NIHR Research Design Service Social Care Research Residential Grant Development and Writing Retreat Guidance

Download the guidance including FAQs here (PDF).


The Retreat will be held 15 to 17 March 2023 at the Castle Green Hotel, Kendal.

The NIHR Research Design Service (RDS) is offering a unique opportunity for research teams across England to attend a three-day residential Grant Development and Writing Retreat in March 2023. The purpose of the Retreat is to give busy professionals dedicated time to rapidly progress their social care research proposal to be submitted to a NIHR programme for social care research. For example, Research for Social Care (RfSC) with a submission deadline of September 2023 or January 2024, or the Health and Social Care Delivery Research (HSDR) Programme but not including NIHR personal awards or schemes such as LA SPARC.

The Retreat will provide a supportive environment for teams of two or three people, to develop high quality social care research proposals.  It is encouraged but not essential, for attendance at the Retreat, that a member of the wider research team is a social care professional employed in England.

This year we welcome research teams who are working in the field of Child and Adolescent Health and social care research. Successful applicants will be offered a free place at the retreat which will include food and accommodation and an evening welcome dinner on the 14 March *.

Applications to attend the Retreat should be submitted to:

Applications will be reviewed competitively and places awarded to those with the most promising proposals and to researchers with less experience of research grant applications.  Support from your local RDS is essential for a successful application and applicants are strongly advised to contact them as soon as possible. RDS contact details can be found here.

Those attending the Retreat will have access to a range of RDS advisers and protected time to work intensively on their proposals. Continued support from the RDS will be essential in preparing your application for submission to an NIHR programme for social care research, such as the RfSC or HSDR.

*excludes travel to/from Kendal

About the Retreat

The RDS Grant Development and Writing Retreat is open to social care professionals and their research partners.

Those attending the Retreat will benefit from:

  • protected time for the development of research proposals away from the distractions and service demands
  • the experience of working as part of a professional research team
  • skills development in writing research proposals
  • expert advice on the methodological, technical, and practical issues of planning research and winning research funding.

Key features of the Retreat:

  1. it is residential – the clear separation of the Retreat from everyday work provides a highly conducive environment for developing potentially fundable research proposals. The residential nature of the Retreat also enables informal “after hours” discussions within teams, with other researchers and with RDS advisers
  2. there is competition for places – although places at the Retreat are likely to be in high demand, this does not mean that the Retreat is exclusively for experienced researchers. Indeed, applications are encouraged from less experienced individuals and teams. More important than track record is having a great research idea with potential to change practice and improve service. Assessment of applications will include the potential of a successful application for NIHR social care funding programmes, such as the RfSC or HSDR funding programmes
  3. participating individuals and teams will significantly improve their proposals – time at the Retreat is focused on the practical work of developing grant proposals. During the Retreat, participants will spend most of each day planning, developing and writing with advice and support from RDS advisers as needed. Delegates will be expected to work to the highest standards of creativity and intellectual rigour.

Retreat activities

The Retreat will commence at 9.30 am on Wednesday 15 March 2023 and end at 3.30 pm on Friday 17 March 2023

The event will include the following.

Support from experienced RDS advisers

Delegates will work on their proposals with guidance from RDS advisers. All advisers will have extensive experience of supporting and reviewing applications for major research funders and many will be members of NIHR and other funding panels. The advisers will provide advice and critical feedback on the proposals throughout the Retreat.

Meet representatives of the NIHR funding programmes for social care, such as the RfSC funding programme and committee

Delegates will have an opportunity to hear from NIHR Social Care Committee members to see what they are looking for in an application.

Time to plan and write

The Retreat will allow a sustained period of concentrated developmental work. If used properly, it will be exhilarating and challenging, but also highly productive.

The potential rewards are considerable, not only for participants, but for social care sectors where at least one member of a team may work, whether that is local authority social work, care homes, home care or voluntary or third-sector agencies that deliver social care support.

Conditions of attendance

Places on the residential Grant Development and Writing Retreat 2023 are limited and applicants must meet the eligibility criteria to be considered for a place. The conditions of entry are described below. If you are thinking of attending and have any questions about the application process please contact

Delegates are encouraged to work on their proposals with local RDS staff before applying to attend the Retreat. The views of the local RDS teams will play an important part in deciding which teams will be invited to attend. It is crucial, therefore, that teams work closely with their local RDS advisers when preparing their applications. It is advisable for teams considering attending the Retreat to contact their local RDS as early as possible. RDS contact details here.

Previous success in research funding is not a prerequisite for the Retreat, but aptitude and commitment to design and deliver the proposed research study will be considered in the selection process. Teams including service users or carers are welcomed. If members of the public wish to only attend for part of the week this is possible. The best day for attendance for public contributors only attending one day will be day two, 16 March 2023. RDS may be able to support reimbursement of travel costs for public contributors if these are highlighted when the team make the application to attend the Retreat.  Any specific requirements can also be highlighted at this stage.

It is expected that the individuals named on the application form should be those who will actually attend for the duration of the Retreat, if the application is successful.

Applications for the Retreat must be returned, using the application form, to by 16 December 2022, 12.00 noon. Criteria for the assessment of applications are available below and teams are strongly advised to read these prior to application. Applicants will be informed of the outcome of their applications by 30 January 2023.

Delegates will be developing proposals with the intention of submitting applications to an NIHR funding programme for social care, such as the RfSC competition 6 submission deadline September 2023 or competition 7 submission deadline January 2024, or the HSDR programme (national peer-reviewed funding competitions). Personal training awards, such as fellowships, and applications to other funding programmes are not eligible.

There is an expectation that individuals/teams will work with their local RDS both before and after the Retreat to develop their research proposal into a competitive application to be submitted to a NIHR programme for social care research.

By submitting an application to attend the Retreat, all team members are committing to attend the Retreat for the whole event, should the application be successful, unless previously agreed for members of the public.

Assessment criteria


Places on the RDS Social Care Research Residential Grant Development and Writing Retreat 2023 are limited and applicants will need to justify why they should be offered a place.  Final decisions will be made by a national panel.

The main assessment criterion will be the potential of proposals to make progress towards competitive applications to an NIHR funding programme for social care research, such as Research for Social Care (RfSC) or Health and Social Care Delivery Research (HSDR) Programme. Within that overarching criterion, assessment will consider the issues below.

Is it a good and important social care research idea?

This is the most important criterion and will be assessed by questions such as:

  • are the issues to be studied important social care priorities?
  • will the research fill gaps in current knowledge or add significantly to understanding of the field?
  • are the issues framed in such a way as to make them amenable to research?
  • do the aims and objectives of the study clearly address the issues described?

Study team

The following issues will be considered:

  • does the team contain a mix of disciplines?
  • does the team contain a mix of social care and academic expertise and knowledge?
  • how will the team benefit from attending the Retreat?
  • does the study team, not just those team members planning to attend the Retreat, include a social care professional working in England? For example, social workers and others in local authority Adult Social Care, care managers in home care or care home managers and carers, this is encouraged.

Are the methods sound and appropriate?

It is recognised that the research design and methods may not currently be very well developed, but an assessment of the potential for the research question to be addressed by high quality research can still be made.

This will be assessed by questions such as:

  • will the design and methods of the study deliver the aims and objectives?
  • will the findings of the study be useful beyond the immediate research setting?
  • does the proposed study design take account of issues of representativeness?
  • does the proposal consider and address potential sources of bias?
  • will the proposed study meet the relevant legislative and regulatory requirements?

Is the study practical and feasible?

This will be assessed by questions such as:

  • does the team of investigators include the necessary range of disciplines and experience?
  • does the proposal describe the benefits and limitations of the proposed setting for the study?

For clarification about the way applications will be assessed or further explanation of any of the points above, teams should contact


For further information and all enquiries please contact: Please also see the frequently asked questions page.