One of our missions is to fund and promote research to find the causes, diagnostics and effective treatments for MND. By adopting a rigorous application process, we can be sure that we are funding the very best research to help us to unlock the secrets of the disease.
How do we decide which projects to fund?
Decisions on what research we fund are made using a process known as ‘peer review’. Peer review is also used when the results of research are published in scientific journals. In this context ‘peers’ are colleagues who are working in the same area of research and / or using the same techniques. As all scientists rely on the same system to obtain research funding and to report their work, this co-operative system in general works well.
Through our application process, we rely on the expertise of both external reviewers who are scientists or clinicians with specific expertise in the area of the proposed research application, as well as reviews from our research advisory panels.
What are the research advisory panels and what do they do?
The Research Advisory Panels are a representation of professional people highly qualified in their respective fields. The panels also include two lay members nominated by the board of trustees. Members of the panels give their time on a voluntary basis. The panels’ global knowledge of research puts them in the invaluable position of being able to evaluate the viability of the proposals put forward which ensures that the Association only funds the best and most relevant research.
In addition to this, the panels also assist us in strategic development and prioritisation as well as being able to provide an expert opinion and comment on relevant research issues to the media, when required on behalf of the Association.
We are currently advised by two panels:
The Biomedical Research Advisory Panel (BRAP) advises us on grant applications for projects that aim to increase understanding of the mechanisms of motor neurone degeneration and develop potential new therapeutics. These projects are usually laboratory-based. The members of this panel are neuroscientists and neurologists with particular expertise in MND research.
The Healthcare Research Advisory Panel (HRAP) advises us on grant applications for health and social care research projects that aim to learn how to improve care and quality of life for people with MND. The members of this panel are leading practitioners in the fields of neurology, psychology, palliative care and rehabilitation medicine.
How long can people be on the panel?
The normal length of service for members of the panel is four years, although they can serve again by invitation after a minimum break of one year. New members join the Panel by recommendation and invitation.
Do they decide the Association’s research budget?
The Panels have no responsibility for decisions concerning the size of the research budget. This is fixed annually by the board of trustees, which has ultimate responsibility for the allocation of funds.
The application process
Before funding can be offered, there are many questions that need to be addressed by applicants:
- Is the research project directly relevant to MND?
- Does the proposed study unnecessarily repeat research already undertaken, or duplicate work which may currently be taking place?
- Does the project have scientific credibility?
- Is it feasible?
- Does it break new ground?
- If the project follows on from previous research, does it really necessitate further study?
- Does it have ethical approval?
- Are the costs requested for salaries, equipment, laboratory consumables, etc, realistic?
- Is the length of time required for funding appropriate to the work involved?
Applicants first submit two to three page summary applications which outline their proposed project and answer the questions above. These are reviewed by members of the panel who make a decision on whether a full application is worth considering.
Should a full application be invited, this is assessed in detail by external reviewers. The advice of external reviewers is taken into consideration by the panel when they meet to make a decision on which projects should be funded.
Competition for research funding is fierce as we only fund approximately one in five of all applications that we receive. As this is partially due to financial restrictions (a three year research project can cost around £200,000) the application process ensures that we are spending the money wisely.
How long does it take for an application to be accepted?
The process from the time we receive the full application to a funding decision is generally approximately 10 weeks. This process may seem laborious and time consumingbut it is essential if we are to ensure that we only fund research of the highest quality and of direct relevance to MND.
What happens after we decide to fund a project?
When a grant is made it will be subject to strict terms and conditions, one of which is that the grantee must keep the Association informed of progress by providing annual and final reports. This helps the research advisory panels in their evaluation of the progress of each project; if the project does not appear to be meeting its aims and objectives then funding could be suspended.