MRC-NIHR Methodology Research Programme

Methodology research, from an MRC perspective, is the study of how best to design, conduct, analyse and evaluate medical and health research. Researchers in a wide range of fields aim to develop the best methods — ‘recipes’ for research — in areas that underpin biomedical science, experimental medicine, clinical trials, population health sciences, health services research and health policy.

Developing methodologies ensures that medical research is conducted in the most thorough, efficient and robust ways possible.  This helps to ensure that discoveries are more reliably and quickly turned into benefits for patients and the general population, and that health research and policy are built on the best possible evidence.

For example, looking into the best ways of conducting clinical trials of new treatments means that researchers running trials can be more confident of the results they gain - as can the regulators which make decisions about the safety and effectiveness of treatments. Or developing a better method of assessing how much and what kind of food people eat will improve research studying the effect of diet.

We have a strong commitment to methodology research and many of the projects and programmes that the MRC funds have a methodology research component.  We also fund methodology research through a number of dedicated schemes:

The MRC-NIHR Methodology Research Programme Panel

Central to supporting the development of new methodologies in health research, the MRC leads the Methodology Research Programme (MRP), a partnership set up with the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) in 2008 as part of the two organisations’ joint health research strategy.  The MRP Panel meets twice per year to review grant applications.

MRP Advisory Group

In order to better ensure that methodology research has an impact on the way studies are conducted, and the way regulators evaluate research to assess the effectiveness, safety and value for money of treatments, MRC engages with the four UK nations’ health departments, and regulators such as the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, and the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency, through its MRP Advisory Group.  This helps to identify priorities which may go on to inform MRP highlight notices, calling for applications in important areas.

MRC-NIHR Methodology State of the Art Workshops (M-SAWs)

In order to better ensure that methodology research translates into impact on the real-world design and conduct of biomedical and health research, MRC and NIHR are jointly supporting a series of themed workshops in areas of particular methodological controversy or uncertainty.  The intended output of these workshops is to be guidance documents outlining the various available methodologies, their strengths and weaknesses, and providing advice on their appropriate implementation.

Applications will be invited from teams of investigators wishing to lead such workshops; details of open M-SAW calls can be found on the browse funding opportunities page.

Hubs for Trials Methodology Research

As part of a continued commitment to methodology research in clinical trials, the MRC supports a network of six centres — the MRC Network of Hubs for Trials Methodology Research.  These hubs coordinate methodology research across the UK, act as an interacting resource for researchers wishing to develop new trial methodologies, and train the next generation of methodologists.

Training in Methodology Research

The MRC also supports Skills Development Fellowships in area of identified skills needs, in order to build capacity and strengthen the skills base of UK biomedical and health researchers.  These include quantitative skills (including methodological areas such as biostatistics, informatics and modelling) and skills at the social science interface (including health economics). 

Contact us

If you have a query about methodology research and the MRC, please contact:

Dr Sam Rowley (