Applying for a research grant
Muscular Dystrophy UK considers applications for research funding in accordance with its research strategy.
This includes research into more than 60 different types of muscle-wasting conditions. The charity has an application process in place that involves a rigorous international peer review and a panel of lay experts to ensure that we fund high-quality science that is relevant to people with muscle wasting conditions.
For more information on how to apply and to see what calls are open, please read our apply now page and follow links to the current funding call.
Grant funding process
The application process
Muscular Dystrophy UK has one grant round per year and generally releases a call for applications in the autumn. Applications for PhD studentships, project grants and shorter proof-of-principle grants are made online through our secure online application system. The grant rounds will normally open on the system at least three months prior to the deadline. Once the electronic deadline has passed, no further applications will be accepted for that round.
Applications comprise of a scientific application and a lay application. The scientific part of the application is a detailed description of the project and its costs as well as any ethical considerations, such as the use of animals or human samples. The lay application contains a less detailed proposal, but written in plain English and goes to our Lay Research Panel, which consists of people who are affected either directly or indirectly by muscular dystrophy or a related neuromuscular condition. The lay application consists of questions that the Lay Research Panel believe are most appropriate for helping them to prioritise the projects. The lay application should exist as a stand-alone piece as the Lay Research Panel do not receive the scientific application.
Anyone interested in applying for a grant should refer to information on the call(s) for that year; these will be posted on our 2023 grant call page. If you would like to be notified of upcoming calls you can contact the Research Team to be added to our circulation list (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Please contact us at email@example.com with any queries about our available funding opportunities.
Additional requirements for HRA-approved clinical research
From 1 October 2018 additional requirements are in place for funding clinical research.
For all clinical research that needs Health Research Authority (HRA) approval (refer to criteria for HRA approval), a Schedule of Events Costs Attribution Template (SoECAT) will need to be completed, approved and submitted with the grant application.
You will need the assistance of a local AcoRD specialist to complete and approve the SoECAT form (find your local AcoRD specialist) before including the approved form in your grant application to us.
We strongly recommend you contact your local AcoRD specialist as soon as you know you are planning a piece of clinical research, to allow sufficient time for completion and approval of SoECAT before the grant application deadline.
The SoECAT is being trialled as a way of addressing past challenges of getting excess treatment costs paid efficiently and on time, with the aim of streamlining clinical research in the NHS (read more about excess treatment costs, the SoECAT form and guidance for completing it). Having this information at the point of application will allow MDUK to accurately assess the costs associated with the study. The change is being made nationally and will affect all HRA-approved research.
If you have any questions please contact us. You can also get assistance with your research application from the NIHR CRN.
Animal Research and the NC3Rs
Please refer to the NC3Rs’ ARRIVE guidelines when designing animal experiments and ensure you report animal-based studies in accordance with the ARRIVE guidelines. Grant holders are required to implement the principles found in the NC3Rs’ guidance document, Responsibility in the use of Animals in Bioscience Research. For more information and guidance about the use of animals in research see the NC3Rs website.
If the research involves use of higher animals (cats, dogs, equines, pigs, non-human primates), the proposal will be sent to NC3Rs for specialist peer review. This will be in addition to the regular scientific peer reviews of the application.
Muscular Dystrophy UK supports the Association of Medical Research Charities’ policy on animal research – please refer to our position statement on animal research.
The review procedure
The applications are sent to experts world-wide for peer review. We aim to receive reviews from three external reviewers for each application. The referee reports are sent to the principal applicant for comment. The applicant will have one week to respond to the queries raised or provide clarification. Principal applicants will receive an email notifying them when the peer reviews are available and giving a deadline for their response.
The lay summaries of the applications are assessed by the MDUK research team and members of our Medical Research Committee and/or scientific advisor to the Lay Research Panel to ensure that the content is true representation of the scientific application. They will also be assessed by members of our Lay Research Panel for a ‘readability check’. If the Lay Research Panel feels that the application is too technical, applicants will be asked to re-write or add clarification to the lay application.
The applications along with the peer reviews and applicants’ responses are sent to the Medical Research Committee for review. If a high number of applications is received a triage process may be implemented. In this instance members of the Medical Research Committee and Lay Research Panel will review the applications and score them on a scale of one to three. The Medical Research Committee members will include the peer reviews and applicant responses in their assessment at the triage stage. Applications will be triaged based on the combined average scores from the Medical Research Committee and Lay Research Panel members. All Lay Research Panel and Medical Research Committee members will have the opportunity to restore an application to the shortlist.
Shortlisted applications will be considered at the annual Lay Research Panel and Medical Research Committee meetings.
Our assessment panels
Lay Research Panel
Our Lay Research Panel is made up of people who are affected either directly, or indirectly, by a muscle-wasting condition. A physiotherapist and neuromuscular care advisor also sit on the Panel. There is also a Scientific Advisor at Lay Panel meetings who does not have voting rights but answers any scientific questions the Panel may have.
The Lay Panel does not judge the science behind the projects but assesses the relevance and importance of the project from the perspective of someone affected by a muscle-wasting condition. At the meeting the Panel members consider the shortlisted applications and score each application from zero to six. The Chair and Vice Chair of the Lay Research Panel sit on the Medical Research Committee to provide feedback and ensure that the Lay Panel’s perspective is included in the consideration of the applications. These representatives also vote on the funding decisions taking the average score from the Panel meeting to the scientific meeting. The information you provide in the lay application will therefore form a significant part of the awards process. The Panel does not receive the scientific application, therefore the lay summary should act as a stand-alone piece. Failure to provide sufficient and understandable information in the lay summary could lead to rejection of the application.
Failure to provide sufficient and understandable information in the lay summary could lead to rejection of the application.
The members of the Lay Research Panel do not have a scientific background so please do not use scientific terminology or jargon. Please also refrain from including references to material that is not available to the general public. Your lay summary will be screened by the Panel prior to the meeting; you will be asked to rewrite the lay application if it is too technical. Please see the guidance we have produced with the Lay Research Panel on writing a lay summary of your application.
Medical Research Committee
The Medical Research Committee is formed of up to 16 scientific experts and two representatives from the Lay Research Panel. The Committee normally meets in late Spring/ early Summer to examine all the information from the application, Lay Panel and peer reviewers as well as the applicants’ responses.
Each Committee member scores each shortlisted application from zero to six; these scores are used to determine which applications are fundable.
Recommendations for funding are made based on the average score of each application and the charity’s strategic priorities given the available budget. These funding recommendations are presented for approval at the summer meeting for the Board of Trustees.
Professor Patrick Chinnery, FRCP FMedSci PhD (Chair)
Dr Gillian Butler-Browne PhD (Vice Chair)
Professor Grainne Gorman MRCP, PhD
Dr Jasper Morrow MBChB, PhD, FRACP
Professor Ketan Patel PhD
Professor Olivier Pourquie PhD
Professor Frédéric Relaix PhD
Dr Stefan Winblad PhD
Professor Tracey Willis PhD
Professor Laurent Servais PhD
Dr Heidi Fuller PhD
Professor Linda Popplewell PhD
Dr Meredith James PhD
Acceptance of awards
Once the final decision on funding has been made, applicants will receive an email notifying them of the outcome. Following this notification of outcome all principal applicants will receive a summary of feedback based upon comments from the peer-reviewers, Lay Research Panel and Medical Research Committee. Successful applicants will receive an award letter.
Successful applicants can accept their awards via the online grant management system. A grant activation form must be submitted online and a signed electronic copy sent to the MDUK research grants management team. The grant activation form must be completed prior to the start date of the grant and no monies will be backdated if this form is not received in time. Project grants must start within six months of receiving the award letter.
The Principal Investigator is required to complete an annual progress report. Subsequent funding will not be awarded until receipt of this report and approval of this report by MDUK’s Medical Research Committee.
Principal Investigators are also required to submit outputs and impact data annually through the ResearchFish system.
On termination of the grant, the Principal Investigator is required to complete an End of Project Report, which is to be received by MDUK within two calendar months of receipt of the report template from MDUK. Failure to submit will result in the final payment being withheld until submission of the report and may affect future grant applications.
The Research team at MDUK monitors the content of annual and final reports and may contact the grant holder to request further information or clarification. The Principal Investigator will be required to provide follow-up information on the research after completion of the project as and when requested by MDUK