Our approach to research funding

Delivering our research

We are committed to ensuring all the research that we fund has maximum impact for people with arthritis and our ambition is to ensure this happens as rapidly as possible. To achieve this, we follow a number of key principles:

  • We only fund world-class research.
  • We fund musculoskeletal research across the continuum from basic science to health service and policy research.
  • We help support and build an environment in the UK that facilitates rapid translation of ideas to patient benefit.
  • We encourage the brightest individuals in the UK and beyond to help us deliver our research agenda.
  • We ensure that we're clear about the research need and our role in meeting that need, whether it be to fund the research ourselves, or in partnership with others.
  • We provide strategic leadership and facilitate collaboration when needed.
  • We involve people living with arthritis in all stages of the research assessment process.

How we make awards

We are a member of the Association of Medical Research Charities and adhere to their principles of peer review to ensure we fund research of the highest quality.

Applications are subject to a rigorous assessment process that consists of scientific and lay expert peer review. Applications are assessed on the following criteria:

  • originality and richness of the ideas
  • relevance to our mission and strategic focus
  • applicants’ ability to deliver the proposed research
  • quality of the research design and methodology
  • feasibility and potential to deliver the stated outcomes
  • potential for long term impact on the quality of life for people with arthritis
  • value for money.

We use both UK and international external expert reviewers to avoid bias and ensure the research we fund is benchmarked internationally.

Applications along with the external assessments are considered by one of three charitable subcommittees or their associated funding panels, who make recommendations for funding either our executive or Board of Trustees depending on the value of the award.

How we monitor awards

We're committed to ensuring that every penny we spend on research has the maximum impact for people with arthritis. We actively monitor and evaluate the outputs and outcomes of the research we fund, using a system we call portfolio management.

Each award is assigned to a portfolio team who oversee the full life cycle of each award, from the issue of the letter of award through to the point where no further research outputs are expected. This team monitor budgets, expenditure, governance, progress, outputs, as well as looking for opportunities to facilitate the next stages of research.

An important part of portfolio management is reporting and assessing the outputs and outcomes of research using mechanisms such as Researchfish. Some of our strategic awards also have additional evaluation mechanisms such as annual meetings, site visits, progress review committee assessment and annual reports. Where the research that fund can provide a valuable resource, our research translation manager can provide help and advice.

In addition to developing new treatments for patients, a key strategic goal is to ensure implementation of research, changing patient and healthcare professional behaviour, as well as influencing national policies and processes. We aim to work with our researchers where possible to take a piece of research and translate this into a tangible change for people with arthritis. This is a cross-organisational strategy and can only be realised with the help of our colleagues from the policy & public affairs team , our health promotion team, our communications team and others. This can be relatively simple such as using new information from research and including it in our patient information, or it can involve new programmes of work such as advocating and influencing for the national provision of a health intervention. We believe that research has the power to transform the lives of people with arthritis and we are committed to making this happen as an organisation.

Scope of research

We aren't a single disease-based charity, we support research into a range of conditions that affect the musculoskeletal system: joints bones, tendons, ligaments and muscles. This includes both common and rare conditions.

Our research can be grouped into five major areas:

We fund basic discovery research through to clinical and applied health research. We fund basic research to better understand how different forms of musculoskeletal conditions develop and continue to invest in the development and evaluation of new treatment. Importantly, our five-year focus, will drive the prioritisation of research underpinning areas of more immediate impact on the lives of people with arthritis, such as disease management and health services research.

Conditions eligible for funding (PDF, 72 KB)

If you would like further advice about a potential application, please contact us at: research@versusarthritis.org

Setting our research strategy

We exist to prevent the onset of arthritis, develop a cure for arthritis and transform the lives of those with arthritis (now and in the future) by building, applying and sharing knowledge.

We support research that is aimed at improving the quality of life of people with arthritis, tackling the burden of pain and stacking the odds towards a cure. Supported research includes: basic discovery, experimental and applied research via a breadth of funding instruments, including programmatic, institutional and personal awards and a variety of types of partnership working.

Led by our senior leadership team, our board of trustees are responsible for setting the charity’s strategic direction and achieving the charity’s goals.

Research applications are assessed across three subcommittees, disease, treatment and health. Each subcommittee provides expert advice and intelligence to contribute to planning and developing research activities, as well as evaluating applications and recommending new awards and providing oversight of funded activities. Each subcommittee, when necessary, draws upon a college of experts for additional, specific expertise - including areas of research, methodology, policy work, implementation, lived experience of arthritis and health professional expertise. The subcommittees also utilise the expertise of the research advisory groups, fellowship expert group and patient insight partners in support of these activities.

Supporting research careers

We're committed to building a world-class workforce to continue the fight against arthritis through supporting research careers and ensuring there's sufficient capacity within the UK to translate ideas into benefit for people with arthritis.

Our success depends on the quality of the scientists and clinicians involved. We aim to encourage the brightest and most committed researchers, from all relevant disciplines based in the UK and beyond, to become involved in research into musculoskeletal diseases.

How do we support musculoskeletal research careers?

We support musculoskeletal research careers through:

  • Dedicated fellowship support for outstanding researchers at different stages of their career
  • extensive funding of researchers through our other funding schemes such as challenge calls and centre.

We aim to develop the next-generation of world-class musculoskeletal researchers by providing incentives and motivation during early training and education to make musculoskeletal disease an attractive career choice. We offer opportunities for early research experience through to advanced research training, with the aim of building a workforce of world-class independent researchers that are supported by universities and other research active institutes.

We provide research training opportunities for individuals with an interest in musculoskeletal diseases. These may be:

  • academic clinicians, accepting qualified individuals across all disciplines, including but not limited to rheumatology, orthopaedics and primary care
  • allied health professionals, such as physiotherapists, occupational therapists, rheumatology specialist nurses, podiatrists and psychologists
  • non-clinical research scientists.

Our strategy is to support training and career development either alone or in partnership with others.

For further information view our pages on the types of grants we provide and upcoming deadlines.

Research strategy meetings

We often hold research strategy meetings to gain understanding of given areas. Attendance at the meetings is by invitation only. The aim is to cover all areas and expertise, but not to be too large to inhibit active participation in small group discussions

Outputs from strategy meetings

The outputs from each meeting include some or all of the following:

  • opportunities for networking between different disciplines
  • identification of key priority areas that are relevant for Versus Arthritis to fund
  • identification of areas appropriate for collaboration with other funders, including the UK Research Councils, NHS and industry
  • consideration as to whether the area, or specific sub-areas needs specific infrastructure support to boost critical mass.

These are available upon request. Please email research@arthritisresearchuk.org