Frequently Asked Questions (HRCI member charities)
How the Scheme works – overview and initiation
1. How does the Joint Funding Scheme work?
The key stages of the Scheme are as follows:
*Charity opens call
- Charities publish calls and engage with prospective applicants
- Applications submitted to the relevant charities
*Charity reviews and shortlists
- Charity manages international peer review process [and public review, where applicable]
- Charity offers applicants right to respond to peer reviews
- Charity undertakes internal process to select applications to go forward for consideration by HRCI-HRB Joint Selection Panel.
* HRCI / HRB Joint Selection Panel
- Applications considered at a HRCI-HRB Joint Selection Panel meeting
- Each application assessed by assigned scientific + PPI reviewers
- Scored for scientific merit and also for quality of PPI
- Charities can be observers at Panel meeting
*HRB Board approval
- HRB Board approves successful projects and contracts are issued
2. How do charities initiate participation in the Scheme?
Any charities interested in participating in this round of the Scheme must contact HRCI to receive all relevant documents. A full list of the documents is provided in the Instructions to Research Charities. Charities will be alerted when these documents are ready.
3. Is it necessary for a charity to open a formal call for applications to the Scheme?
Although member charities are encouraged to open calls for the purposes of openness and to attract researchers that they may not already be aware of, charities may have valid reasons for not opening a call and in that case can invite applications from principal investigators (PIs) already known to them. There is no necessity to open a formal call for applications.
It is possible to resubmit an application made to the scheme in a previous round. In this case, new peer reviews would need to be conducted because it is expected that there would have been a change in the state of knowledge in the time since original submission. It is acceptable to use the same reviewers, but it would be expected that the reviews would have reference to new research or the absence of progress in the field.
Funding arrangements in the Scheme
4. What is the maximum award made by the HRB for each successful project?
Charities with an annual gross income (or reserves) of less than €150,000 can request up to 75% co-funding from the HRB, while charities with an annual gross income (or reserves) of €150,000 or over can request 50% co-funding. Charities qualifying for 75% co-funding will have to provide further information within the applications forms. They should note that the HRCI levy (see question 9) on the HRB portion of funding will be payable on 75% of project costs, should they select this option.
The total maximum value of each project funded is €300,000 over 3 years with the maximum award made by the HRB for each successful project being €150,000 in the case of projects where the charities co-fund 50% of the costs, and €225,000 in the case of projects where charities co-fund 25% of the project costs. The HRB’s contribution to each successful project is paid directly to the Host Institution.
5. What is the total maximum funding that any one charity can receive?
Each charity is permitted to submit up to three projects to the HRB, as well as a ‘plus one’ (see below for what a plus one project is). This means that the maximum value of funding that any one charity can receive is €450,000 for charities seeking 50% funding for successful projects, and €675,000 for charities seeking 75% funding for successful projects.
6. What is a ‘plus one’ project?
In the event of a charity receiving more highly rated applications than they can afford to fund, it may submit one additional application more than it can afford to the HRB (e.g., you have 3 applications with a high score, but you only have funding for 2). In this scenario should all submitted applications be recommended for funding at Joint Selection Panel stage, the lowest ranking application, as judged by the Joint Selection Panel, will not be funded.
7. If a project is successfully funded for 2 or 3 years, does the charity have to frontload their portion of the funding (i.e., pay the full amount of their contribution to the project up front)?
The charity is not required to pay their total contribution up front. The charity portion is split across each year of the duration of the project.
8. Are there any restrictions on the sources of funding raised by charities towards their contribution to finding successful projects under the Scheme?
There are no restrictions so long as the funding contributed by the charity comes through the charity’s own accounts and not directly from industry. For example, a charity may receive funding from the pharmaceutical industry as part of its fundraising activities and this is processed through the charity’s own accounts. This would not be restricted. There are, however, exceptions to this. Charities receiving research grants from sources that would not be considered appropriate for ethical reasons (such as grants from the tobacco industry) will be restricted from participating in the Scheme. This is a general condition applying to charities as a whole, not just to specific applications to the Joint Funding Scheme.
9. What is the HRCI-HRB Joint Funding Scheme Levy?
HRCI charges charities who are successful in receiving funding under the Scheme a 5% levy on the funding for each project received from the HRB. This is to cover the extensive amount of administration undertaken by the HRCI in managing this Scheme. This applies to the 75% project funding awarded to charities whose annual income is than €150,000 and reserves of less than €150,000, and the 50% project funding awarded to charities whose annual income and reserves are €150,000 or over. Charities will be asked to tick a number of boxes indicating agreement with the levy prior to commencing the application process via GEMS. These are provided in the Instructions to Research Charities.
10. What project costs are covered under the Scheme?
Eligible costs which are funded under the Scheme are personnel costs (excluding tenured staff), student stipends and fees, direct running costs and dissemination costs.
11. How are overheads calculated and paid?
Overheads are calculated based on 30% of the HRB portion of the costs of the project. They are paid by the HRB in addition to the funding available for the successful project. These are added by the HRB at contract negotiation stage.
Allowed duration of projects funded under the Scheme
12. What is the allowed duration of projects funded under the Scheme?
The duration of projects funded under the Scheme is between 12 and 36 months.
Eligibility criteria for participation in the Scheme
13. What are the eligibility criteria for charities applying to the Scheme?
Charities who wish to submit applications must be full members of HRCI (not associate members) and be approved as a Co-funding Partner under the HRCI-HRB Co-funding policy. Charities not already approved as Co-funding Partners will be send the Co-funding policy and application form. Charities can either be:
- A company established under the Companies Acts
- A charitable trust
- An unincorporated body of persons e.g. an association
- A body set up by statute or charter
- Or another legal entity
Charities must be registered with the charities regulator and be able to provide confirmation of charity legal form, governing documentation, certificate of incorporation of the company (if applicable), up-to-date financial statements, and a valid tax clearance certificate.
14. What are the eligibility criteria for research teams applying to the Scheme?
Research teams should be led by a Principal Investigator (PI) who either:
- Holds or will hold a post that covers the duration of the award
- Has at least 3 publications of original research in peer-reviewed journals
- Has secured at least 1 peer-reviewed research grant for a research project(s), as either the Lead Applicant or a Co-Applicant.
Only one application per PI will be considered. However, it is possible to be a Co-Applicant or Collaborator on other applications. In this case, the total time commitment across all applications should be considered and will be taken into account by the Joint Selection Panel. Further information on the requirements for PIs, Co-Applicants and Official Collaborators is available in the Instructions to Applicants document.
15. Does being awarded a research fellowship qualify as a peer-reviewed research grant for the purposes of PI eligibility?
Yes, a research fellowship award counts as a peer-reviewed research grant when assessing the eligibility of an individual to be a PI on an application to the scheme.
16. Can a PI apply to the Joint Funding Scheme while they have the same proposal under review with the HRB under a different scheme?
The HRB asks in the application if the project has been submitted to other HRB schemes in the last three years, and, if so, to briefly describe the changes that have been made to the application since the original submission. If the applicant has submitted the current application to any other schemes concurrently with this round of the Joint Funding Scheme the HRB asks that the applicant lets them know if they are successful in the other call so that they can be withdrawn from consideration in the Joint Funding Scheme. The HRB generally doesn’t need to know that the applicant has applied elsewhere until they know the outcome.
17. Do PIs have to be based in the Republic of Ireland?
PIs can be based outside Ireland in the case where there is limited or no research capacity in Ireland (for example in the case of rare diseases). As part of the application, a warrant for international host institutions must be completed, which must be signed by the Dean of Research to state that they will abide by the HRB’s terms and conditions. Researchers from these universities should be aware that the funding is in euro and that any currency exchange rate fluctuations may affect their budget. Where the PI is based outside of Ireland, where possible they should seek Co-applicants or Collaborators in Ireland in order to build capacity here.
18. Can an Irish-based PI collaborate with international researchers?
Yes, PIs based in the Republic of Ireland can collaborate with international researchers as Co-Applicants or Official Collaborators. It is recommended that applicants demonstrate the necessity and contribution international researchers make to the proposed research. The international researchers’ host institution needs to complete a warrant, which must be signed by the Dean of Research, to state that they will abide by the HRB’s terms and conditions. Researchers from international institutions should be aware that funding is in euro and that any currency exchange rate fluctuations may affect their budget.
19. Are universities based in Northern Ireland on the list of current approved HRB host institutions?
Universities based in Northern Ireland are considered international institutions by the HRB and so are not on the list of approved host institutions. Research teams from these universities are eligible to apply to the Scheme according to the terms and conditions applied to working with an international institution.
20. Can representatives from industry be Co-Applicants or Collaborators on an application?
Industry representatives can be Collaborators, providing materials or expertise, on an application. It is more likely that they would be Collaborators rather than Co-Applicants due to concerns over ownership of intellectual property rights and commercialisation interests. As the HRB is not a commercialisation funder, it would be very unlikely that a commercial entity (seeking to exert some control over project direction) with competing commercial interests would be involved as a Co-Applicant.
21. Is it possible to have a Co-Applicant who is a funded researcher (a PhD student) on the application?
It is expected that a Co-Applicant has a critical and substantial role in directing the project, they should be involved throughout the project and not just with a specific piece of work. Although it is not specifically stated that this is not permissable, it would be very difficult for a PhD student to fulfil this role. Reviewers will be looking at the expertise of the team and it may be difficult for a PhD student to be able to demonstrate the necessary expertise.
22. Can charity representatives be Collaborators on an application to the scheme?
Yes, it is possible for charity representatives to be collaborators on an application. In this case it is important to ensure that there are no conflicts of interest and that the collaborator has no say in shortlisting which applications go forward to the HRB.
23. Can charity representatives be Co-Applicants on an application to the scheme?
Charity staff can be Co-Applicants on an application, where their involvement is appropriate and justified. The charity needs to be clear that none of their staff named on the application would have any part in the selection of peer reviewers for their application. They should not sit on any internal selection panel or be involved in any way in the process of selecting applications to go forward to the HRB.
Collaboration with other charities
24. Is it possible to collaborate with other charities in the Scheme?
Co-funding of a single project between up to 4 charities with common interests is allowed. In this scenario the combined charity contribution will be 50% of the project costs regardless of the charities’ gross annual income. Charities will agree themselves the division of funding contributed by their organisations. All charities will be partners in the multi-party contract. This may include arrangements where Irish charities co-fund with an international charity which is not a member of HRCI. All Irish charity partners must be HRCI members. All charities who are contributing funding under the Scheme must be approved as a Co-funding Partner. This does not apply to charities who are not contributing funding. International charities who are contributing funding will need to be approved as Co-funding Partners with the HRB. They can apply to the HRB for approval as Co-funding Partners.
Types of research funded under the Scheme
25. What types of research are supported by the Scheme?
Almost all types of research are supported by the Scheme, including patient oriented research (research that focuses on better results for the patient, for example new therapies, testing for early detection of diseases, improving treatments for diseases), health services research (research focusing on delivery of healthcare services in Ireland, for example, self-management of chronic illness, configuration of health and social care services for older people, transitioning from child to adult services), and population health research (focusing on prevention of ill health and promotion of well-being, for example, prevention of diseases such as those linked to obesity, inequalities in access to primary care). Psychological and social research on health and qualitative health research are also supported by the Joint Funding Scheme and we encourage high quality health research proposals of all types to be submitted to the Scheme.
26. What types of research are not funded under the Scheme?
The following types of research are not funded by the Joint Funding Scheme:
- Applications which are solely literature reviews, audits, surveys, needs assessments or technology development (although these elements may be part of an integrated research study).
- Studies evaluating full-scale, definitive interventions (e.g., clinical trials) to provide high quality evidence on the efficacy, effectiveness, cost and broad impact of the intervention, and stand-alone feasibility studies conducted in preparation for a future definitive intervention. These studies are supported through the HRB Definitive Intervention and Feasibility (DIFA) Scheme.
- Applications which are solely or predominantly developing infrastructure for biobanking, databases or patient registers without a predominant research element.
- Applications which are solely or predominantly health service developments or implementation of an intervention without a predominant research element. The HRB will not fund the cost of providing the service or intervention itself, only the research element.
- Applications from individuals applying for, holding, or employed under a research grant from the tobacco industry
- Research intended to create human embryos solely for the purpose of research, or for the purpose of stem cell procurement, including by means of somatic cell nuclear transfer
However, it should be noted that applicants can propose work to develop a health care intervention. Such work may include some initial testing of the intervention in order to generate proof of concept data and thus have the basis for developing a feasibility study. This would mean that applicants could then apply to the HRB or another funder to support a feasibility study as a next step. In such cases, applicants must consult with the appropriate clinical research infrastructure supports (such as the Clinical Research Facilities) to ensure that the work done will allow them to develop a feasibility study subsequent to the HRB/charity-funded research.
27. Is it possible to fund research infrastructure such as biobanks or patient registries under the Scheme?
Applications which are solely or predominantly developing the infrastructure for biobanking, databases, or patient registers without a predominant research element will not be funded by the HRB in the Scheme.
Timeline of the Scheme
28. What is the timeline for this round of the Scheme?
The overall call duration is aligned to the academic year. Charities still have flexibility to open and close calls on dates of their choosing while being cognisant of the call timeline. The timeline for the Scheme will be updated as dates are confirmed. The 2022 call of the Joint Funding Scheme is formally open from 1 September 2021; however, charities have the option to open their calls in advance of this during July and August. The indicative timeline for the Scheme is provided in the table below. Most dates are meant to guide charities in setting their own timetable, however, those in purple italics (dates to be confirmed) have been agreed with HRB and may not be missed if you wish to participate in the call.
HRB call opening
1st Sept 2021
Charity information session
8th Sept 2021
Charity call open
Charity peer review
Mid Oct 2021-early Jan 2022
Submission of peer review conflict of interest check to HRB
Mid Oct- 3rd Dec 2021
Charities forward abstracts of all applications to HRB for finding panel members
7th Jan 2022
Mid-late Jan 2022
10 working days
Charity selection panel
Late Jan-Early Feb 2022
HRB GEMS system open for submission of charity applications
11th Feb 2022
HRB application deadline
11th March 2022
PPI induction session
Joint Selection Panel meeting
5th – 6th May 2022
HRB Board meeting
Research project start date
International peer review
29. How many international peer reviewers are required for each application?
Three international peer reviewers are required for each application.
30. How do you decide who should be an international peer reviewer?
An international reviewer is an active researcher (not, for example, a charity administrator) based outside the island of Ireland. The potential reviewer should not:
- Have co-published with any member of the applicant team in the past 5 years
- Currently or recently been working in the same organisation/department as any member of the applicant team
- Be industry employees or have any apparent links with the pharmaceutical industry or commercial organisation
Peer reviewers should explicitly disclose whether they have a conflict of interest or not on the reviewers’ form. Those that declare a conflict of interest should not take further part in the review process. The HRCI/HRB Confidentiality and Conflict of Interest policy must be provided to all peer reviewers and is included in Appendix I of the Instructions to Research Charities. Additional guidance for the identification of peer reviewers Is provided in Appendix II of the Instructions to Research Charities.
31. Can applicants suggest potential peer reviewers?
Once it is clear that there is no conflict of interest, applicants can suggest potential peer reviewers to the charity. It is important to take into account relationship criteria such as a supervisor/student relationship in the conflict of interest checks which would not always be obvious through a database search.
32. Do peer reviewers always have to be based outside the Republic of Ireland?
Peer reviewers should be based outside the island of Ireland unless the host institution for the research project is based outside of Ireland. In this case peer reviewers in Ireland may be used.
33. Do researcher applicants have the right to respond to peer review?
All applicants have the opportunity to respond to anonymised reviewer comments. Guidance on this process is provided in Appendix IV of the Instructions to Research Charities.
34. Can the same peer reviewers be asked to review more than one application received by the charity?
Yes, this is possible so long as the peer reviewers have the time to review multiple applications
Shortlisting applications for submission to the HRB
35. Who is responsible for selecting the final applications to go forward to the HRB?
Each charity is responsible for organising its own final selection process to choose the applications which will be submitted to the HRB. The decision about which applications should go forward to the HRB is made by the charity based on both the peer review feedback and the applicants’ response to this feedback. Normally the charity convenes a selection panel (this can either be the research committee or equivalent, or the charity Board) to prioritise and select the applications for submission to the HRB. Charities are encouraged to include the perspective of the public, patients, or carers as relevant into their selection process. The HRCI research governance guide (https://bit.ly/HRCI_ResearchGovernanceGuide) can provide you with more guidance on how to manage this.
36. How do charities submit full applications to the HRB?
Following the charity internal selection process, applications to the HRB will be submitted by the charities via the HRB online grants system, GEMS (https://grants.hrb.ie). Detailed guidance on using this system has been provided at the HRCI/HRB information session on September 8th and more information will be provided via a GEMS guidance document which will be circulated. Applications sent to the HRB via email will not be accepted and will be deemed ineligible.
The Joint Selection Panel meeting
37. Can charities suggest potential members for the Joint Selection Panel to the HRB?
Charities who intend to participate in this round of the Scheme should confirm this via email to the HRB and include the title of all applications that they have received to the HRB by early February (the precise date and time of this deadline is yet to be confirmed by the HRB). This is to help the HRB get a sense of the balance of research expertise necessary to cover the spectrum of applications. The HRB fully acknowledges that this does not represent any commitment from the charity to submit these applications and appreciates that the strategic review in the charity will go on beyond this time point. In addition, participating charities will be given an option to propose appropriate panel members to the HRB.
38. How many reviewers are assigned to each application at the Joint Selection Panel?
Each application will be reviewed by a primary and secondary scientific panel member and by two PPI panel members
39. What criteria are used for the scientific review of each application?
Scientific panel members will review the strengths and weaknesses of the application according to the following assessment criteria:
- Scientific quality and innovation (50% of marks)
- Expertise and research environment (30% of marks)
- Feasibility (20% of marks)
Comments as well as a score are provided by scientific reviewers.
40. What criteria are used for the PPI review of each application?
PPI panel members will review each application, provide comments, and assign a rating according to the appropriate level of PPI for the proposed research. The rating system is provided in Appendix V of the Instructions to Research Charities. The PPI rating will be used to adjust the consensus scientific score, by applying a rating to it. PPI panel members are asked to comment on the following:
- The plain English summary (lay summary)
- Relevance of the proposed research question
- Public and patient and carer involvement in the development of and throughout the project
- Research design – inclusion of research participants (where applicable)
- Dissemination of the proposed work.
PPI in the Scheme
41. How is PPI incorporated into the Joint Funding Scheme?
PPI forms a core element of the Scheme, and it is expected that applicants incorporate PPI (as appropriate) throughout their application form as an integral part of the research life cycle. In addition, there is a specific question on PPI in the application form as follows:
Are you using public involvement in your application? If yes, please described all public, patient and carer involvement at each stage of the research cycle:
- Identifying and prioritising the research question
- Design, conduct, analysis, oversight, dissemination
For each stage, please include the purpose of this involvement and (where applicable) how PPI has influenced/changed what work has been planned.
At the Joint Selection Panel meeting, PPI in applications submitted by researchers will be reviewed and assigned a rating according to the appropriate level of PPI for the proposed research. HRCI have prepared two case studies of excellence in PPI in the last round of the Joint Funding Scheme, and these can be found here.
42. How can charities engage in PPI during the process of applying to the scheme?
Patients, carers and the public can get involved in the application process in a number of ways including deciding upon strategic research priorities, developing the funding call, and prioritising and shortlisting applications for submission to the HRB. There can be a wider role for PPI contributors regarding the research process itself but this is generally the responsibility of researchers to manage. Some charities help out researchers with their PPI activities (facilitating access to people living with illness or caring for others, contributing to advisory committees etc) but this is not mandatory. Wherever charities have engaged in PPI in the application process for the scheme, this should be documented in Part A1 of the application – the Charity Endorsement. Questions 2 and 5 of Part A1 ask for charities to include any PPI activities they are engaged in to help shape research priorities and/or the funding call, and to engage in the process of shortlisting of applications to go forward to the HRB. PPI reviewers will take the responses to these questions into account at the Joint Selection Panel meeting. However it is important to note that a key criterion for PPI reviewers is how appropriate the PPI approach is for the type of research being proposed, as this will vary.
43. Can a charity read and provide feedback on an applicant’s lay summary prior to submission of the application?
Yes, in principle there is no issue with this so long as the charity representative who reads and reviews the lay summary is not then involved in the selection of the applications for submission to the HRB.