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Expression of interest and commissioning studies

Call for expressions of interest

At the early stages, investigators are encouraged to fill in what they can to enable initial dialogue.  This EOI form may be submitted partially completed to facilitate initial engagement with the group.  Its completion can then be an iterative, cumulative process in line with engagement with the CSG and as the study becomes more defined over time.   

We can accept expressions of interest at any time during the funding cycle. However, these will be subject to a prioritisation process which takes place around the middle of January and middle of July. Please complete our expression of interest form with details of your proposal. This can be downloaded below:

Expression of interest form

Expressions of interest which are aligned with our overall strategy and are assigned a high priority are sent out for international peer review. If received in advance of the deadline, and supported by the CSG (in terms of ‘fit’ to our current strategy and likelihood of support at international peer review), we will feed back to the applicants in an attempt to optimise the chances of success with the international reviewers. When appropriate we may also suggest combining submitted expressions of interest and contribute our own angles, to develop an ambitious but feasible research programme.

Defining key questions
The potential research agenda will be defined by the steering committee in consultation with our constituents, according to the principles of transparency, expediency and equity. The key role of the Steering group is to identify broad areas where there is significant scope for high quality clinical research that will improve patient care or which addresses unmet patient need. In some cases, where there are broad research opportunities (e.g. early arthritis, non-pharmacological research), a permanent or ad hoc subgroup may be formed to focus the agenda. Once one or more potential research areas have been identified formal bids, including pilot studies, may be invited by national advertisement in the Arthritis Research UK Newsletter, on this website, and via our email distribution list. In some cases the ‘call’ may be quite specific. In others the call may be designed to encourage free flow of ideas from the community. At times the call may be accompanied by a workshop, to facilitate development of the broad outline of a clinical study and to identify lead researcher(s)

Members of our constituency (clinical, non-clinical, patients) are actively encouraged to approach the steering committee with their own research ideas. These can be very brief, and are welcomed. If the approach is not via a formal Expression of Interest application, and the idea is viewed favourably, this will catalyse a national call for additional ideas in that area. This is necessary to satisfy the rules of the UK Clinical Research Network (UKCRN), which will distribute patient support costs to eligible research that is ultimately funded by Arthritis Research UK. Eligibility requires either national competition for funding or nationally collaborative research. It is important to state that, at this stage, the proposer is not committing him- or herself to taking the research lead in any subsequent study. Indeed, we realise that some of the best ideas are likely to emanate from busy clinicians who have little time to develop research themselves. The CSG provides a conduit for such ideas which can then be developed, by consensus, into formal expressions of interest. Furthermore the Steering Group will be happy to provide advice and support to potential applicants.

At the end of this first stage the steering group will review the responses to the call. Ideally we would like to commission one large study rather than several small studies. Therefore, we may encourage two or more investigators to work together towards a ‘bigger picture’, amalgamating their ideas into a larger research agenda. Expressions of Interest are sent to several international experts, who will be asked to judge them on the grounds of importance, relevance and feasibility. Their opinion will also be sought on areas where the studies could be refined, whether proposed outcome measures are the most appropriate, and whether additional substudies should be considered.

Assuming peer review is positive, studies will be invited to progress to a full application. At this stage a link-up with an accredited Clinical Trials Unit (CTU) is essential, although it may be useful to develop these links at the Expression of Interest stage. The CTU will assist with study design and protocol development, which may be an iterative process involving several lead investigators, with the potential for input from other interested researchers. Costing of studies should follow the Attributing the costs of health and social care Research & Development (AcoRD) document.

The full application will be submitted to the Clinical Studies Subcommittee of Arthritis Research UK, who will seek further peer review, focussed predominantly although not exclusively on methodology and study design. Referees will be asked to ensure that clinical trials meet published MRC standards. The ultimate funding recommendation will be made at a meeting of the Clinical Studies Subcommittee, informed by the comments of the referees of all stages of the application process. At this stage, each proposal may be in competition with other proposals from this and other CSGs.

Once a study is funded, a discussion will commence around the requested funding, particularly with regard to AcoRD guidelines. Arthritis Research UK can only provide direct research costs. Potential research sites may already have been identified during development of the application but adoption by the UKCRN will provide a stimulus for other Centres to join the study.

We are also keen to advise and assist applications to other funding bodies for clinical research into inflammatory arthritis. Arthritis Research UK funds are not unlimited and therefore such applications, when successful, provide excellent added value to the research community as a whole.

Non-trial research
Non-trial clinical research will pass through similar phases to those described above.

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