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  • Writer's pictureChristine Smith

What is the NIHR?


The world of health and care research can be very confusing for members of the public - and researchers for that matter. How and where all the overlapping bits of the research world fit together is almost impossible to explain. But I'm a grown up now and so I've had a stab at a diagram that (I hope) helps with the conversations that we all have.

It is based on a presentation slide that I saw years ago. Someone in the NIHR (National Institute for Health and Care Research) was having a go at explaining how it all fitted together. I've not been able to find the slide since and the world has changed a lot since then, but I hope my update helps.


The diagram represents the Translational Pathway in health and social care research, which is the process of 'translating' research findings into practical treatments or care pathways that can benefit patients, carers, service users, and the public. The pathway is organized into four main stages: Invention, Evaluation, Adoption, and Diffusion & Spread.

In the UK health and care research is funded by organizations like the Medical Research Council (MRC) and the NIHR. The research takes place in various research centers, collaborations, and support services funded by the NIHR and the Department of Health & Social Care and these are shown in the diagram. Members of the public can be involved at all stages.


The MRC tends to fund the 'basic research' of the Invention stage - the classic 'people in white coats in labs' research that produces e.g. new drugs. This is followed by the Evaluation stage where the new inventions or e.g. new care pathways are assessed to make sure they are effective and safe, usually in research Trials. The Adoption stage involves regulatory agencies, health and care providers and universities working together and implementing these evidence-based practices, to see if they work in 'real life'. The final stage, Diffusion & Spread, ensures the widespread adoption and dissemination of these new proven treatments or care practices across the NHS and social care.


The ultimate goal of this translational pathway is to improve the health and well-being of patients, carers, service users, and the public by facilitating the translation of research findings into tangible benefits for the healthcare system and society as a whole.


Translational Pathway in Health and Care Research
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