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Global Mental Health - call for proposals

  • Time remaining: 4m 2w 5d 1h 30m
  • Status: Future
  • Open date: 14 Jul 2018
  • Closing date: 6 Nov 2018 16:00 GMT
  • Type: Grants, MRC strategic
  • Triage/shortlisting: Feb 2019
  • Meeting date: 26 Mar 2019

Summary

The Global Mental Health funding call is one of MRC’s initiatives under the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF). The purpose of the call is to address the growing global burden of mental health problems and will support programmatic awards in global mental health with a focus on the aetiology and epidemiology of mental health and illness relevant to low and middle income countries (LMIC). The call encourages a life course approach with a particular focus on childhood and adolescence. Awards will support multidisciplinary approaches, build and strengthen UK-LMIC partnerships, and support research training and capacity building in global mental health research.

MRC will make up to £15 million available for this call and expects to support approximately five awards. Awards in this call will be made for a duration of up to five years.

Background

Mental health problems represent a major global health challenge and contribute significantly and increasingly to the global burden of disease. Mental and substance use disorders are the leading cause of disability worldwide, disproportionately affecting LMICs. Given the scale of unmet need, research is needed to better understand the environmental, socioeconomic and biological risk and protective factors for mental illness across diverse global settings, as well as the mechanisms and dimensions that underlie vulnerability and resilience to mental illnesses, in order to inform future interventional approaches, promote healthy mental development and mental wellbeing throughout the life course.

The greatest burden of disease from mental health problems occurs in children and young people. Improving mental health in childhood and adolescence has considerable potential to reduce the burden of mental illness throughout the life course. The majority of mental health problems first emerge in childhood and adolescence, which are additionally critical periods for brain development, plasticity and maturation.

Insight into the aetiology of mental disorders, the impact of adverse early life events and challenges to early brain development on mental health, and the interaction of socioeconomic and environmental factors with genetic and biological factors on trajectories of mental illness, could lead to the development of more effective approaches to prevention, early intervention and treatment. These factors could impact at the level of the individual, family and society, and might include nutrition, maternal health, infectious disease, chronic inflammatory states, comorbid physical or mental illness, air pollution, urbanisation, drought, flood, climate change, abuse and maltreatment, violence, war, migration, poverty and socioeconomic adversity.

Epidemiological and aetiological research in humans has the potential to identify novel risk and protective factors and resilience processes. These could inform novel targets for future treatment or prevention approaches relevant to the local setting, deliver insights into the mechanisms of action of effective interventions in different contexts, develop validated and culturally-adapted tools, and measures, and preventative strategies to reduce the occurrence and impact of adverse early life events on mental health throughout the life course.

The current call builds on the previous MRC investment in global mental health. In 2017, MRC held a call in global mental health for institutional pump-priming awards providing flexible funding to support research organisations to develop strategies for global mental health research, build and strengthen UK-LMIC partnerships, and assess feasibility of novel approaches or methodologies. Applications are encouraged from, but not restricted to, UK research organisations that were successful in the 2017 MRC global mental health pump-priming call.

Aims

The GCRF Global Mental Health call will address the growing global burden of mental health problems, with a particular focus on childhood and adolescence, and support programmatic awards that address the aetiology and epidemiology of mental health and illness relevant to LMICs. The call will support ambitious, innovative programmes of research informed by the needs of the local setting, that have the potential to create pathways to impact and inform future interventional approaches. Awards funded through this call will employ multidisciplinary approaches, build and strengthen UK-LMIC partnerships, and support research training and capacity building in global mental health research.

Remit and scope

This call will support internationally competitive, ambitious, multidisciplinary research programmes in global mental health. Subject areas may comprise (but are not limited to):

  • epidemiological and population studies, including data collection and/or analysis of relevant epidemiological datasets and longitudinal cohorts
  • the health impacts of challenges to early brain development that affect mental health and cognition, as a consequence of a range of external drivers including (but not limited to): nutrition, maternal health, infectious disease, chronic inflammatory states, air pollution, urbanisation, drought, flood, climate change, abuse and maltreatment, violence, war, migration, poverty and socioeconomic adversity
  • the mechanisms and dimensions that underlie risk and resilience to mental illness in LMIC settings, and the efficacy of treatment approaches in specific contexts
  • the interaction of external factors with specific, well-defined developmental periods in childhood and adolescence on trajectories of mental illness
  • the development, validation and/or standardisation of tools, measures and instruments relevant and appropriate to the local context and health systems, and implementable in low resource settings
  • experimental medicine studies and the development of novel interventions from epidemiological or aetiological research.
 

Applications should include effective, sustainable partnerships with researchers based in the LMIC location(s) where the research will take place, with strong governance and management in place, and promoting bidirectional knowledge flow and south-south partnerships where relevant. Applications should demonstrate scientific leadership and intellectual contribution from LMIC co-investigators, and the conceptualisation and development of research questions and priorities together with LMIC co-investigators. Applications should set out how research objectives and priorities are informed by the local needs and context in the relevant LMIC locations, and present a clear plan for sustaining partnerships beyond the duration of the award. Applications involving industrial collaborators are eligible and should follow the MRC Industry Collaboration Agreement (MICA) process.

The MRC is committed to building research capacity in global mental health in LMICs and the UK. Applicants should include research training and capacity building activities in their application that engage with local research organisations and have the aim of extending the skills of research staff over the course of the award. Applicants are encouraged to build on existing capacity building initiatives in UK or LMICs where these are present. The activities should be relevant and integral to the research programme, and should aim to address the training and capacity needs related to the delivery and potential impact of the proposed research. Activities could include (but are not limited to):

  • research skills training and joint knowledge sharing opportunities for junior LMIC and UK researchers, for example quantitative and qualitative research methodology and design (such as in epidemiology, biostatistics, neuroscience, genetics, psychology), research ethics, scientific grant and publication writing and presentation skills
  • research exchanges and visits to other partner sites
  • mentorship and peer networks for junior LMIC and UK researchers
  • appropriate career development opportunities for LMIC and UK researchers.
 

It is expected that the successful principal investigators funded through this call will work collectively to maximise the impact of their research and seed the formation of a global mental health research network in the UK. Following the award of GCRF global mental health programme grants, MRC will launch a call for a network director who will lead and manage a network to create a multidisciplinary research community in global mental health research, build capacity and strengthen the research base in global mental health.

The scope of this call does not include:

  • global health trials
  • implementation science
  • studentships.
 

The establishment of new, longitudinal population cohorts would not normally be expected to be supported through this call. Applicants must contact the office in advance of applying if their proposal includes establishing a new cohort, and would be expected to provide assurances of sustainability of the cohort beyond the duration of the award.

In addition to strategic calls and joint funding initiatives, the MRC supports global health research through response mode funding via MRC boards and panels. Applications can be submitted to the Neurosciences and Mental Health Board in global mental health research at any time. If your research proposal falls outside the remit and scope of this call, you are encouraged to consider contacting the office to discuss response mode funding or other funding opportunities such as global health trials, public health interventions and health systems research.

Awards

The MRC has made up to £15 million available for the GCRF Global Mental Health awards.

Principal investigators may apply for programme grant for the duration of up to five years. Awards are required to start as soon as possible after the funding decision in March 2019 and no later than 31 May 2019.

 

The funding is intended to support:

  • UK and LMIC research consumable costs
  • salary costs for UK and LMIC-based researchers
  • UK-LMIC partnership and networking activities
  • research training and capacity building activities
  • travel and subsistence.
 

The funding is not intended to support:

  • continuation of existing research grants
  • studentships.
 

Requested costs for UK activities should be 80% full economic costs. Costs for work undertaken at overseas research organisations are allowed and should be 100% of eligible costs. Please see Guidance for Applicants, in particular section 3.3. The UK lead research organisation must consider the financial controls and risk mitigations that will be put in place for the transfer of funding to overseas organisations.

Eligibility

The principal investigator should be based at a UK research organisation. Researchers can be the principal investigator on only one application in this call but may act as a co-investigator on any number of applications. Applications are encouraged from, but not restricted to, UK research organisations that were successful in the 2017 MRC global mental health pump-priming call. For information on the eligibility of organisations and individuals to receive MRC funding, see the Guidance for Applicants.

Official Development Assistance and Global Challenges Research Fund

The Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) is a £1.5 billion fund announced by the UK Government in 2015 to support research addressing the challenges faced by developing countries. UKRI and MRC are GCRF delivery partners. GCRF forms part of the UK’s Official Development Assistance (ODA) commitment; the research supported through this call will contribute to the UK’s ODA commitment to low and middle income countries (LMIC). Applications must demonstrate the research to be primarily relevant and directly linked to near-term or long-term benefits to the health or prosperity of LMICs. Applications should articulate a clear and specific case for the relevance of the proposed research to the LMIC partners, and provide evidence that the proposed plan of research is informed by the needs of LMIC partners. Further guidance on ODA and demonstrating ODA compliance in applications for funding available via the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) GCRF website.

Key dates

 

Activity

Date

Call launch 

12 June 2018

Je-S open

14 July 2018

Deadline for MRC Head Office approval

2 October 2018

Full application deadline 6 November 2018

Panel triage meeting

February 2019

Applicant response to peer review/triage

February 2019

Panel meeting and funding decisions

26 March 2019

*MRC aims to adhere to the key dates as published, however there may be exceptions where the dates may have to change due to board/panel member availability.

How to apply

The call process will be in a single full application stage submitted via Je-S.

In advance of submitting an application, applicants must contact the office (GlobalHealth@headoffice.mrc.ac.uk) by 2 October 2018 at the latest to confirm that their application fits this scheme. Applicants should send a CV and short outline of the proposal (1-2 pages) including a brief description of the proposed research, a list of co-investigators and LMIC partners, and a high level indication of the likely overall costs. MRC reserves the right to decline applications where the principal investigator has not contacted the office before the deadline.

A Guidance for Applicants document for the GCRF Global Mental Health call will be available on this webpage once the call is open on Je-S. In addition, applicants should read the MRC Guidance for Applicants for general information on how to complete the application.

Applications will be sent out for international peer review and assessed by an expert panel convened by MRC. This panel will recommend the final funding decisions. Full proposals will be assessed on the standard criteria for an MRC research grant, with a focus on:

  • research excellence, importance and novelty of the research and approach
  • fit to the GCRF global mental health remit
  • relevance to ODA
  • strength and completeness of the skills and expertise required within the multidisciplinary team, and plans for building research capacity
  • evidence of effective and sustainable partnerships with appropriate management and governance
  • justification of resources and appropriate financial management and risk assurance
  • clear and effective pathways to impact.

 

Contact

Specific queries about this funding scheme and application process, including eligibility for this call, should be directed to GlobalHealth@headoffice.mrc.ac.uk

To discuss your application, please contact Dr Rachael Panizzo, Programme Manager, Mental Health and Addiction (rachael.panizzo@mrc.ukri.org).