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A new research hub will provide researchers nationally with free access to support, advice and expertise. It will help them develop and deliver clinical and applied health and care research and will provide specialist support for those working in public health.

The hub, hosted by the University of Southampton, is one of eight new Research Support Service (RSS) hubs that will operate from 1 October. Researchers, especially those applying for National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) funding, will be able to seek advice and assistance on topics including study development, design and methods; delivery; patient and public involvement; and approaches to addressing research inclusion.

The hub is a collaboration between 15 units in four universities (Oxford, Oxford Brookes, Portsmouth and Southampton), including the Health Services Research Unit, the Health Economics Research Centre and the National Perinatal Epidemiology Unit Clinical Trials Unit in Oxford Population Health, and four local authorities (Hampshire, Oxfordshire, Portsmouth and Southampton).

The hub will be led by Professor Issy Reading from the University of Southampton, and co-director Associate Professor Ly-Mee Yu from the Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences at the University of Oxford. Oxford Population Health’s Dr Sophie Hyndman will be the Deputy Director.

Sophie Hyndman said ‘This new NIHR Research Support Service hub will provide researchers with support both pre- and post-funding to ensure research ideas are well thought through, well-designed, well-presented to funders, and have the right teams to deliver high quality applied health, public health and social care research.’

The RSS will operate nationally and will allow researchers to access the most appropriate support independent of their location. It will connect with the NIHR Clinical Research Network to ensure that studies are optimised for delivery at study sites. The scheme replaces the NIHR Research Design Service (RDS) and NIHR Clinical Trial Units Support Funding which both end on 30 September.

Issy Reading said: ‘I am thrilled that we can continue supporting researchers to develop high-quality applications for health and social care research funding. We have supported thousands of research teams since the RDS was formed in 2009; I’m looking forward to developing that support in new and exciting ways as we move into the NIHR Research Support Service contract.’

The service has been established following an open and competitive process assessed by research experts and public contributors. The Southampton collaboration has been awarded £16.5m over five years to deliver the new NIHR RSS hub, which includes one of two National Specialist Centres for Public Health Research, led by Professor Julie Parkes from the University of Southampton and Dr Adam Briggs from Oxfordshire County Council. 

Update 1 October 2023

The NIHR Research Design Service (RDS) South Central (SC), along with other RDSs, has been superseded by the NIHR Research Support Service, a national service accessible by researchers anywhere in England. The RSS offers pre-submission support for research applications, along with various aspects of post-funding support, including collaboration. Find out about the NIHR RSS hub delivered by the University of Southampton and partners, and the specialist centres for public health and social care.