Go back

Period pain pushback

Image: Dobrila Vignjevic, via Getty images

A rare call in an underfunded, under-researched area

This year, the charity Wellbeing of Women is running a special edition of its research project grants scheme focusing on period pain in adolescence, in collaboration with Reckitt, which owns over-the-counter pharmaceutical brands including Gaviscon, Nurofen and Strepsils. Funding of up to £300,000 over a maximum of three years is available, with expressions of interest closing on 9 May.

WoW’s general research project grants scheme is also open for bids in any area of women’s reproductive and gynaecological health, with the same limitations on duration and cost. The deadline for applications to the general scheme is 6 June.

Jeremy Barratt, head of research at WoW, tells us more.

How did the call with Reckitt come about?

It is our first partnership with them and our first themed call on period pain in adolescence as well. It is expected to be a one-off.

We do advocacy and education work, in addition to funding research. Our most recent campaign is called Just a Period; millions of women, girls and people who menstruate suffer with severe period pain and heavy bleeding that disrupt their lives. Instead of getting the treatment they need, they’re often dismissed, told it’s ‘just a period’. Of course, it is not always normal. Sometimes there might be underlying gynaecological conditions that could be diagnosed or treated. Our campaign aligns with one of Reckitt’s campaigns called See My Pain, which is about trying to reduce the gender pain gap. There was alignment there.

Is Reckitt funding the full amount?

Yes, Reckitt has generously provided the funding to support the full amount of the grant, which will be funded as a WoW-Reckitt Research Project Grant. However, this is a WoW grant and goes through our usual processes.

Is Reckitt involved in assessing the applications?

This is a two-stage process. We have got initial expressions of interest, where applications are mainly being checked for eligibility because we do not want people going through the full application process and then finding out they are not eligible. All those applications will be looked at by WoW and also members of the Reckitt See My Pain panel. 

Beyond that, when the full applications come in, they go to the WoW research advisory committee and the external peer review process that we normally follow. Reckitt will sign off the final grant we give, but it is not involved in that assessment process, and it does not have any influence over the research once it is funded, which is important.

How important is patient and public engagement?

If patients and the public are not at the centre of an application, it is going to be a non-starter. It is absolutely key in everything we fund that the patient voice is at the centre. We are doing this because we want it to have an impact for girls and women and people who menstruate across the country.

Applicants should talk to the patient groups they seek to support from a very early stage. Your research question should be addressing the issues they are facing, so make sure they are part of it. Make sure their voice is heard throughout, whether that is through steering groups or surveys, or just getting out into the community and engaging.

For period pain in adolescence, there are some groups out there. There are not many, because this is such an under-researched and underfunded area. Applicants should look up those networks and tap into them.

The call states you encourage multidisciplinary proposals—do you prioritise them?

Yes. As with our other funding schemes, we always expect multidisciplinary teams to come through. This is the first time we are doing this themed call, so I do not know exactly what is going to come in. But I feel applications could, for example, touch on social research or involve the arts. We are really trying to influence care—whether that is primary care, education at schools and universities or elsewhere.

What will you not fund?

We fund basic research projects in our general funding schemes. But for this call, though, there can be elements of fundamental research; we will not fund a purely basic research project.

What would make a proposal stand out? 

The potential impact on a sizeable population. We are looking at mild and moderate pain here. It is period pain rather than being focused on something such as endometriosis. So it is a big portion of the population that we are hoping to impact with this call.

What else has WoW got going on at the moment?

Quite a lot. In addition to the standard research project grants scheme, we also have up to £300,000 available for a clinical research training fellowship, for doctors, nurses, midwives and allied health professionals. And opening this month, we have a whole host of predoctoral and postdoctoral fellowships, including tie-ins with the specialty Royal Colleges. 

This is an extract from an article in Research Professional’s Funding Insight service. To subscribe contact sales@researchresearch.com