The UK’s National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) has committed funds of £2 million over three years to support fellowships and internships at NIHR-affiliated host organisations in research methods including clinical trial design, operational research, health statistics, health economics and modelling.

Applications from prospective host organisations were assessed by a NIHR review panel chaired by Professor Deborah Ashby. Funding was recommended for NIHR Research Methods Fellowships and Internships at a total of 15 institutions, details of which will be published shortly on the website of the National Co-ordinating Centre for Research Capacity Development (NCCRCD).

The NCCRCD launched the Research Methods Programme on behalf of the NIHR as part of the wider NIHR Research Capacity Development Programme. Building capacity and capability in applied health research methodology was a key component of the government’s Best Research for Best Health strategy for the National Health Service in England.

The aim of the NIHR Research Methods Programme is to attract the most talented individuals, in particular those not currently working in a health-related field; provide them with the necessary support and training to become specialist methodologists in areas relevant to the NIHR; and expand their research interests into areas relevant to the NIHR.

It consists of three linked schemes:

- The NIHR Research Methods Fellowship scheme, targeted at individuals who are in their early post-graduate career, returning to work after a career break or looking to change the focus of their career while still using their undergraduate/previous training.
- The NIHR Research Methods Internship scheme, aimed at the brightest undergraduates (e.g., in mathematics, economics or physics) for the summer following the second year of their degree (or third year of a four-year degree).
- The NIHR Research Methods Opportunity Funding scheme, which encourages academic departments with outstanding strengths in statistics and operational research, or in economics and econometrics, to look at the possibility of becoming involved in research of relevance to the NIHR; and to develop capacity and capability in these areas.

While submissions for the first two schemes had to be in by 17 November 2008, the applications deadline for the NIHR Research Methods Opportunity Funding scheme is 15 April 2009. Under this scheme, a maximum of £30,000 will be available for academic departments looking to explore opportunities to invest in capacity/capability-building for NIHR-related research.