How we fund and track the progress of grants

Our rigorous processes ensure that every research project we fund is high-quality science and meets the needs of people with Parkinson's.

1. Introduction

We're the largest member-led charity funder of Parkinson's research in Europe. So far, we've invested over £85million in groundbreaking research. We fund research to advance our understanding of Parkinson's and what causes it. Our research also improves treatments to make life easier for people living with Parkinson's.

To ensure the excellence of the research supported by Parkinson's UK, applications for research grants are evaluated by scientific experts and people affected by Parkinson's. Awarded grants are subject to ongoing monitoring by the charity.

The purpose of this document is to lay out the process by which Parkinson's UK makes its funding decisions and administers its research grants. Applicants should also read Terms and conditions for research grants, the Information for Applicants document for each grant scheme and other policies relating to grants.

2. Our grant schemes

Parkinson's UK funds research through open competition. Funding opportunities are announced each year via our website, Synapse (our e-newsletter) and through advertisement on external websites.

Fellowships

Parkinson's UK offers Senior Research Fellowships and Clinician Researcher Training Fellowships.

We are also collaborating with the Medical Research Council to offer jointly funded Career Development Awards and Clinical Research Training Fellowships.

Project grants

Our project grants tackle major Parkinson's research challenges with ground-breaking studies that get right to the heart of complex problems. Grants are awarded for up to three years. There is no upper limit on the award value, however, grants usually fall between £100,000 and £400,000.

Small grants

Our small grants scheme provides funds for small-scale research projects and pilot studies. Small grants are offered for up to £50,000 for a maximum of 24 months.

Themed research

Themed research grants are advertised on an ad hoc basis as priorities are identified. Applications will only be accepted if the proposed research is in the strategic area and complies with the specification for the award. Grants will normally be awarded for between two and five years. The value will vary depending on the specification.

Cohort studies

Proposals for long term studies into Parkinson's are evaluated on a rolling basis by the Cohort Studies Council. There is no maximum duration for cohort studies, but the proposal must include a review of progress every four years or at shorter intervals.

Drug Discovery Programme

Projects with solid target validation and identified early-stage chemical leads, or suitable for a hit-finding campaign, may be considered for the Parkinson's UK Drug Discovery Programme. Before making an application in this area, please contact the team at [email protected].

3. Our Grant Assessment Panels

The Grant Assessment Panels [GAP] provide advice to Parkinson's UK as to whether individual research grant applications merit charity funding. This involves considering the comments of peer and lay reviewers in making a judgement on the quality and relevance of each grant application.

Parkinson's UK has two Grant Assessment Panels: GAP1 and GAP2.

  • GAP1 is formed of 30-40 scientific experts and up to 11 lay review co-ordinators (who are members of the charity's Research Support Network [RSN]). The panel has responsibility for making recommendations for funding for the project grant, themed research and fellowship schemes.
  • GAP2 is formed of up to 60 scientific members from around the world. This virtual panel has responsibility for making recommendations for funding for the small grant scheme.

4. Our lay reviewers

We have up to 100 lay grant reviewers, who are people who are personally affected by Parkinson's, are members of the charity's RSN. Reviews from lay grant reviewers allow us to incorporate the unique and valuable perspective of people affected by Parkinson's into how we decide which projects to fund. This means that the needs and interests of people affected by Parkinson's are reflected in our research. 

For project grants, lay review co-ordinators collate the feedback from lay grant reviewers into reports which they present at our GAP meetings, helping to inform funding decisions by our review panels.

Lay reviewers' comments are reported at small grant teleconferences by GAP2 panel members.

5. The application process

Applications for small grants, project grants and fellowships are made via the charity's online application system. Grant rounds will normally open on the system at least three months in advance of the deadline.

Applications for fellowships jointly funded with the MRC are made through the Joint electronic-Submission (Je-S) system.

Information on how to apply for each grant scheme is available on the charity's website, as are the terms and conditions for grants. Once the electronic deadline has passed, no further applications will be accepted for that round.

6. The review procedure

Clinician researcher training fellowships

Applications will be sent out to review by at least three external peer reviewers and up to four lay grant reviewers. Reviewers score applications on a scale from zero to three.

Applications will be shortlisted based on the combined average scores of the external peer and lay grant reviewers.

Shortlisted applicants will be invited to interview. The interview panel will be made up of members of GAP1 and lay people from the RSN.

In advance of the interview, candidates will be forwarded anonymised comments from external peer and lay reviewers. Candidates should be prepared to address concerns raised by the reviewers.

The interview panel's recommendations for funding will be submitted to the charity's Chief Executive for approval.

Applications will be judged by external peer reviewers and panel members against the following criteria:

  • quality of the researcher and his or her ability to make an impact on Parkinson's research
  • potential impact of the research for people affected by Parkinson's
  • scientific quality of the proposal
  • quality of the researcher and team
  • value for money
  • budget and infrastructure

Senior research fellowships

Applications will be sent out to review by at least three external peer reviewers and up to four lay grant reviewers. Reviewers score applications on a scale from zero to three.

Applications will be shortlisted based on the combined average scores of the external peer and lay grant reviewers.

Shortlisted applicants will be invited to interview. The interview panel will be made up of members of the charity's GAP1 and lay people from the RSN.

In advance of the interview, candidates will be forwarded anonymised comments from external peer and lay reviewers. Candidates should be prepared to address concerns raised by the reviewers.

The interview panel's recommendations for funding will be submitted to the charity's Chief Executive for approval.

Applications will be judged by external peer reviewers and panel members against the following criteria:

  • quality of the researcher and his or her ability to make an impact on Parkinson's research
  • potential impact of the research for people affected by Parkinson's
  • scientific quality of the proposal
  • quality of the researcher and team
  • value for money
  • budget and infrastructure

Jointly-funded MRC fellowships

The MRC will send out applications to external peer reviewer. Parkinson's UK will seek up to four lay reviews.

Applications will be shortlisted by the MRC on the basis of the external peer reviews.

Shortlisted applicants will be invited to interview by the MRC. Parkinson's UK will be represented on the review panel by a member of GAP1, who will have access to the lay reviews.

The interview panel's recommendations for funding will be submitted to the charity's Chief Executive for approval.

Project and themed grants

Applications will undergo an initial review to assess whether the plain English summary uses appropriate lay language and is realistic about the potential outcomes and timescales of the research project. The lay summary should contain similar information to that in the research proposal. If the lay summary is found to be unsuitable, your application will be withdrawn and you will be contacted by the research team. You will have two weeks to resubmit your application with an improved plain English summary.

Applications will be sent out to review by at least three external peer reviewers and up to six lay grant reviewers. Reviewers score applications on a scale from zero to three.

Applications will be shortlisted based on the combined average scores of the external peer and lay grant reviewers.

Feedback from lay and external peer reviewers will be sent to principal applicants of shortlisted applications for review. Applicants will have at least one week to reply to the queries raised or provide clarification. Principal applicants will receive an email alerting them to the timing of the 'right-to-reply' period during the summer.

The shortlisted applications (including additional information provided in reply to reviewers' comments) will be considered by GAP1 at a review meeting.

The Panel's recommendations for funding will be submitted to the charity's Chief Executive for approval.

Applications will be judged by external peer reviewers and panel members against the following criteria:

  • importance and relevance of the research
  • potential impact of the research for people affected by Parkinson's
  • scientific quality of the proposal
  • quality of the researcher and team
  • value for money
  • budget and infrastructure

Small grants

Applications will be reviewed initially by three members of GAP2 and up to four lay grant reviewers. Reviewers score applications on a scale from zero to three.

Applications will be shortlisted based on the combined average scores of the panel members and lay grant reviewers.

The shortlisted applications will be considered by GAP2 members not involved in the initial review process at a teleconference.

The Panel's recommendations for funding will be submitted to the charity's Chief Executive for approval.

Applications will be judged by external peer reviewers and panel members against the following criteria:

  • importance and relevance of the research
  • potential impact of the research for people affected by Parkinson's
  • scientific quality of the proposal
  • quality of the researcher and team
  • value for money
  • budget and infrastructure

Cohort studies

The Council has two classes of member:

  • Regular Members are selected for reason of their direct supervision of, or close involvement with, major cohort studies in Parkinson's currently active in the UK.
  • Advisory Members are selected for their special expertise in the design and conduct of cohort studies in the area of chronic neurological disorders or other relevant expertise, but are not directly involved in studies in the field of Parkinson's.

Applications will be sent out to review by at least three external peer reviewers and the Advisory Members of the Cohort Studies Council [CSC]. Reviewers score applications on a scale from zero to three.

A meeting of lay reviewers, led by a CSC Advisory Member, will discuss applications and give written feedback. This will be sent to applicants in advance of the CSC meeting at which their application will be considered.

At the CSC meeting, principal applicants will have the opportunity to give a 10 minute presentation and answer questions from both Regular and Advisory Members for 10 minutes.

In closed session, the CSC Advisory Members will consider the external, lay and Advisory reviews and make a recommendation to approve or reject each application.

The Advisory Panel's recommendations for funding will be submitted to the charity's Chief Executive for approval.

Applications will be judged by Advisory Members against the following criteria:

  • importance and relevance of the research
  • potential impact of the research for people affected by Parkinson's
  • scientific quality of the proposal
  • quality of the researcher and team
  • value for money
  • budget and infrastructure
  • future support for the study and the participating individuals

Plain English summaries

A good plain English summary is essential for evaluation by lay grant reviewers who will judge all applications against the following criteria:

  • the importance and relevance of the research for people affected by Parkinson's
  • the potential benefit of the research for people affected by Parkinson's
  • if the proposed research involves human participants, whether they think people would be likely to take part

NC3Rs review

Any application which involves non-human primates, cats, dogs or equines will be sent for additional expert 3Rs review by the NC3Rs.

Funding decisions

The Chief Executive has delegated authority from the Board of Trustees to approve awards up to £500,000. For awards over £500,000, Research directorate staff will write a paper for presentation at the next Board of Trustees meeting or for circulation to trustees by email and a final decision.

Up to twice per year, the Research directorate will update the Board of Trustees on all awards.

7. Acceptance of awards

Once the final decision on funding has been made, applicants are sent award or rejection notices by email. Unsuccessful applicants receive a summary of comments from the lay, peer and GAP reviewers.

Successful applicants must return an acceptance form within eight weeks and advise directorate staff of the start date of their project within six months.

8. Life of an award

Website and charity publications

Information about funded grants will appear on the charity's website and in our research magazine, Progress, as well as other media and communication materials produced by the charity.

Reporting

Annual reports are due on the anniversary of the start date for the project. A final report for the grant must be submitted within three months of the end date.

The Research team monitors the content of the annual and final reports, and may contact the researcher to clarify or request further information. If annual reports do not demonstrate sufficient progress against the aims of the project, the charity (in accordance with its grant terms and conditions) reserves the right to terminate the grant.

If reports are not submitted on time, invoice payments will be withheld until the report has been received. The charity also reserves the right to refuse to accept further applications for funding from the grantholder (either as a principal applicant or co-applicant) until reports for active projects are up-to-date.

Grantholders are required to make annual researchfish® submissions on the outcomes of their research. Submissions will be required over the lifetime of the grant and up to five years after the end of the grant. Grantholders are encouraged to record their outcomes in researchfish® throughout the year as they arise. We use this information to monitor performance, to understand our impact, and to support fundraising.

Publications

Throughout the grant and after it ends, researchers are required to advise the Research directorate in advance of upcoming publications and to comply with our open access publishing policy.

Our Media and Communications teams work in partnership with researchers and host institutions to maximise publicity of research outcomes.

Financial oversight

Grant payments are made to the host institution upon production of an invoice for expenditure (quarterly in arrears). Invoices will not be approved for payment unless the grantholder is up-to-date with reports for all their Parkinson's UK grants.

Variations

Grantholders who wish to apply for a cost extension, no cost extension, virement or other variation to their grant must fill out the appropriate form available by emailing [email protected]. Applications for variations must be made at least two months before the end of the grant.

Assessment panels

The charity's larger grants will also be monitored through annual assessment panels made up of staff, external scientific experts and members of the RSN.

Engagement

The grantholder will be asked to host up to two engagement activities (such as hosting a project visit, speaking at a local Parkinson's UK group or supporters' conference, attending an open day with other researchers) during the grant. These activities enable members of the charity's local groups and the RSN to learn more about the grant and to meet the grantholder and the research team.

Transfers to projects and fundraising

Trusts, corporates and individuals can donate funds in support of a specific project. 'Adopt a Project' transfers help the charity to achieve our pledged funds to the researchers rather than providing additional money for a specific project.

Grants may be underwritten by an external funding body. Grantholders may be asked to become involved in publicity for the trust and/or Parkinson's UK.

Grant completion

Once a grant has ended and the final report submitted, grantholders and the finance officer from their institution must sign a grant completion form. The grant completion form confirms that the final report has been submitted and the final invoice has been paid.

For further information please contact [email protected].

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