22/39 Methodological development in public health

Evidence underpinning public health interventions is often generated by methods that were developed to answer questions about the effectiveness of clinical interventions, and tends to be built on linear models of cause and effect. Public health interventions span a broad range from simple, small-scale actions to highly complex multi-component programmes. In some contexts evaluations of these interventions are amenable to randomisation, with clear control groups, but in many situations this is not possible. A number of alternative methodological approaches for assessing causation in these contexts already exist. However, there remains a need for methodological development to increase capacity for generating robust evidence of effectiveness and efficacy of actions within complex systems including impact on inequalities.

The Public Health Research (PHR) Programme is commissioning research on methodological development to support robust evaluation of public health intervention research across all sectors and disciplines. For this call public health Research areas of interest may include (but are not limited to):

  • What public health challenges and research questions are there, for which, existing methods are either absent or inadequate. What methodological development is required to address these gaps?
  • How to usefully map the complex public health landscape and to outline and evaluate possible methodological approaches to address the challenges and research questions identified?
  • Development and evaluation of new methodologies to address public health concerns.
  • Are there opportunities to apply existing methods in novel ways in public health?
  • How to effectively develop research approaches, structures and methodologies to address long-term public health challenges?
  • How to co-create research questions, interventions, and study designs as effectively as possible, with input from a range of stakeholders; policy-makers, researchers, the public, community groups and front-line employees?
  • How to generate, describe and communicate meaningful knowledge on the effects of public health interventions within complex systems
  • How to review, evaluate, summarise and communicate research evidence for use in decision making and enable successful implementation.
  • How can systems based approaches contribute to shaping public health research questions?
  • What is the role of modelling / microsimulation in population level system research?
  • What is required to drive effective action to improve health within and across systems?
  • What are the implications of a complex systems perspective for the strategic commissioning of research in public health?

Applicants should detail how their proposal responds effectively to the methodological challenges arising in a changing, interdisciplinary research environment. Researchers are to specify and justify their choice of methodological development and the relevance to the challenges being addressed.

The expected outputs from these awards would be a report describing the rational for the choice of methodological development, the relevance to the challenges being addressed and proposed solutions with reasoning and explanation of their development. We recognise the challenges with respect to evaluating public health problems that emerge within complex systems and therefore, the expectation is that this work leads to the development of practical solutions and not just a description of the problem. Specifically the methodological development needs to be able to increase capacity for generating robust evidence of effectiveness and efficacy of actions within complex systems including impact on inequalities.

The output will include both a written report of no more than 5,000 words, and a PowerPoint presentation of no more than 20 slides. The outputs will need to be delivered by September 2023.


The Public Health Research (PHR) Programme are accepting Stage 2 applications to this funding opportunity. In order to apply you will need to carefully review the:

This is a ‘Straight to Stage 2’ process and Stage 1 applications are not required.

Evidence underpinning public health interventions is often generated by methods that were developed to answer questions about the effectiveness of clinical interventions and are often not the most appropriate for evaluating complex public health interventions. For this call, we would like to commission research on methodological development and evaluation across all sectors and disciplines, to support robust research that addresses important public health challenges

We anticipate that a range of projects in size and scope will be commissioned (between £50K – £250K). The outputs will need to be delivered by September 2023.

Applications are welcomed from throughout the UK and may be from an individual or group.

When applying please take note of the studies funded in the previous commissioning round [NIHR133603NIHR133736] to ensure there is not duplication and that the added value of your project is clearly demonstrated.

General questions about the call and further guidance may be obtained by sending a short summary (maximum of one A4 page) of the proposal to the following address: phr@nihr.ac.uk

Timescales

Stage 2 applications received by 1pm on 16 August 2022, and deemed within remit, will be reviewed by the Funding Committee in October 2022, and assessed for scientific quality, feasibility and value for money. Successful applicants will be expected to commence the project by December 2022 to deliver by September 2023.

Visit funding web page
(https://www.nihr.ac.uk/funding/2239-methodological-development-in-public-health/30131)

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