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6. Research Involving Existing Facilities and Resources

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6.1 Research involving cohort resources

All applications for funding for new or existing population cohort studies are required to submit an outline for assessment by the Cohort Strategic Review Group (CSRG) prior to submission of a full application to a board. Applications for funding for clinical cohorts (usually set up around specific diseases or conditions) need not follow this process.

Outlines should be prepared following the MRC Cohort Outline Application Template (PDF, 39KB) and should be no more than 6 pages of A4 in length. Outline applications should be submitted via email to populationcohorts@headoffice.mrc.ac.uk by 4pm on the day of the submission deadline. See the CSRG page.

If invited by CSRG to submit a full proposal to an MRC Board, applicants will be expected to submit their full proposal within 3 months. Full applications should address any concerns raised by CSRG and also cover the points highlighted below.

It is important that all grant applications which include elements of infrastructure support for new or existing cohorts make clear what new health research questions or hypotheses it will be possible to answer over the next five to ten years using the cohort resource. This is required regardless of whether or not the grant application is requesting funding towards investigating any of these specific research questions.

For existing resources, grant applications must contain an explicit statement on what research has been done using the cohort, including publications, and what the impacts have been.

Applications must also detail:

  • Why can this science be addressed using this cohort above other resources?
  • What does this cohort offer that other cohorts do not (nationally and internationally) and how does it relate to other relevant cohorts? Applicants should either list the assets (measures, specimens, population group) as an Annex or reference the cohort website.
  • What are the plans for establishing the cohort as a resource – how is it/will it be used by the wider research community?

The grant application must make clear what new activities, including new data sweeps or new analysis of existing cohort data, will be carried out as part of the grant. Applicants must be clear which costs relate to de novo data collection, analysis of new data and/or maintenance or use of existing data.

There should be complete transparency in the funding being requested, particularly when resources are funded by more than one funder. Applicants must make clear which elements of the cohort resource and studies are funded by whom and over what period.

Data sharing and preservation

In line with MRC policy on data sharing and preservation (PDF, 108KB), applicants must specify the proposed arrangements for data access, data sharing and curation. Appropriate costs to support these elements of the work must be included in the funding requested and applicants should take care to clarify exactly which costs are associated with data sharing, data curation and/or data access.

Applications should also outline:

  • Governance arrangements for data sharing and data access by the wider research community. This should include the process by which third parties apply to use the cohort and how and by whom proposals are assessed.
  • Where and how the cohort meta-data will be made available.
  • The time-frame under which any new data obtained will be added to the cohort resource. Renewals must also demonstrate that previous funding for data sweeps has enriched the cohort.

6.2 Access to facilities provided by other organisations, such as synchrotron radiation facilities 

While in general charges may be levied by other organisations for access to these facilities and the costs must be included by applicants in their proposals, there are some special agreements and funding arrangements in existence, in particular for access to synchrotron facilities.

Applicants whose proposed research involves the use of the Diamond Light Source or European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF) should indicate this in the case for support section of the application form. Requests for beam time should not be included in the proposal to the MRC, although travel costs associated with beam time usage may be sought through the grant proposal where they are not recoverable elsewhere.

Proposals for beam time are made directly through Diamond Light Source or the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) through whom access can also be booked to the Institut Laue-Langevin (ILL) and the ESRF.

Applicants wishing to use other STFC facilities should first discuss with the STFC and the MRC the basis for charging before submitting a grant proposal to the MRC. Applicants wishing to use facilities at Grenoble (ESRF and ILL) should note that UK access is provided through STFC.

6.3 High performance computing facilities

Applicants wishing to use the high performance computing resources of EPSRC, whether or not MRC financial support is required, should submit a Je-S application. For further information see EPSRC high performance computing and support and ARCHER.

6.4 Data, tools and facilities of Genomics England

The MRC is keen to receive applications for funding from eligible UK researchers seeking to utilise the 100,000 Genomes Project data, tools and facilities. Applications can come through any of our standard response-mode schemes or relevant targeted initiatives. Researchers will need to be members of the Genomics England Clinical Interpretation Partnership (GeCIP) to access the dataset and associated tools – please refer to the Genomics England website for further information. 

Applications submitted to the MRC will need to provide assurance in a number of key areas:

  1. A letter of support from the host institution (Head of Department or equivalent) confirming that they have completed the GeCIP Participation Agreement, including subscribing to the Genomics England Intellectual Property Policy;
  2. A letter of support from the Principal Investigator that confirms that they are a member of a GeCIP and their research application has been formally approved by the Genomics England Access Review Committee and identifies which Intellectual Property Scenario has been agreed. The MRC is willing to consider an application where these matters are under consideration but the applicant should provide the timing for an expected decision. An MRC award will not be allowed to proceed unless these agreements have been finalised.

As part of the scientific case for support in the application, the applicants will need to confirm that the data available through Genomics England (and elsewhere) is sufficient to fully deliver the scientific objectives, including appropriately powered findings. If the full data is not available at the time of writing the application, then the applicant must confirm when it will be available within the timeframe of work.