The NIHR Research Design Service is closed to new requests from 30 September 2023. We will continue to support our existing clients with existing projects up to 31 March 2024. If you have a question you can email us.
For support with any new project ideas please now contact the NIHR Research Support Service.

Residential Research Retreat

13th to 15th September 2022. Dillington House - Somerset.

(Now closed to applications).

Photograph of Dillington House

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Residential Research Retreat?

The Residential Research Retreat is a unique initiative developed in the NHS for social care, public health and health services researchers in the South West. It is organised and facilitated by the Research Design Service South West (RDS SW). The aim of the Retreat is to produce proposals to undertake high quality applied health, public health or social care research which will be competitive in seeking national peer-reviewed research funding. This is achieved through a residential practical programme led by a team of advisers in specialist fields.

The participants at the Retreat work as teams on their own research proposals. The team of advisers works with the research teams in developing the project into a high quality research proposal. Teams are selected to participate in the Retreat based on the quality of an initial application and an assessment of the potential of the research proposal to succeed in competitions for national peer-reviewed funding.

Who is it for?

The Residential Research Retreat will appeal to health, social care and public health professionals and academics in the South West with an interest in research and service users and carers working with project teams who are keen enough to want to pursue the development of an idea into a high quality research proposal. They will relish the chance of having dedicated time to devote to research with advisers ‘on tap’ to help. At least one of each team’s members must be employed in an NHS, social care or public health organisation in the South West.

When and where is the Residential Research Retreat?

The Residential Research Retreat 2022 will run from Tuesday 13th to Thursday 15th September inclusive at Dillington House, Somerset.

How do I apply?

Applications for the 2022 Retreat must be made using the application form available via Sue Anderson at

When is the deadline?

Full applications must be submitted by 1.00pm on Wednesday 20th April 2022.

When will I hear the result of my application?

You will hear the outcome of your application by early June 2022.

What does the Research Retreat cost?

We encourage team members to stay for the whole duration of the Retreat and the cost per fully residential team member (minimum of two in each team) will be £375. Any team member who can only stay for part of the Retreat will be charged £225 and for those who attend during the day only there will be a daily charge of £100.

Where can I obtain funding to attend the Retreat?

Most teams attending the Retreat in previous years have obtained funding from their NHS Trusts, which have been very supportive of the event. Others have used departmental funds or their own research budgets. We understand that potential applicants from social services or public health departments may not have access to such funds and they are invited to discuss this with Andy Barton at

Who should I include in my team?

The Retreat is open to health, public health and social care researchers in the South West. Each team must comprise three or four individuals, at least one of whom must be employed in an NHS, social care or public health organisation in the South West. Ideally, the team needs to reflect the varying input necessary for the success of the proposal and the research project itself.

You don’t need to worry about methodological disciplines (statisticians, health economists, etc.) for the present since such expertise will be available from the adviser team at the Retreat. But certainly, a mixture of other professions is important – e.g. some combination of doctor, nurse, therapist, psychologist, manager as appropriate – rather than the team comprising only one such discipline. The same is true of professions from public health or social care. Service users are also encouraged as team members. It should be noted that a minimum of two individuals named on the application form should attend for the duration of the Retreat on a fully residential basis if the application is successful.

What is included in the Retreat?

  • Full board accommodation in an en-suite room (for full residential attendees) at Dillington House (breakfast, lunch and evening meal).
  • Refreshments throughout the day (tea, coffee & biscuits).
  • Free internet access throughout the site.
  • Free parking at Dillington House.
  • All activities of the Residential Research Retreat.
  • Conference facilities and rooms to work in.
  • Access to advisers in the field of epidemiology, statistics, health economics, qualitative research and health services research, data management, governance, public involvement, funding and ethics.
  • Critique of proposal at senior level.
  • Continued support in the development and delivery of your project from the RDS SW. 

What is not included?

  • Travel costs to and from Dillington House.
  • Personal travel insurance.
  • Any equipment insurance as required.
  • Charges for the use of the phone calls at Dillington House as used.
  • Personal spends.
  • Service users who require personal care will need to make their own arrangements. 

Please discuss any queries with Sue Anderson at

How are the teams chosen?

Selection for the Retreat is by open competition. Teams are asked to submit their research ideas using the Retreat application form. The proposals are reviewed using assessment criteria similar to those typically used by funding bodies, but the value and importance of the question that your proposal addresses, and the feasibility of delivering the project are particularly important.

Scientific quality is also important but we recognise that your submission will obviously be ‘work in progress’, and we are more interested in the potential of the project to be successful in attracting national peer-reviewed funding. Using the review, decisions are therefore based on this potential for funding and the likelihood of realising that potential through the team attending the Retreat. 

Can I attend with an application for a career development award?

Research is a team business and PhD fellowships and similar awards apply to individuals. Experience has taught us that the Retreat is not appropriate for PhD fellowship awards. However, fellowships which include a team of applicants (such as Advanced Fellowships) are eligible to apply. Your local RDS office will, of course, support you with PhD fellowship and similar applications. 

What support is available to me to make an application?

We strongly advise that if you are thinking of applying for the Residential Research Retreat you make early contact with your local RDS office, whose staff will be able to help with early development of your proposal. 

What is expected of participants?

Personally - it might seem obvious but it is worth stating that as a participant of the Retreat you will be expected to conduct yourself in a professional manner at all times. Participants of the Retreat including teams, the adviser team and the support team are employees of councils, health and academic organisations and are representatives of those organisations during their time at the Retreat.

Professionally – participants are expected to give their full commitment to the Retreat. This means before, during and after the residential part of the Retreat and confirms your obligation to your team that you are serious about ‘doing research’. Each team member will have different qualities to bring to their team and the Retreat overall and active involvement is crucial to your learning experience and what you take away from the Retreat. Additionally, the curriculum for the Retreat is arranged specifically for a particular number of attendees and a change in numbers can cause considerable logistical difficulties.

Can some members of the team come for just part of the Retreat?

Teams will derive maximum benefit from the Retreat if all team members attend on a fully residential basis – maximising the opportunity to discuss their proposal within the team, with the advisers, and with other teams. However, we recognise that there may be team members who cannot make such a commitment. We therefore stipulate that there must be a minimum of two team members that commit to full residential attendance for the duration of the Retreat, while one or two others can attend residentially or on a day basis for one or more days.

Who are the ‘advisers’?

Collectively the advisers have a wide range of knowledge and experience of health and social care research methods. All have considerable experience of seeking and obtaining high quality research funding and individually have their own areas of expertise. For more details visit the Meet the team page.

Both the Research Retreat support team and the advisers are responsible for the Retreat curriculum, allowing for a certain degree of adaptation where necessary, and will endeavour to make your experience of the Retreat a thoroughly enjoyable one. 

Will I need to purchase travel insurance?

This is up to each individual and the insurances you already have in place, however if you are driving to the Retreat then you may well need ‘business use’ car insurance to cover this. If you bring your own personal equipment to the Retreat (e.g. a laptop) you will need to have your own insurance to cover personal items. If you bring any equipment owned by your employing organisation it will probably be covered by your organisation’s insurance.

Where do I join the Residential Research Retreat?

Full details of enrolment procedures will be made available to the successful research teams nearer the time, however the Retreat will probably start with registration between 9.30am – 10.00am on Tuesday 13th September 2022.

Will I get my own room?

Yes – each residential delegate will have their own room with en-suite facilities.

I have specific dietary requirements – will these be catered for?

The Retreat support team will inform the venue of individual dietary requests as early as possible. We cannot guarantee these will be fully met but based on previous experiences we will work with the catering staff to address any special dietary needs and if necessary suggest options.

Why is the Retreat a residential event?

We recognise that research and indeed public funded services funds are currently restricted and that taking a group of staff out of their workplace for three days may seem an unnecessary extravagance. However, there are some particular - and we believe unique - benefits to running the Retreat in this way:

  • the relative isolation of the Retreat from domestic concerns and day-to-day workload means a much greater focus on the teams’ research projects;
  • holding the Retreat at an external venue generates greater interest and enthusiasm for the competition for places.