Making a case for the priority of a research topic is an important part of any NIHR research application - researchers need to be able to justify why their research is important to the NHS and patients and should be funded. This could be framed in terms of ‘costs’, savings, or quality of life and demonstrates why a particular research project could make a unique contribution to the existing evidence or lack of evidence. In my role as RDS adviser in health research information, I search published and unpublished literature to uncover relevant evidence to support individual researchers with their project proposals and I often refer researchers to the James Lind Alliance.
The James Lind Alliance (JLA) is a non-profit making initiative which was established in 2004. It brings patients, carers and clinicians together in Priority Setting Partnerships (PSPs) to identify and prioritise the Top 10 uncertainties, or ‘unanswered questions’, about the effects of treatments that they agree are most important. The aim of this is to help ensure that those who fund health research are aware of what matters to both patients and clinicians and this information can be extremely helpful when writing a funding application. The process involves many patients, carers, and health and social care professionals in a transparent, tried and trusted methodology. You can find out about how the James Lind process of identifying 'questions' or priorities works in this short video from the skin cancer surgery PSP
Browsing the list of PSPs is interesting for the range and diversity and I encourage researchers to visit the website to find out if their areas of interest are included among the priorities. There are now more than one hundred and examples include electronic cigarettes, endometriosis, schizophrenia and ‘surgery for common shoulder problems’. It’s important to note that PsPs are listed alphabetically by title and not necessarily by topic or condition, for example the PsP on hearing loss is ‘indexed’ ‘Mild to moderate hearing loss’. To avoid missing any relevant PsP’s, type your topic or condition into the search box on the main page. The results may contain ‘questions’ from more than one PsP.
All RDS advisers are aware of the JLA and can give ideas and advice about how James Lind priorities could be used in your research proposal. Researchers need to be imaginative but precise - give some details and background to the priority, such as the number of people who were involved in priority setting, the ranking of the priority and what difference answering the priority would make to the NHS (JLA priorities and how to use them in your application). The NIHR often uses the PsPs when setting their commissioned research calls and NIHR's Health Technology Assessment Programme recognises the importance of the research priorities identified by the JLA and have a rolling funding call open for high -quality applications which address them NIHR James Lind Alliance Priority Setting Partnerships Rolling Call the next call deadline is 4 May.
Your local RDS can also review applications prior to submission and suggest how evidence from the literature particularly systematic reviews, and guidelines can be used to strengthen the case for funding, so do get in touch with us to support your research funding application.