Research essentials

Considerations when costing research grants

Conducting research to a high standard requires funding and grant applications to funding bodies need a detailed breakdown of justified costs to show value for money. All expenditure must be accounted for, even down to the cost of tea and coffee.

Conducting research to a high standard requires funding and grant applications to funding bodies need a detailed breakdown of justified costs to show value for money. All expenditure must be accounted for, even down to the cost of tea and coffee.

Geek speak

Direct costs

Costs incurred directly from the project, for example staff, travel, transcription and equipment

If peer reviewers and funding body panel members do not agree that the research is value for money, the application will be rejected, so it is important to put together accurate costs.

The three distinct costs for a research study (Department of Health (DH) 2012) appear in the box below. The DH’s guidance for Attributing the Cost of Health and Social Care Research, AcoRD, gives clear examples of what comes under which cost, including those incurred before, during and after the research has ended.

It is important to involve the research and development unit in the NHS trust or university as they will be able to offer support and guidance for your final application.

Open access publishing

Many publishers are moving towards open access publishing and some journals require a fee of £1,500-£3,000 per paper. This will be a direct research cost and most funders will support this fee, but check their guidelines.

Research, NHS support and treatment costs

Cost Examples
Research
All research activities required to achieve the outcomes of the study
  • Time the investigators spend managing and advising on the research assistant, or associate undertaking the research
  • Travel and subsistence: travel associated with conducting data collection at different sites, conference registration and associated travel
  • Equipment: laptops, audio-recorders, tablet, software
  • Consumables: paper, photocopying, postage, envelopes, flyers, vouchers, transcription of interview data, room hire, refreshments for advisory or steering group meetings
  • Patient randomisation Open access publishing costs

NHS service support
Additional patient care costs associated with the research that would not continue after the research has stopped

  • Asking NHS employees to determine the suitability of patients for a research study and approaching them to determine participation
  • Recruitment and consent activities including sending out letters and emails
Treatment
Patient care costs associated with the new service/treatment
  • The administration of a trial drug, non-pharmacological intervention as part of a patient’s treatment
  • Training healthcare professionals to use a new treatment/therapy/way of working

Patient and public involvement payment

Geek speak

Directly allocated costs

Costs associated with the project, but shared with other activities. They are estimates, for example co-investigator costs, estates, research facilities

It is good practice for research to involve patients and the public. Most funders will expect grant proposals and the undertaking of the research to be informed by service users. This involvement can include user and carers being a co-researcher or a member of the research advisory group that might meet six-monthly during the project.

Costs should be calculated for the payment of service users’ time as well as other costs, for example, venue hire, refreshments, travel and parking. The INVOLVE (2015) website offers examples of costs and is a useful tool as it gives you examples of how to budget.

Other support

Geek speak

Indirect costs

Non-specific costs based on estimates, for example personal, use of departmental services such as the library

The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) clinical research network is developing a template for researchers to use to calculate costs and staff will assist researchers in completing the template for NIHR funding.

You should always establish exactly what bodies will fund. Charities have to ensure that public money is spent on research and will not support directly allocated or indirect costs. The Association of Medical Research Charities offers guidance on funding and eligibility: these are published in the DH’s AcoRD document.

Key messages

  • Seek support for calculating costs
  • Check what funding bodies will pay for
  • NHS research and development offices should be able to offer guidance on NHS support and costs


Reference


Further resources


Linda Milnes is associate professor in children and young people’s nursing in the school of healthcare, University of Leeds

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