RDS South Central Standard Operating Procedure

This page describes the role of the Research Design Service South Central (RDS SC), detailing in particular how we can advise and support you in developing grant applications. It describes both what you can expect from the RDS SC, and what we anticipate from you in return.


The Research Design Service (RDS) is funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) to assist researchers preparing research proposals for submission to national, peer-reviewed funding competitions for applied health or social care research. Priority will be given to supporting proposals to be submitted to a NIHR scheme.

Nature of support provided

RDS SC staff have the knowledge and expertise to advise on a wide range of research-related issues, including in particular all aspects of research design and methodology. We can also advise on issues such as involving patients and public, identifying resources and dissemination plans. Although one RDS SC adviser will take the lead in coordinating support, other RDS SC staff may become involved to bring complementary skills, and we have a wide range of other contacts in academic and clinical disciplines to facilitate any necessary additional input where required.


We provide support to NHS, social care researchers and other researchers who are working in partnership with the NHS. Our services are free of charge, but it is useful to give some examples of situations where we are not able to provide support free of charge:

  • the development of projects for which there is no intention to submit a grant application to a recognised funder as described above
  • actually doing the research; if required this would need to be costed into the project grant bid, and it would also depend upon available research capacity and the interests of host institutions
  • formal supervision or informal support for students
  • any aspect of activities that are not research, e.g. audit, satisfaction surveys
  • conducting unfunded analysis on data already collected.

It should also be noted that it is only within our remit to support applications to national peer-reviewed funding agencies.

If you are in any doubt about eligibility, please contact us to discuss your situation.

Mutual Understandings

You can expect to gain access to a professional service in a timely manner. You may approach the RDS SC at any stage of development of a research proposal: from simply wanting to discuss an initial idea through to requesting input on a specific issue relating to a well-developed proposal. The earlier you approach us, the more comprehensive our advice can be. You can contact the RDS in person, by telephone, by email or by post to discuss the services we offer. In order to access our support, you will need to submit an online support request through our website www.rds-sc.nihr.ac.uk

If eligible, you can expect the following from the RDS SC:

  • Professional advice about aspects of developing a grant application and practical support for such development, free of charge. Advice will be given to all projects that have potential to achieve funding and advice will be provided throughout the submission process
  • Face-to-face meetings at a mutually convenient time and venue and/or other forms of communication as appropriate
  • Support in co-ordinating the process of proposal development, as required
  • Advice on drafting relevant sections of proposals, as required
  • Support in identifying and approaching other potential lay and professional collaborators, as required
  • Support in identifying a suitable NIHR funding stream and advising on its application processes. If not eligible for NIHR funding we will try to provide advice on other potential funding bodies depending on local knowledge
  • Support for obtaining appropriate user and carer involvement in project development
  • In the case of unsuccessful applications, support with deciding what to do next
  • All discussions regarding the proposal to be treated with appropriate confidentiality

In return, the RDS SC expects that you will:

  • Use the RDS SC only for eligible purposes
  • Carefully consider proffered advice, discussing as necessary and accepting such advice except where there are compelling reasons not to do so
  • Ensure that the research team includes input from NHS staff and lay person(s)
  • Where RDS SC staff are invited, and agree to be grant co-applicants, include appropriate costs in the grant to cover any work they will undertake in the conduct, analysis and reporting of the project (please note that there is no expectation that RDS advisers will be co-applicants on the applications RDS SC supports)
  • Accurately reflect the nature of RDS SC involvement and support in the relevant section of the grant application (RDS SC staff can provide you with a reminder of input given by RDS SC)
  • Provide RDS SC with a copy of any completed, submitted application in which RDS SC support has been involved
  • Inform RDS SC of the funding committee’s decision.

NIHR Research Design Service South Central (RDS SC) Data Protection and Privacy Statement

The NIHR Research Design Service for the South Central region is funded by the National Institute for Health Research to provide research design advice in health and social care research in the South Central region.

The NIHR RDS South Central complies fully with the General Data Protection Regulations.

As a recipient of support from NIHR Research Design Service (RDS) we will collect information about the advice we provide to you and the research funding application you may subsequently submit. This information will be used by the Research Design Service to give appropriate advice, but may also be shared with the NIHR Central Commissioning Facility (CCF) to evaluate the management and delivery of the RDS. The CCF is part of the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) National Institute for Health Research (NIHR). All information will be held securely and treated in the strictest confidence by the RDS, CCF and NIHR.

The NIHR privacy policy includes further information including ways NIHR may use your data, contact details and details of your individual rights regarding how your data will be used. This includes details of the information collected by NIHR, why it is collected, how long it will be retained and how the information will be used.

All information that you provide us with will be treated in the strictest confidence. Please note: RDS South Central will take appropriate steps to ensure confidentiality of any information sent to us via our website, although we cannot accept any liability for the loss or disclosure of data sent to us in this way.

Additionally, in some circumstances, in order for the RDS SC team to gain professional support and specialist advice, personal data – including details of your research proposal – may be shared with trusted third party organisations in order for the RDS SC team to provide its service more effectively. This is done under the legal basis of legitimate interests; your personal data – including details of your research proposal – will only be shared where it is in the specific interest of fulfilling your request for support. For example, if your research project includes a clinical trial, RDS SC may share your name, email address and details of your grant proposal with a Clinical Trials Unit so that they can provide specialist advice on trials. Examples of trusted organisations that RDS SC works with include (but is not limited to) university Research & Support Services, finance departments for bid costings, NHS Trust Research & Development offices, the Wessex Academic Health Sciences Network, NIHR Clinical Research Networks, Clinical Trials Units.

If you’ve signed up to our RDS SC “Latest Calls another other opportunities” e-bulletin then your name and email will be stored in our MailChimp account which we use to distribute all of our e-bulletins and updates. MailChimp are GDPR compliant.

You will be asked to share your final application with us before it is submitted for funding, again in confidence. This is for our own internal evaluation; it’s helpful to see whether our suggestions have been useful enough for you to use in your bid and whether the bid is eventually funded.

You will be asked to let us know about outcomes of your research application. All publicly funded projects, funding panel minutes and decisions are made publicly available and all successful applications are made available via the Europe PubMed Central (Europe PMC). If we are unable to obtain an outcome from you then we will use publicly available sources, such as Europe PMC or information gained from funders to determine an application’s outcome.

If you wish to contact the NIHR RDS South Central to ensure that your contact details are correct and up-to-date or to ask for your contact information to be removed from our records, please contact NIHR RDS South Central at:

Address: NIHR RDS South Central, Mail Point 805, Level C, South Academic Block, Southampton General Hospital, SO16 6YD
Phone: 02381 204 778
Email: rds-sc@soton.ac.uk

Should you have any complaint about the way that RDS SC processes your personal information you can make a complaint to the Information Commissioner by visiting: ico.org.uk/concerns – or by writing to the Commissioner at: The Information Commissioner, Information Commissioner’s Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire, SK9 5AF.

Your contact information will be removed from our records one year after the end of the NIHR RDS South Central contract period, unless the information relates to a financial transaction when we are obliged to retain it for up to seven years for auditing purposes.

If we decide to change our Confidentiality Agreement (Data Protection and Privacy Statement) we will email clients and update this document. This will help ensure that you are always aware of what personal information we collect, how we use it, how long we will retain it for and under what circumstances, if any, we share it with other parties.

Updated August 2020

Research Design Service South Central Terms and Conditions

The Research Design Service South Central (RDS SC) will only provide advice if a request for support meets the eligibility criteria set out in the RDS SC Charter.

The RDS SC takes every care to provide accurate and up-to-date information and advice via its advice service, website, publication or any other service it provides; however the information we provide is subject to change and we cannot guarantee its correctness or completeness at any given time. Furthermore, we cannot guarantee the accuracy and appropriateness of the advice given by our service, although every effort is made to ensure high quality advice is given.

Although every reasonable effort will be made, we cannot guarantee advice to be given by a particular deadline, such as a funding deadline or within a particular timeframe.

Every effort will be made to provide advice where eligible. However we may not have the capacity to support applications in the timeframe required and reserve the right to prioritise advice giving under these circumstances.

Links provided on the RDS SC website are for information and convenience only. We do not accept responsibility for the sites linked to, or the information found there. A link does not imply an endorsement of a site. You are solely responsible for evaluating the accuracy and completeness of any information contained on the third party website, and also the value and integrity of any goods and services offered by other websites. We cannot guarantee that these links will work all of the time and have no control over the availability of the linked pages.

We do not accept liability for any loss, damage or expense resulting from the use of information, advice or any service provided by the RDS SC.

All content provided by the RDS SC is copyright unless otherwise stated.

The RDS SC may change these terms and conditions at any time and without warning. The latest terms and conditions can be obtained by using the following contact details:

  • Research Design Service,
  • Mailpoint 805,
  • South Academic Block,
  • Southampton General Hospital,
  • Southampton
  • SO16 6YD
  • Telephone 02380 794778
  • E-mail rds.sc@nihr.ac.uk

Alternatively they can be found in the RDS-SC Charter and SOP on the RDS SC website along with any changes made. Any new versions of the terms and conditions will supersede previous versions.

RDS South Central Standard Operating Procedure