Efi Mantzourani is Research Lead for Choose Pharmacy and Senior Lecturer in Pharmacy Practice in the NHS Wales Informatics Service and Cardiff University. She describes her experience of working with the Research Design and Conduct Service (RDCS) South East Wales.
Although I have experience as a researcher, I have none as a Principal Investigator. A colleague told me about the RDCS and my initial experience of contacting the team was excellent - I got a prompt response from my support request and they asked key questions to help structure the support they gave me.
I had a combination of RDCS support in a group setting and one on one. Both of these ways were extremely helpful: the group setting utilised the different viewpoints of the members present - the one on one provided targeted support for areas that needed working on.
Areas of support
We got comprehensive help in these areas:
- Health economics – agreed on our methodology
- Statistics – confirmed our approach was valid
- Flowchart – we got feedback on our initial version; as a result, we completely re-drafted it
- Research question – we amended this to fit with our proposed methodology
- Patient involvement – we learnt about the new National Standards for Patient and Public Involvement
- Different sections of the bid – we reflected on feedback from previous (anonymised) applications
- Budget – we discussed areas we needed to include, and some we would not have thought about
- Roles of people on the team – we had queries on how to present the dual role of one of our team, and the RDCS consultant directed us to the right people to ask.
With support of the RDCS consultant, we realised that our initial proposed approach needed changes to be more aligned with funder expectations. They explained the concepts and directed us to a named person to support us with the bid.
After we received feedback on our initial flowchart, we spent time reflecting and redrafting it. We discussed the amended version with one of the consultants available - he gave us very constructive feedback on the amended version, which allowed us to complete the project.
We had support to amend wording of certain areas of the application. The RDCS consultant supported us to understand where we needed to be more focused in our application, and where we needed to expand more, including referencing the most recent literature.
Impact of working with the RDCS
As a result of experience with the RDCS, I understand the process of applying for a research grant a lot better. I feel more confident to take the initiative in leading a future application. I was also able to make a submission of my grant proposal.
I would highly recommend the Research Design and Conduct Service to anyone else who works in the NHS or social care who is considering creating a high quality research proposal suitable for a funding application, even if you are just starting out.