The Commissioning Process


All calls for research applications are advertised on the Funding Opportunities page. All applications need to be submitted on an electronic application form, available through a dedicated research management system (RMS). The guidance on completing a PRP application form includes advice on how to navigate the RMS and upload the necessary supporting documentation. This guidance should be read carefully.

There are three major rounds of commissioning each year with a number of research areas addressed within each. Most commissioning 'rounds' involve a two-stage application process, where applicants are asked to submit an outline application to be followed by a full application after a short-listing process. 

All full applications are peer reviewed and funding will be allocated on a quality and need basis. Applicants are expected, before submitting applications, to have discussed their proposals with their own or any other organisations whose co-operation will be required in the conduct of the proposed research. Proof of support from the host organisation will be required.

Peer review of applications

All full applications are peer reviewed before being considered by a commissioning panel. The peer review process involves independent scientific referees and lay persons as well as other stakeholders (e.g. policy customers). Criteria used by peer reviewers to assess research applications include:

  • relevance of proposed research to the research specification
  • quality of the research design
  • quality of the work plan and proposed management arrangements
  • strength of the research team
  • impact of the proposed work
  • value for money (justification of the proposed costs)
  • involvement of patients, service users and the public.

Applications are also judged on the feasibility of delivering the research to the specified milestones and deadlines.

It is extremely important for applicants to provide a plain English summary that is accessible to lay reviewers. It will be a disadvantage if patients, service users and the public are unable to understand the nature of a research application.

PRP commissioning panels

PRP commissioning panels meet to discuss applications in detail and advise the Department of Health on which application, or applications, should be funded. Peer reviews, and any responses to peer review comments, will guide the panel in its deliberations, before it makes its final funding recommendations to the Department of Health.

The commissioning panels bring together expertise relevant to the research evidence-base needed for DH policymaking. Panel membership includes an independent Chair, a number of senior academics with multi-disciplinary expertise and two Patient and Public Involvement (PPI) representatives. This commissioning panel is also supported by high calibre and experienced individuals who act as ‘subject experts’ in the area(s) of research directly relevant to specific calls under consideration. The panel members page is available here

Representatives of the Policy Research Programme, of relevant Department of Health policy directorates and of DH partners attend as observers, while members of the PRP CCF function as the secretariat to Panel.

Feedback for applicants

Once an application has been considered, the PRP CCF will provide written feedback to the named lead investigator regardless of whether the bid is successful or not. Feedback on outline applications will inform applicants whether they have been invited to submit a full application. Unsuccessful applicants at either the outline or full application stage will be provided with comments from PRP commissioning panels via the PRP CCF. 

The PRP CCF is unable to enter into further correspondence once written feedback has been provided.

Contracting of projects selected for funding

In order to maximise the benefit from the findings, research projects selected for funding are expected to commence within six months of notification of funding. A contract will be issued by the Department of Health between the Secretary of State for Health and the host institution (main base of the research). Capability to start promptly will be viewed as an advantage in the selection process and in some cases may be a requirement of the research specification.

A template of the contract is available here 

Management of projects selected for funding

All financial, contractual and administrative aspects of commissioned studies are managed by the PRP CCF.  The PRP CCF Programme Managers are the primary point of contact for dealing with contracts, quarterly payments (in arrears), regular financial statements, progress reports, publications and final outputs. They will also deal with any contract variations and may request that you update publicly accessible registers with details of your research.