Clinical/Public Health Research Centres

This scheme aims to improve clinical and public health research ecosystems in India to bridge gaps in human resource, supervision, mentorship, equipment, and administration by establishing virtual Clinical/Public Health Research Centres (CRCs). The CRCs are envisioned as research-oriented centres established with focus on major biomedical research problems and preferably involving multiple institutions.

The CRCs can be based on either crosscutting or vertical research themes, within the remit of India Alliance. Big data, population-based interdisciplinary cohorts, disease modelling are examples of crosscutting themes while antimicrobial resistance, nutrition, cardiometabolic diseases, mental health, respiratory infections, and environmental health are examples of vertical themes. These themes are provided only for illustrative purposes; proposals need not be restricted to these areas.

Though not mandatory, this scheme encourages international collaboration. The projects would require external evaluation at regular intervals; therefore, the proposal should have in-built milestones for evaluation and reporting. India Alliance would also reserve the right to periodically review the funded program, which may include site visits.

The CRCs are institutional grants that are meant to promote clinical/public health research and develop physician scientists. They would empower clinicians and public health scientists to carry out patient- and population-oriented research in addition to patient care and preventive medicine. Accordingly, applying institutions should propose a clear path for this. The project should be able to enhance the existing research environment at the host institution within the funding period. Additionally, the applicants should provide a sustenance plan after the funding be over.

Research proposals from existing eligible institutions should provide evidence of access to an in-house or external Clinical Study Design Unit (CSDU) and relevant training programmes. This will involve collaborations with biostatistics and epidemiology, implementation science, qualitative and health economics researchers.

The proposal should have components of human resource training and mentorship. Training of MD and PhD students should be a critical part of the proposed project. A detailed training plan and a plan to evaluate its success would be required.

The CRCs may also link up with the Clinical Research Training Programme(CRTP) to develop a 3-year mentored training programme for clinical and public health researchers, and seek separate funds for that CRTP. A CRC application can also be made without linking it to CRTP, but relevant training and research components must be built into it.

The host institution may propose a PhD program for MDs or a MD-PhD program, create a cluster, include support for maintaining an important clinical cohort, etc. Support for an existing clinical or population-based cohort would be considered provided they have been already set up and have been following “international good practices”.

The CRCs are envisioned to include more than one institution. Strong justification would be required for a single-institution CRC, in which case multiple departments at that institution should come together.

An appropriate research management plan should be in place at the coordinating institution, and preferably at all participating institutions.

The proposal can seek support for hiring new clinical and public health researchers (initially as project staff but with an institutional commitment longer than the duration of the grant), purchasing equipment and research supplies, maintaining clinical and population cohorts and biobanks, and for training early career clinicians in research. Funds can also be requested for strengthening the research management structure at the institution(s). All budgetary requests (including manpower and training programmes) should be commensurate with the proposed project, and must be supported with strong scientific justifications.

The application should outline a resource-sharing plan and demonstrate sustainability after the funding is over. Substantial commitment from the institutions to co-support would be desirable.

There would be no explicit advice from India Alliance beyond the stated mandate and purpose of the scheme. It would be up to applying institutions to justify how they would achieve the overall goal of developing physician scientists and enhancing the clinical and public health research ecosystem.

These are institutional grants where sign-off by the Head of Institution (Director, Vice Chancellor, etc.) will be necessary. Strong commitment from the institutions (including infrastructure, protected time for trainees and mentors, and other direct research support) is expected. A plan with commitment on how the institution will sustain the program beyond the funding period is also expected.

The institution should designate a Principal Investigator (PI), who would be a senior clinical and/or public health sciences researcher with an established track record of science leadership, research, training and mentoring. He/She should have guaranteed tenure at the institution for the duration of the CRC and have the sponsoring institution as his/her primary affiliation along with guarantee of a salary. In addition to the PI, up to three senior researchers (co-PIs) may be nominated from the Host and collaborating institutions to look after defined aspects of the programme. The roles of the PI and co-PIs should be clearly stated and justified, and their complementary skills and disciplines identified.

All investigators should carefully consider the percentage of time they would give to these grants and must state their time commitments towards other research and non-research responsibilities. This would be particularly required of researchers currently holding India Alliance fellowships, which have defined percent time commitments.

As the signing authority, the Sponsor must guarantee the following:

  • All support required to carry out the funded research, training and capacity building
  • Status and benefits available to PI and co-PIs equivalent to that of other academic staff of similar seniority at that institution

Further,

  • All participating institutions (and sponsors) should be able to sign up to India Alliance’s Award conditions and Award policies.
  • India Alliance would send funds to only the institution that hosts the PI. That institution should have the ability to set up sub-contracts, transfer funds, maintain accounts and report these on behalf of all participating institutions. If the project includes an overseas collaborator, the sponsoring institution would coordinate with that as well.
  • The host institution(s) should demonstrate commitment by supporting the project with cash (e.g. a matching grant) or kind beyond the usual support for space and utilities.

Up to INR 10 crores (including 10% overheads) can be requested for a 5-year project. Projects of less than 5 years and over INR 10 crores would be deemed ineligible. No funds would be provided to create physical spaces (e.g. labs or buildings). Cost towards research management and CSDU, if needed, should be built into the proposal. Each line item in the budget should be justified.

The proposal should have built in deliverables and milestones, which in case of award would define the “critical review”. Release of funds would depend on successful achievement of these milestones. A mid-term review would be done in Year 3. 

Annual reports on scientific progress and funds utilization would be required for the funded CRCs.

Renewal of the grant may not be possible. Therefore, a comprehensive 5-year plan would be required.

There will be no provision for a no-cost extension of the programme if funds remain unutilised at the end of the term.

India Alliance would invite applications for the said scheme in the prescribed format, which would be made available on its website from 16 May to 17 June 2019, 2:00 PM IST.

Screening: The India Alliance Office would screen the received applications against the eligibility criteria (as mentioned in the scheme). A Screening Committee (SC) would carry out a hard triage of eligible applications so that only selected applications go for a peer review and interview. This Committee would be external to, but facilitated by India Alliance and would have basic, clinical, public health and interdisciplinary researchers. The SC is not expected to provide elaborate feedback on research merit of the project and would evaluate it based on aforementioned eligibility and competition in the cohort of applications received. India Alliance would not be able to provide reviews to applicants at this stage.

Peer Review: Selected applications will be reviewed by external and international experts.

Funding: The peer-reviewed applications would be evaluated by a Funding Committee (FC), which would be external to, but facilitated by India Alliance. The FC would have members from the existing SIF and CPH committees of India Alliance. Based on need in a specific round, the FC also co-opt other experts. All peer-reviewed applications would normally be brought to an interview, unless recommended otherwise by the FC, for example, based on an unsatisfactory external review. The FC would interview the PI and, if desired, up to two co-PIs on each application. The recommendations made by the FC and the decision of India Alliance would be based on competition within the cohort. These decisions would be final.

The scheme is expected to be very competitive at every step. All applications would be assessed in competition with others in that cohort.

Important Note:

The India Alliance's Committees comprise of independent scientists from the international research community with appropriate expertise and research experience. They are asked to express their own views on research proposals and to adjudicate on opinions received from external experts.

Members of the India Alliance's Committees are required to abide by a code of conduct, which is designed to protect and preserve the integrity of the India Alliance's advisers and processes. This code of conduct dictates that the Committee Members may not discuss any aspect of the deliberations or recommendations of the Committee with applicants, and that they must refuse any requests for information as to how a particular decision was reached.

Applicants or their colleagues must never attempt to contact a Committee Member to discuss any aspect of an application or the decision reached on it. All such requests must be referred to the Office.

If the application is selected for peer review, the interviews will be held in the month of November 2019.

Applications open:          16 May 2019 (Forms will be made available on the India Alliance website)

Applications close:           17 June 2019 (2:00 PM, IST)

In a given round, only one application would be allowed from a Lead Institution. Further, no more than one application would be accepted from a researcher as PI or co-PI in a given round. Resubmission of proposals declined at the Funding Committee stage would normally not be allowed, unless specified by the Funding Committee, in which case the specified conditions would have to be fulfilled. If declined at the Funding Committee stage, the same proposal cannot be submitted again. However, if a proposal has been declined at the Screening Committee stage, it could be resubmitted in future rounds.

You will not be funded if you are:

  • Employed by a commercial organization
  • Applying for, holding, or employed on a research grant from the tobacco industry. Please see our statement on researchers funded by tobacco industry.

All queries may be directed to info@indiaalliance.org. Queries will NOT be entertained on phone calls to the India Alliance office.