Applying for a research grant

Muscular Dystrophy UK considers applications for research funding in accordance with its research strategy.

This includes research into more than 60 different types of muscle-wasting conditions. The charity has an application process in place that involves a rigorous international peer review and a panel of lay experts to ensure that we fund high-quality science that is relevant to people with muscle wasting conditions.

Muscular Dystrophy UK has one grant round per year and generally releases a call for applications in the autumn. For details of the annual call, please see Grant Round 2024. For details of other funding opportunities please read our funding opportunities page.

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Grant Funding Process

The Application Process

Applications for PhD studentships, project grants and shorter proof-of-principle grants are made online through our secure online application system. The grant rounds will normally open on the system at least three months prior to the deadline. Once the electronic deadline has passed, no further applications will be accepted for that round.

Applications comprise of a scientific application and a plain English application. The scientific part of the application is a detailed description of the project and its costs as well as any ethical considerations, such as the use of animals or human samples. The plain English application contains a less detailed proposal, written in non-scientific language and goes to our Lay Research Panel, which consists of people who are affected either directly or indirectly by muscular dystrophy or a related neuromuscular condition. The plain English application consists of questions that the Lay Research Panel believe are most appropriate for helping them to prioritise the projects. The plain English application should exist as a stand-alone piece as the Lay Research Panel do not receive the scientific application.

Anyone interested in applying for a grant should refer to information on the call(s) for that year; these will be posted on our Funding Opportunities page. If you would like to be notified of upcoming calls you can contact the Research Team to be added to our circulation list (

Please contact us at with any queries about our available funding opportunities.

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Additional Requirements for HRA-Approved Clinical Research

For all clinical research that needs Health Research Authority (HRA) approval (refer to criteria for HRA approval), a Schedule of Events Costs Attribution Template (SoECAT) must be completed, approved and submitted with the grant application. Only clinical research needs HRA approval. For researchers carrying out clinical research outside of England, please contact our grants helpline at for guidance.

You will need the assistance of a local AcoRD specialist to complete and approve the SoECAT form For further informations see the NIHR website.

We strongly recommend you contact your local AcoRD specialist as soon as you know you are planning a piece of clinical research, to allow sufficient time for completion and approval of SoECAT before the grant application deadline.

From 1 April 2023 applicants will be required to use the online NIHR Central Portfolio Management System (CPMS). In order to create a SoECAT you will need to create and activate an account in CPMS. Please refer to the user guide for further guidance on creating an account. 

Guidance for completion of the SoECAT is present in an online tool. Further details can be found on the Online SoECAT Guidance page and within the Online SoECAT Guidance Module, which includes video tutorials and linked resources (an NIHR Learn account is required to access and enrol onto this module). 

Assistance with designing your research application is also available from the NIHR CRN and Research Design Service.

Please note that MDUK is a member of the Association of Medical Research Charities (AMRC). You may find more useful information on the AMRC website here.

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Animal Research and the NC3Rs

Please refer to the NC3Rs’ ARRIVE guidelines when designing animal experiments and ensure you report animal-based studies in accordance with the ARRIVE guidelines. Grant holders are required to implement the principles found in the NC3Rs’ guidance document, Responsibility in the use of Animals in Bioscience Research. For more information and guidance about the use of animals in research see the NC3Rs website.

If the research involves use of higher animals (cats, dogs, equines, pigs, non-human primates), the proposal will be sent to NC3Rs for specialist peer review. This will be in addition to the regular scientific peer reviews of the application.

Muscular Dystrophy UK supports the Association of Medical Research Charities’ policy on animal research – please refer to our position statement on animal research.

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The Review Procedure

Applications are sent to experts world-wide for peer review. We aim to receive reviews from three external reviewers for each application. The referee reports are sent to the principal applicant for comment. The applicant will then have one week to respond to the queries raised or provide clarification. Principal applicants will receive an email notifying them when the peer reviews are available and giving a deadline for their response.

The plain English applications are assessed by the MDUK research team and members of our Medical Research Committee and/or scientific advisor to the Lay Research Panel to ensure that the content is true representation of the scientific application. They will also be assessed by members of our Lay Research Panel for a ‘readability check’. If the Lay Research Panel feels that the application is too technical, applicants will be asked to re-write or add clarification to the plain English application.

The applications are first sent to both the Medical Research Committee and Lay Research Panel for triage. The Medical Research Committee members will include the peer reviews and applicant responses in their assessment at the triage stage. Following review, members of the Medical Research Committee and Lay Research Panel will score the applications on a scale of one to three. Applications will be triaged based on the combined average scores from the Medical Research Committee and Lay Research Panel members. All Lay Research Panel and Medical Research Committee members will have the opportunity to restore an application to the shortlist.

Shortlisted applications will be considered at the annual Lay Research Panel and Medical Research Committee meetings.

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Our Assessment Panels

Lay Research Panel

Our Lay Research Panel is made up of people who are affected either directly, or indirectly, by a muscle-wasting condition. A Scientific Advisor also attends Lay Panel meetings who does not have voting rights but is there to answer any scientific questions the Panel may have.

The Lay Panel does not judge the science behind the projects but assesses the relevance and importance of the project from the perspective of someone affected by a muscle-wasting condition.  At the meeting the Panel members consider the shortlisted applications and score each application from zero to six. The Chair and Vice Chair of the Lay Research Panel sit on the Medical Research Committee to provide feedback and ensure that the Lay Panel’s perspective is included in the consideration of the applications. These representatives also vote on the funding decisions, taking the average score from the Panel meeting to the scientific meeting. The information you provide in the plain English application will therefore form a significant part of the awards process. The Panel does not receive the scientific application; therefore the plain English application should act as a stand-alone piece. 

Failure to provide sufficient and understandable information in the plain English application could lead to rejection of the application.

The members of the Lay Research Panel do not have a scientific background so please do not use scientific terminology or jargon. Please also refrain from including references to material that is not available to the general public. Your plain English application will be screened by the Panel prior to the meeting; you will be asked to rewrite the plain English application if it is too technical. Please see the guidance we have produced with the Lay Research Panel on writing an application in plain English

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Medical Research Committee

The Medical Research Committee is formed of up to 16 scientific experts and two representatives from the Lay Research Panel. The Committee normally meets in late Spring/ early Summer to examine all the information from the application, Lay Panel and peer reviewers as well as the applicants’ responses.

The Committee considers applications according to their quality, impact and potential for productivity. Each Committee member scores each shortlisted application from zero to six (with zero relating to a poor-quality application with major weaknesses and six relating to an exceptional, high-quality application with potential for a large impact); these scores are used to determine which applications are fundable. Applications scoring below 4 do not meet the quality threshold and are not fundable.

Recommendations for funding are made based on the average score of each application and the charity’s strategic priorities given the available budget. These funding recommendations are presented for approval at the summer meeting for the Board of Trustees.

Current Medical Research Committee members:

Dr Gillian Butler-Browne PhD (Chair)
Professor Tracey Willis PhD (Vice Chair) 
Professor Ketan Patel PhD
Professor Frédéric Relaix PhD
Dr Stefan Winblad PhD
Professor Grainne Gorman MRCP, PhD
Professor Laurent Servais PhD
Dr Heidi Fuller PhD
Professor Linda Popplewell PhD
Dr Meredith James PhD

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Acceptance of Awards

Once the final decision on funding has been made, applicants will receive an email notifying them of the outcome. Following this notification of outcome, all principal applicants will receive a summary of feedback based upon comments from the peer-reviewers, Lay Research Panel and Medical Research Committee. Successful applicants will receive an award letter.

Successful applicants can accept their awards via the online grant management system. A grant activation form must be submitted online and a signed electronic copy sent to the MDUK research grants management team. The grant activation form must be completed prior to the start date of the grant and no monies will be backdated if this form is not received in time. Project grants must start within six months of receiving the award letter.

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Grant Monitoring

The Principal Investigator is required to complete an annual progress report. Subsequent funding will not be awarded until this report has been received and approved by MDUK’s Medical Research Committee.

Principal Investigators are also required to submit outputs and impact data annually through the ResearchFish system.

On termination of the grant, the Principal Investigator is required to complete an End of Project Report, which is to be received by MDUK within two calendar months of receipt of the report template from MDUK. Failure to submit will result in the final payment being withheld until submission of the report and may affect future grant applications.

The Research team at MDUK monitors the content of annual and final reports and may contact the grant holder to request further information or clarification. The Principal Investigator will be required to provide follow-up information on the research after completion of the project as and when requested by MDUK

Please also read our grant FAQs for further information or get in contact with the research team at

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