Guidance for Grant Applicants

Guidance for Grant Applicants

What makes a good clinical research project?

Access our Guide to Applying for a BSAVA PetSavers Grant        

Good veterinary clinical research concentrates on a single question, preferably one that has arisen in the clinic and where the answer will help other veterinary professionals make better decisions in the diagnosis and management of disease.

FINER criteria for a good research question

Feasible  Will it be possible to recruit sufficient patients or acquire sufficient samples? Do you have the technical expertise required or can you get help if needed? Is the research affordable in terms of time and money? Is it realistic or are you being too ambitious?
Interesting The research question needs to interest you as it will take a great deal of time and effort. However, it should also be of interest to the pet owning public as well as members of the veterinary profession.
Novel  While research aims to produce new knowledge, it is unlikely to be completely novel. It is worth considering how your research relates to current knowledge. For example, does it set out to confirm, refute or extend previous findings?
Ethical The study must meet with ethical approval before it is considered by the grants awarding committee. BSAVA PetSavers does not fund research involving experimental animals or the artificial induction of disease. Remember that informed consent will be required from the owner regarding any procedure undertaken on the animal or samples collected.
Relevant BSAVA PetSavers is particularly interested in research which addresses common conditions, complications or problems encountered in clinical practice.

Planning your research project

1. Search the literature

Find out what is already known about a subject. This should include not only research about the particular disease or condition that you wish to study, but also the methods and equipment you propose to use. If you are not working in an academic environment you may need to arrange access to a specialist library to gain access to full-text articles. The RCVS Trust Library is a good place to start.

2. Refine the question

Once you have studied the literature you will be in a better position to specify the exact aims and objectives of your research. Does your research have a hypothesis that you are seeking to test? Does it address a significant clinical problem? It is important to be clear about the aims of the research considering:

  • The population under investigation
  • The hypothesis
  • The outcome that will be measured

3. Study design and sample size

The appropriate methods will depend on the question that you are looking to answer but the clinical research projects preferred by BSAVA PetSavers may be broadly categorised as follows:

  • Prospective investigations: usually quantitative studies with finite objectives, often utilising modern science such as epidemiology or molecular biology as research tools.
  • Multidisciplinary investigations: exploring biological mechanisms that underlie disease processes and/or the means by which these might be manipulated to improve diagnosis and management.
  • Clinical trials: conducted to assess the efficacy of diagnostic techniques or therapeutic agents.

Other research methodologies, including qualitative studies, will be considered if they are appropriate to the study and are likely to advance the understanding of the cause and/or management of a clinical disorder.

The sample size is almost always a compromise between recruiting a sufficient number to answer the research question and producing a manageable amount of data. To estimate the numbers of subjects or samples required, you should have some idea of what will be measured, the expected variability of the parameters to be measured (standard deviation or variance), and the size of effect that you expect to detect between the groups. The larger the natural variation and the smaller the effect, the larger the number of subjects or samples that will be required to have sufficient ‘statistical power’ to answer the question. Some of these numbers will be estimates which may be obtained from the literature or from a pilot study. Be careful extrapolating from the human literature, or from other species, unless there is other evidence to support the idea that the effect is likely to be similar. Whenever possible it is a good idea to consult a statistician at an early stage of planning a research project. The Journal of Small Animal Practice (JSAP) has provided an online collection of articles about statistical analysis as an introduction to the topic.

JSAP also provides assistance in designing, running and analysing clinical research projects in the form of the the Clinical Research Assessment and Guidance (CRAG) panel. The hope is that this will ease the path to publication for primary care veterinarians and house officers who wish to undertake high quality small animal clinical research. Individuals or groups with an idea for a clinical study can work with the CRAG panel to refine the methodology so that the project will be feasible and likely to come up with reliable answers. Find out more here and read the JSAP editorials: Scaling the CRAG to smooth the path to publication in JSAP and CRAG rocks (free for BSAVA members).

4. Recruitment

The recruitment of cases can be one of the most difficult parts of the research process. Be realistic about the number of cases that can be recruited and the time that it will take to collect the data. It is important to consider how the cases will be selected, inclusion and exclusion criteria, and how withdrawals will be handled. This is particularly important where some degree of follow up is intended. It is also important to consider how well the sample represents the type of cases that will normally be presented in veterinary practice. BSAVA members can apply for help with promoting their project and boosting recruitment through the BSAVA Research Board

5. Ethics

It is important to think about the ethics of your research proposal at an early stage, giving consideration to the welfare of the animals involved as well as issues of consent and confidentiality for the owners. Those working in academia will be expected to obtain ethical approval from their University or Research Institute. Those in practice may wish to get advice from a University or Research Institute, and are advised to apply for ethical review through the RCVS Ethics Review Panel

6. Publication

Good research will fail to achieve its aims if it is not communicated effectively to the wider research community and the public. While the preparation of an article for a peer reviewed journal can seem daunting, it must be considered an essential part of the process. All publications directly arising from grant support by BSAVA PetSavers are required to be submitted to JSAP as one of the terms and conditions of the grant. If you have any doubts about the suitability of your paper for JSAP, you should contact the Editor ( 

To qualify for a BSAVA PetSavers' grant, a research proposal must meet the following criteria:


  1. The study must involve only naturally occurring disease in small animals; there must be no experimental or artificial induction of disease.
  2. The anticipated results of the study will result in a change in diagnosis or management of small animal disease.
  3. The study must be supervised by people with appropriate veterinary clinical skills and knowledge.
  4. Any interventions on animals (including obtaining samples) would be considered part of recognised veterinary practice.
  5. Ethical approval has been obtained or, if not, the steps being taken to ensure that the project achieves ethical approval are outlined.
  6. The results will directly benefit cats, dogs or other companion animals. If the benefit is not direct, further steps (and at what cost) before a benefit becomes apparent are stated.


How to apply


We offer a wide range of grants, suitable for each stage of your veterinary and/or research career. Take a look at the funding we provide here

Each type of grant that we offer has its own application form, but the required information is similar for each. We ask for the following:

1. General

  • Details of the applicant/coapplicants including contact details, qualifications, and current posts
  • The study title, its proposed start date, and duration
  • A lay summary to help us with promotion and publicity of the project
  • The research question and background behind it
  • Proposed methods and experimental design
  • Details of outcome timings and planned analyses 
  • Proposed benefits to animals in the study and the future
  • Details of previous submissions of the same or related proposals
  • 2. Funding

    • Current and past funding details 
    • A breakdown of expected costs

    3. Student support for our MDR and SRP grants

    • Supervisory details 
    • Information about planned student training 

    4. Peer review (not required for SRP grants)

    • Names and contact details of three external reviewers

    We ask the reviewers to independently review your application, so you should have no conflicts of interest with any of them. We consider a conflict to include: 

    · Being an applicant or co-applicant in the current round of BSAVA PetSavers' grants, 

    · Collaborating recently (within the last 2 years), 

    · Involvement in your current BSAVA PetSavers grant proposal, including advising on study design or commenting on the application, 

    · Having a close personal friendship, or

    · Currently working in the same institution 

    If your suggested reviewers are unable to assess your application, we reserve the right to ask another independent reviewer to do so. 

    5. Grant ethics

    Applicants from practice who do not have access to ethical review through a university are advised to apply for ethical review through the RCVS Ethics Review Panel

    Please submit details about the following ethics-related aspects on our grant application form:
    • Recruitment and informed consent
    • Animal welfare
    • Risks and their management
    • Inducements to participation
    • Data protection
    • Conflicts of interest
    • You are also required to provide supporting paperwork of your ethical committee approval

    6. CVs of all applicants

    • Name
    • Current post (title, institution/ practice, date of appointment)
    • Posts held within the last 10 years
    • Details of previous research experience or training (include title, amount and source of funding)
    • Relevant publications (list up to 10, give the citation in full, including the title of the paper and list all of the authors)
    • Additional information that relates directly to the application (use up to 10 lines of text)

    7. Supporting documents

    As well as the ethical approval documents, please also supply:

    • A letter of support from your head of department or practice principal (not required for SRP grants)
    • A signed copy of the BSAVA PetSavers’ terms and conditions for the relevant grant

    The application form contains a checklist to help make sure that the application is complete which we strongly advise you to use!

    If you have any questions about the grant application process, please email

    Our main application and supporting forms can be downloaded here:

    CRP application form              

    CRP terms and conditions                           

    MDR application form              

    MDR terms and conditions              

    SRP application form              

    SRP terms and conditions              




    What happens after you apply?

    Applications are not anonymised because we have found it impossible to do so in what is a fairly small veterinary world. However, the grants awarding committee and external reviewers are required to declare any conflicts of interest with individual applications before reviewing them, as described above. If a reviewer declares a conflict an alternative reviewer is chosen, while committee members with a conflict refrain from voting on that application. 

    Your application will undergo a preliminary review then be peer reviewed by external reviewers, before being considered and scored during a meeting of the BSAVA PetSavers’ grants awarding committee. You may be given the chance to respond to unattributed reviewer comments before the voting stage of the process.

    Committee meetings are held in the spring and autumn. MDR applications submitted by 31st August are considered in the spring meeting, and CRP applications submitted by 31st January are considered in the autumn. We aim to decide whether to fund SRPs within 6 weeks of the three annual application cutoff dates. Further details can be found in the How we decide what we fund link.

    Some applicants may be asked further details about their proposals based on queries that arose during the committee meeting. The responses to these queries will aid the committee in making a final decision.

    We will notify you of our decision shortly after the relevant committee meeting. If you have been unsuccessful, we will provide detailed feedback on which aspects of your application could be improved. You are welcome to resubmit your application once more in a future round of grant calls as long as this is made clear on the application form. 

    If successful, you will receive a letter confirming the decision and total project costs and specifying the date by which the project must commence. You will also be advised how to invoice and on reporting and publication processes, and will be asked for a digital image to help publicise your project. We also require a formal letter from you accepting the grant and specifying the project start date.  



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