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
  • 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

NIHR RDS SC complies with the Data Protection Act 1998 and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), effective from 25th May 2018.

NIHR RDS SC reviews this Standard Operating Procedure regularly. We recommend returning to this page in future if you have any queries about the data we process.

Who we are
NIHR RDS SC is funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) to support research teams in the South Central region of England to develop and submit high quality applied health and social care grant applications to NIHR and other national peer-reviewed funding programmes.

Legal basis for processing your data
RDS SC collects and processes personal data on the legal basis of legitimate interests. Processing client data is necessary in order to provide the service that the data subject has requested.

Clients have the option of subscribing to the RDS SC mailing list. Personal data used for the RDS SC mailing list is processed under the lawful basis of consent. Clients are given the opportunity to opt-in to the mailing list and can unsubscribe at any time using the instructions at the bottom of each e-bulletin. Subscription to the mailing list does not affect the service that a client receives.

RDS SC uses MailChimp as a means of distributing the e-bulletin. We would pass the data subject’s name and email address to MailChimp. For further information about MailChimp, please see its Privacy Policy.

Privacy Notices from host organisations
RDS SC is a single entity comprised of staff from the following five separate host institutions:

Each host organisation has its own data protection policy, which RDS SC staff within that organisation must follow. Data stored locally (e.g. on a host organisation’s computers/servers) will be subject to that organisation’s own privacy policy.

The following data privacy statement relates to RDS SC as a unified body and should be read in addition to the privacy notices of the five host organisations listed above.

How we store your data
In order for the above five organisations to work together to provide a service to the client, personal information is held on the following:

  • RDS SC database. The RDS SC uses a database provided by Webfuel, a creative web design agency based in East Leake (UK). Webfuel provide secure managed hosting within a Microsoft Azure data centre for the RDS database. Microsoft Azure is one of the top two data centre providers in the world and has all major security certifications (see here for further information). Webfuel are GDPR compliant (see here for further information).
  • NIHR Hub. The NIHR Hub is hosted by a third party (Google). Google is governed by its own Data Processing and Security Terms.

The RDS SC database and the Google Hub are password protected; each member of staff has their own individual password to increase security. No one outside RDS SC should have access to personal data stored on the RDS SC database or Google Hub.

What we will do with your data
When you submit a Request for Support through the RDS SC website, you will be asked to provide personal data. This will include biographical data (such as your name and contact information) as well as details relating to your employment and research (for example, your occupation and employer). This data is collected to facilitate our advice provision; only data required to provide this service is collected.

Clients are invited to submit paperwork for RDS SC to review (for example: draft grant proposals, research protocols, feedback from funding bodies).

RDS SC does not collect sensitive personal data (e.g. racial or ethnic origin, political opinions, religious beliefs, health, sexual life, the commission/alleged commission of an offence alleged/committed by the data subject and any related court proceedings, trade union membership, genetic or biometric data).

If you contact a member of RDS SC staff directly by phone, email or via the contact form on the RDS SC website, RDS SC may collect personal data as above. Where an enquiry leads to advice/support being offered by RDS SC, your personal data will be transferred to the RDS SC database and/or the RDS SC Google Hub.

Data collected will be used for various analyses of RDS SC service and in reports to other organisations. The information presented from such analyses will be anonymous; it will not be possible to link the anonymised information to any personally identifiable data. (For example, RDS SC may need to report on how many applications it supported to the NIHR Research for Patient Benefit (RfPB) Programme in a particular reporting year; a client’s record will be used for this report, but no personally identifiable data, and no information about the grant application itself, will be included in the report.)

No personally identifiable information provided to RDS SC will be passed on or otherwise distributed to any third party without your prior approval, except in the following circumstances:

  • where there is an overriding statutory obligation to do so;
  • where the information is required for the purposes of someone’s vital interests (e.g. protection of life);
  • where we are required to perform a task in the public interest;
  • where RDS SC needs to gain specialist advice or coordinate the progression of a grant application with local support (e.g. finance departments, R&D departments) as part of the service requested by the data subject (see below*).

*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.

You will be asked to let us know about the outcomes of your research application. All publically funded projects funding panel minutes and decisions are made publically 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 publically available sources, such as Europe PMC or information gained from funders to determine an application’s outcome.

For ease of communication between you and the RDS, between RDS staff, and between RDS staff and their close associates (outlined above), email is the default method used to transmit documents; these emails may include personal information (e.g. draft grant applications). All members of RDS SC staff communicate using a host organisation’s institutional email address (for example, @soton.ac.uk), which will be governed by the data security policies of the host organisation, or an email address provided by the National Institute for Health Research (@nihr.ac.uk), which will be governed by the NIHR’s data security policy. If you believe a greater degree of security is required for your documents, please let us know.

Information collected by this website & cookie use
This website uses Google Analytics to allow RDS SC to understand how visitors interact with the website in order to improve and tailor the website to its audience. No personal data is collected.

Google Analytics use traffic log cookies to gain information about the use that is made of pages on our website. We use the information from cookies to generate reports on the usage of our website, which are used for evaluation and analysis. The purpose is to improve our website by tailoring it to the needs of users. No data specific to any identifiable user is retained. For more detail on the information collected by Google Analytics, including its use of cookies, please visit the Safeguarding your data page. More information about cookies used by Google Analytics can be found on the Google Analytics website.

To provide website visitors more choice on how their data is collected by Google Analytics, Google have developed the Google Analytics Opt-out Browser Add-on. Installing the add-on allows users to stop the browser sending information about their visit to Google Analytics. Further detail here.

On first visiting this website, you are asked if you accept the usage of cookies by this website. In order to record your response so that you will not be asked again, one further cookie called catAccCookie is stored on your computer.

You can choose to accept or decline cookies. Most web browsers automatically accept cookies, but you can usually modify your browser setting to decline cookies if you prefer. You should be aware that this may prevent you from taking full advantage of the website. If you are unsure how to do this, use your favourite search engine to look this up using the term ‘declining cookies’ with your browser name, or contact your local IT support for advice.

When you visit any of our web pages we will collect your IP address for the purpose of both the prevention and detection of fraudulent access and misuse.

Your rights as a data subject
The GDPR provides the following rights for individuals:

  • The right to be informed
  • The right of access
  • The right to rectification
  • The right to erasure
  • The right to restrict processing
  • The right to data portability
  • The right to object
  • Rights in relation to automated decision making and profiling.

Processing client data is necessary for RDS SC to provide the service requested. Preventing the use or processing of your personal data may result in a delay to, or an inability to complete the RDS SC service.

If you wish to contact RDS SC in relation to any of the above rights, please contact us at: Research Design Service, Mailpoint 805, South Academic Block, Southampton General Hospital, Southampton SO16 6YD | Telephone 023 8120 4778 | E-mail rds.sc@nihr.ac.uk

You can also contact the five host organisations’ Data Protection Officers at:

Making a complaint to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO)
Should you have any complaints about the way that RDS SC processes your personal information you can make a complaint to the Information Commissioner by visiting https://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.

Retention period of your data
Your contact information will be removed from our records, one year after the end of the RDS SC contract period (currently one year from 30/09/2023), unless the information relates to a financial transaction, in which case we are obliged to retain it for up to seven years for auditing purposes.

If we decide to change our Data Protection and Privacy Statement, we will post details of any changes on the data protection section of the RDS SC website. This will help to 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 will share it with other parties.

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