December 2021 research newsletter


At the end of November we were delighted to launch our new research strategy; our roadmap to deliver the change in musculoskeletal research that will make arthritis preventable, manageable, and treatable.

As we now look towards implementation, we are pleased to share details of our first partnership initiative under the aegis of this strategy that will take forward one of the four priority areas – Living Well. We have developed our relationship with the Nuffield Foundation to partner for a new initiative whereby up to £4 million of funding is available for research which can improve the lives of people living with musculoskeletal conditions We hope there will be more new initiatives and calls announced in the new year and we intend to share details early in 2022. In the meantime, please do have a look at the upcoming calls and deadlines included in this newsletter.

Hand in hand with our new Research strategy, we also launched two new exciting ventures that will help us achieve our strategic objectives. Firstly, our new research involvement offer, which seeks to embed more impactful and enduring partnership with people with arthritis at the heart of our research activities Secondly, the launch of The state of the Musculoskeletal Health 2021; an excellent and freely available resource for the sector. Both pieces of work mark the culmination of extensive reviews and we are already seeing impact – our network of Versus Arthritis Research Partners (our new name for our research volunteers) has increased by 75%. Our next piece of work is to determine how we can better support MSK researchers to do patient involvement well. Watch this space as we will be seeking your views and sharing more impact stories.

In the interim, speaking of our wider impact and influencing, we are delighted to share that the Lancet commission on delivering transformative action in paediatric pain, which we co-funded was a direct driver for the NIHR’s new call on pain management for children and young people. The call reflects the ongoing uncertainties about the management of pain in children and young people raised by our commissioned work and will ultimately lead to tangible change for those living in pain and their families via changing clinical practice. Read more about this opportunity later.

As we look towards the Christmas holidays, I am heartened to see that our research or rather your research is the focus of the Versus Arthritis Christmas fundraising appeal! It highlights the challenge of living in pain this winter, and the life-changing gift that our research has the potential to deliver. Please do share it widely and continue to share the impact of your ground-breaking work with us so we can help give it the profile it deserves.

Finally, in this last newsletter of 2021, I’d like to say thank you for all your hard work in what continues to be unsettling times, and look forward to working with you all in 2022 on the implementation of our new research strategy. Have a happy and healthy festive period.

Latest developments and activities

Introducing our new research strategy

Following the recent launch of our new research strategy, we’re hosting webinars where you can hear more about it and ask any questions you may have.

Thanks to those who attended the first webinar on Wednesday 8 December. The second webinar will take place this Wednesday and can be accessed by the following link:

Wednesday December 15, 10.30-11.30 am

If you’re unable to attend, a recording will be available afterwards. For more information please contact the Research Strategy team on

Applications open for the Oliver Bird Fund initiative

In partnership with the Nuffield Foundation, we’re calling for applications for research projects with potential to improve the lives of people living with musculoskeletal conditions, including their participation in, and support from, work, education, and family life, and their experience of ageing.

We are looking for applicants to develop interdisciplinary proposals that can help identify, develop and enhance non-clinical policy and practice interventions. These interventions might benefit people at greater risk of developing musculoskeletal conditions or aim to reduce the negative consequences and improve the quality of life for those who have them.

We expect most successful applications to be in the range of £50k-£300 for a duration of up to three years, more details are available in the funding opportunities section below.

Supporting participation opportunities on our website

We are committed to ensuring that people with arthritis have opportunities to get involved with, or participate in, research studies. We are also keen to support recruitment to Versus Arthritis clinical studies, and therefore we are pleased to share that we will soon be able to include details of Versus Arthritis clinical studies that are currently recruiting within our new research involvement pages.

If you have a clinical study that is currently open (or preparing to open) for recruitment, and you would like your project to be included on this page*, please get in touch with us at and we will send you an information template to complete.

*Please note: depending on the ethics permissions you have obtained for your study, you may need to submit an ethics amendment for this purpose.

The State of Musculoskeletal Health 2021

Versus Arthritis recently published The State of Musculoskeletal Health 2021 report, a compendium of statistics that aims to provide the best picture available of the current prevalence of MSK conditions UK-wide, the number of people at risk of developing these conditions and the subsequent impact on people’s lives, the wider health system and society.

Upcoming opportunities and deadlines

Senior research fellowships
Deadline 12 January 2022

Clinical research fellowships
Deadline 12 January 2022

Nurse and allied health professional internship scheme
Deadline 16 February 2022

Oliver Bird Fund – in partnership with Nuffield Foundation
Deadline for outline proposals 14 March 2022

Pain management for children and young people (NIHR award)
Stage 1 applications by 1pm 4 May 2022

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