41KB)

June 2022 workshop report (PDF, 439KB)

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