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Call for applications to lead an MRC-NIHR methodology state-of-the-art workshop on measurement reactivity

Please note this opportunity is now CLOSED.
View all OPEN opportunities

  • Status: Closed
  • Open date: 24 Nov 2016
  • Closing date: 28 Feb 2017 16:00 GMT
  • Type: Grants, MRC strategic


There is a translational gap in moving novel medical/healthcare research methodologies from creation and early testing through to widespread acceptance, uptake and routine usage. This is particularly present in fields with multiple competing methodologies, uncertainty and lack of consensus around which method is most appropriate in which circumstance.

To address this, MRC and NIHR will hold a series of Methodology State-of-the-Art Workshops (M-SAW) designed to achieve clarity around best practice in specific areas of biomedical/healthcare research methodology, and to provide guidance to the research community.

The MRC/NIHR Methodology Research Programme Advisory Group has determined that understanding Measurement Reactivity (an individual’s behavioural, emotional and psychological change as a result of being measured) in medical/healthcare research contexts is a key area of uncertainty, and will be the subject of such a workshop.

Applications are invited from teams wishing to scope, design and lead an MRC/NIHR- branded workshop on this topic. The workshop would inform the writing and publication of a framework/guidance paper or state-of-the-art report, led by the organising group. MRC/NIHR branding of the finished document will be subject to final approval by funders. No other restrictions to publication will apply beyond standard MRC terms and conditions.

A budget of up to £50,000 is available to fund the successful applicant team to:

  • Conduct a background review, setting the scope of the workshop.
  • Secure workshop invitees and speakers (UK academia, industry and international delegates, as appropriate).
  • Fund venue hire and participant travel, accommodation and subsistence expenses.
  • Write and publish open-access guidance/consensus paper/framework/state-of-the-art report, based on workshop proceedings.

The primary function of the publication should be to summarise the state-of-the-art, and to provide guidance to the community on understanding measurement reactivity in medical/healthcare research with learning from wider contexts (if applicable). The publication should make clear recommendations on how to identify, quantify, predict and address measurement reactivity and, as a secondary objective, might identify unmet methodological research needs.


Measurement reactivity is defined as an individual’s behavioural, emotional and psychological change as a result of undergoing measurement as part of a research study(1,2). The causes of behavioural and other changes as a result of measurement are well recognised but the exact mechanisms by which they operate (and how this may affect the outcome of studies of interventions) are currently unclear. Changes in measured behaviour and other outcomes due to measurement reactivity may introduce systematic bias, making true change in intervention outcomes difficult to measure, especially in the context of randomised controlled trials (RCTs) or in public health and health service delivery research. Potential solutions to this problem have been offered including the Solomon 4-group design(1,2). However, uptake of this design has been minimal and heterogeneity between studies is still large. There is no agreement in the research community on the precise circumstances that are likely to result in measurement reactivity; it is difficult to predict the circumstances in which problems are more likely to arise and therefore understanding of this phenomenon is still rudimentary. Importantly, there is also little agreement on how to predict or quantify the extent of reactivity, or how to control for it in the design of interventional studies. Although reactivity is undesirable from the standpoint of research measurement, it could potentially be exploited to produce change in behaviour and other outcomes.

Key areas to consider;

  • The workshop should be focused on understanding the effects of measurement itself on outcomes in medical/healthcare research contexts and how to account for these in research design, but should incorporate wider expertise and concepts from other fields (e.g. education) and disciplines (e.g. sociology) where measurement reactivity is an acknowledged issue.
  • Quantifying measurement reactivity effects through quantitative, mixed methods and qualitative analysis should be considered.
  • The reactivity effects of both subjective and objective research measurements must be covered.
  • Different modalities of measurement should be considered, and how these modalities might affect reactivity differently, e.g. surveys of anxiety levels vs accelerometers to measure physical activity vs MRI etc.
  • The potential for exploiting measurement reactivity effects in intervention studies in order to produce desired changes in behaviour and other outcomes should also be considered.
  • The workshop and resultant publication should look to make recommendations on what adjustments could be made at the design/analysis phase of a study/trial to reduce or account for measurement reactivity.
  • Consortia of applicants across disciplines are welcome.


  1. French DP, Sutton S. Reactivity of measurement in health psychology: How much of a problem is it? What can be done about it? Brit J Health Psychol 2010; 15: 453-468.
  2. McCambridge J, Butor-Bhavsar K, Witton J, Elbourne D. Can research assessments themselves cause bias in behaviour change trials? A systematic review of evidence from Solomon 4-group studies. PLoS ONE 2011; 6(10): e25223.

Application Process:

Applicants are invited to submit a maximum five-page proposal (10 point Arial font) covering:

  • Relevance of expertise of the team of applicants
  • Proposed background research
  • Proposed scope and format of the workshop
  • Methodology for identifying participants, eliciting views and translation of workshop proceedings into a publication
  • Format of the proposed publication and publication/dissemination strategy
  • Alongside the proposal, CVs for applicants should be submitted.

High level costings should be detailed in a table separate to the 5 page case for support. Indirect costs are not eligible.

Any questions or queries should be submitted to Dr Samuel Rowley, MRC Programme Manager for Methodology and Clinical Research.

Applications should be submitted to Dr Samuel Rowley before the deadline.