UCL Health of the Public


OHID-UCL Researcher in Residence Scheme - Frequently asked questions

We know from experience of running the RIR and other schemes that you are likely to have some questions. Therefore, we have provided this short Q&A sheet for you

If you have a question which does not feature here, please contact Dr Alice Tofts, Policy Fellowship Coordinator, UCL Public Policy (tcrnalj@ucl.ac.uk)

The primary aim of this FAQs is to give you sufficient detail without overloading you.

How is the RIR Scheme managed?

The Researcher in Residence Scheme is centrally managed, led by UCL Health of the Public and UCL Public Policy. These UCL teams communicate with OHID around the administration of the scheme, and work with them, as the policy hosts, to develop projects for the RIR Fellows.

Who can apply for the RIR Scheme?

The RIR scheme is open to academic and research staff at UCL Grade 6, 7 or 8 (and CL7 and CL8). You can also apply if you have a fellowship, and this opportunity could be part of your fellowship’s activities. RIR’s must have a UCL contract that extends beyond the secondment period.

Why would I apply for an RIR?

This scheme provides an excellent opportunity for UCL researchers to improve their knowledge and understanding of working in a policymaking organisation, strengthen networks, and develop skills and experience of contributing to policy work. It will also help you to consider how your future research could have more impact.

How does RIR link with academic career progression?

Academic-policy engagement is integral to the UCL academic promotions framework.

How is the RIR Scheme funded?

The RIR scheme is primarily funded through an internal grant held by UCL Public Policy. Allocations of funding are made on a competitive basis.

How long can I be funded for?

Funding covers the cost of staff salary (including oncosts but not overheads) for up to 6-month duration and will be awarded to the candidate's UCL department. RIR’s can apply on a full time or part time basis, and this will be dependent on both host needs and the RIR’s UCL commitments.

What does the RIR funding cover?

The bulk of the funding is expected to be used for the RIR’s salary, but funding can also be used to cover engagement costs, including: 

  • travel - for the Fellow, policy partner or other stakeholders to events
  • software or audio-visual equipment
  • consumables such as catering, printing, postage
  • additional training
  • services such as graphic design, video editing or podcast production

What doesn’t the funding cover?

Funding should not be used to:

  • cover overheads
  • travel to and from places of work
  • expenses associated with the delivery of the RIR project, as this should be covered by the Policy Host

Does UCL remain my employer?

Yes, you remain on your UCL employment contract and the clauses within. The host is responsible for day-to-day task management necessary for effective project delivery.

How do I apply?

We run calls for applications, advertised via our newsletters. You can apply by completing our online application form. You can find the link to this in the advert for this opportunity.

How will my personal data be used?

Information provided in the application form will be shared with OHID to assess your suitability for the RIR award. For more information on data sharing please see:

  1. UCL Staff Privacy Statement, accessed via this website link https://www.ucl.ac.uk/legal-services/privacy/ucl-staff-privacy-notice
  2. UCL Statement of Tasks in the Public Interest, accessed via this website link https://www.ucl.ac.uk/legal-services/sites/legal-services/files/ucl_statement_of_tasks_in_the_public_interest_-_august_2018.pdf

What can I expect at the interview?

You will meet the Researcher in Residence panel for an interview. The panel will include representatives from UCL and OHID. This meeting will allow us to find out more about your expertise, and your interest in a policy secondment. It also provides you with an opportunity to explore ideas for the research project and ask any other questions you might have.

What happens after the interview?

If you are successful, you will be notified as soon as possible after the interview by email, with your line manager copied in. At this point you will be asked to confirm that you are happy to accept the post. An award letter and a legal agreement with OHID will also be issued – please be aware this can require some degree of back and forth to be sure it is fit for purpose and may also need to be signed by your HoD or Dean. Once signed, it is recommended that you reach out to your policy host to discuss your onboarding arrangement, working pattern/style and project details. At this point it is also good to raise any concerns or questions about the project and workplan and its feasibility within the RIR scheme.

Please see this help process and key questions guide to contracts, produced for a similar scheme: https://www.cape.ac.uk/wp-content/uploads/2023/03/CAPE-Policy-Fellows-Contracts-Guidance-Note-March-2023.pdf

What do I need in place before I take up my RIR secondment?

You need to have accepted the RIR offer. You need to identify your department/institute’s finance and local HR contacts and work with them to ensure the process for receiving your funding is underway, and agreements are signed. You need to understand and sign any agreement and return these to the administering teams. You need to agree a start date with your line manager and your policy host at OHID, and to have discussed the onboarding processes with the host.

To what extent is my UCL line manager involved?

You will require your line manager’s agreement to take up the RIR secondment. We advise that you discuss your plans with them and make sure that they are aware of your new working pattern. They can also be a good source of support and knowledge whilst on your RIR secondment so make time to discuss how things are going as you progress.

Can I co-design the project? 

Yes. Whilst RIR’s work closely with OHID on projects addressing OHID’s priorities, you are responsible for scoping and defining the project in collaboration with OHID supervisors and partners, and working closely with key collaborators to ensure the project focus remains relevant to both policy and practice. RIR’s also lead on preparing publications, reports and presentations.

What should I do if I think the scope of the project is too large for the duration of the RIR?

It is not unusual for policy projects to be large in scope, but for the RIR secondment this needs to be tensioned against the research and data available, skills of the RIR as well as time committed. It is helpful therefore to discuss what’s feasible at interview, but also at the start agreeing with the host organisation the minimum and maximum deliverables within the duration. This will help to manage expectations.

Can I bring in expertise beyond the project team?

Yes, you absolutely can. RIR’s work best when they act as ‘knowledge mobilisers’,

reaching out to relevant researchers with expertise on the topic and using mechanisms - such as roundtables - to frame the policy project and test advice/academic wisdom for example. Viewing this RIR as an opportunity to make both academic and policy contacts is extremely beneficial, but just check with your host/ project team whether there are sensitivities around what you can share. 

What is the best way to bring in expertise beyond those on the project team?

In the early stages of your project, you may want to consider whether a steering or advisory group would be beneficial. Convening a group of subject matter experts can provide much needed operational insight of the problem you are investigating. This can be useful for refining your aims and research questions and interpreting results, ensuring that your findings will be relevant to as wide an audience as possible. Consult with your host team/project lead to identify relevant contacts and how best to approach them.

How should I manage my time whilst on the RIR scheme?

It maybe that you undertake the RIR part-time, which will require you to move between organisations and task type. It is important to discuss this with your policy host and UCL line manager to think through together how best to manage this. In our experience some RIR’s find it easier to block out time and undertake their RIR on set days each week. Others find using an out of office system that states their new working pattern or taking an hour at the beginning and end of the day to answer queries related to their UCL role helpful. 

What should I do if I run into data sharing challenges?

The nature of projects within the host department means that government owned data can play a significant part in RIR projects. Data access requires a host (e.g., OHID) email and secure IT hardware. To help prevent access delays, raise early with the host the possibilities of them preparing data in advance of taking up the RIR.

Having the wrong data persona can slow data access down, so discuss with the host and make sure they have set you up with the correct data persona. Other delays are due to insufficient permissions, discuss with the host whether a supplementary honorary contract with the UK Health Security Agency or NHS might enable enhanced access and ask for measures to be put in place.

Raising concerns early and working closely with the relevant project/team lead to unlock data access is key to solving this challenge.

Does my project require ethical approval?

If your project is not classed as ‘research’ or your research falls under the exemption criteria, then you do not ordinarily need to seek approval from the UCL Research Ethics Committee. For example, audit/quality assurance projects and service evaluation does not constitute research. If you are unsure, you can find guidance on the UCL Research Ethics webpages, and discuss it with your Head of Department and/or local Ethics Lead (or supervisor).

My project isn’t going as planned. What should I do?

At the centre of the RIR Scheme is a collegiate philosophy that promotes open and honest engagement as a way to talk and learn about academic-policy engagement. 

Our experience is that projects can and do go wrong, and if they do, the key to resolving challenges is to raise them early and be flexible and open to changing project scope or approach. You might want to go directly to your policy host or talk first with the UCL teams administering the scheme. We’d also encourage talking to peers as another source of support. We have a Teams channel that brings together all our UCL-OHID Researchers in Residence.

What can I expect to learn whilst being an RIR?

From experience we know that RIRs benefit from seeing how policy organisations function and respond to issues, as well being able to attend host team meetings. This gives you insights into the policy work being done, challenges, and priorities of an organisation. 

What is important for the policy host to be aware of?

Universities and policy organisations have different working cultures, expectations and goals, but this is not always well understood. We suggest therefore as well as discussing projects, that you take time to have conversations with your host and project leads so they can be aware of the different work cultures, and you can explore together how best to be kept in the loop and where things might need further explanation.

What happens at the end of the RIR scheme?

Contributing to UCL’s ability to track the impact of the RIR scheme over time

is important, as it allows us to make service improvements and gives you the opportunity to highlight the work you have been doing and any follow up you wish to pursue. We will therefore ask you to complete an evaluation form. We’d also encourage you to share your RIR story, so we can promote what has taken place and share any lessons. You can do this as a cohort, with your policy host or individually.

Should I continue to engage after my secondment?

Yes! An RIR can go beyond the initial secondment, and you can take steps to continue to strengthen the relationships you have formed during the scheme. We recommend that you check in periodically with your key contacts to see where the work/project you were involved in has got to, but also to see if any further support is needed. You can signpost further engagement activities and events that may be relevant to the policy questions under consideration, or if you are unsure about these you can engage with UCL Public Policy and UCL Health of the Public, and we’d be happy to help.