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ICA PCAF Round 2 Chairs' Report

 

Contents

Introduction

The HEE/NIHR ICA Pre-doctoral Clinical Academic Fellowship (PCAF) scheme supports early career researchers from the ICA Eligible Professions to become competitive applicants for a doctoral level research training fellowship.

The scheme funds dedicated time to prepare an application for a competitive, peer-reviewed doctoral level research training fellowship as well as a personalised programme of academic training.

PCAF candidates may have received little formal academic training, or have limited research experience at the point of application, but should be able to demonstrate their commitment to a career as a clinical academic and have outstanding potential for development as a future clinical academic leader.

PCAF Round 2 Competition (2019)

The second PCAF scheme competition launched on the 1 st February 2019 and closed on the 11 th April 2019. The numbers of applications received and awards made are detailed in Annex A at the end of this document. Each eligible application was assessed by two members of the ICA PCAF Selection Committee with moderation from the Selection Committee Chair.

The PCAF Selection Committee met on 20 th June 2019 to discuss the Round 2 applications and to make recommendations for funding.

The Chair and the Deputy Chair of the Selection Committee have made observations of the general strengths and weaknesses of the Round 2 applications and discussed areas that future applicants should consider in order to strengthen their applications. These are summarised below.

PCAF Round 2 Selection Committee Observations and Advice for Prospective Applicants

The Selection Committee agreed that the Round 2 competition was highly competitive and the amount of interest in the scheme was seen as a positive reflection on the increasing support and awareness of non-medical clinical academic careers.

Research and Clinical Experience

As part of their assessment, the Selection Committee consider “the suitability and commitment of the applicant to a career as a clinical academic”.

Applicants are advised to clearly describe the relevant clinical and academic skills and experience they have developed to date, how they will ensure the continuation of their clinical career development (their career in their stated profession) while undertaking the award, and their plans for the continuation of their clinical academic career post-award. Applicants should clearly articulate the impact this Fellowship will have on their career, noting a fellowship should provide a step change in their career trajectory. In addition to supporting the Selection Committee’s assessment of the applicant’s clinical academic career potential, this detail contextualises the training and development proposal and supports the justification provided for the training proposed.

There is an opportunity for applicants to detail both their relevant clinical and academic experience in the CV section of the application form (“present and previous positions”) and in response to the question “Please describe your research career to date” (which, for this scheme, would incorporate clinical academic career experience).

Applicants with Negligible Research Experience/ Limited links with Research Groups

Prospective applicants with negligible research experience to date and/ or limited links with research groups may wish to consider whether an ICA Internship may be an appropriate first step in their clinical academic career. ICA Internships are available annually and run for six months. They provide a range of both taught and academically supervised training opportunities that engage and expose the intern to the clinical academic research environment, and provide them with the practical skills to undertake a research project supported by an expert clinical academic supervisor.

The funding for ICA Internships is managed by HEE’s local teams. Any queries regarding the Internship opportunities should be directed to the appropriate local contact.

Proposed Training and Development Programme

The training proposed for a PCAF award must be tailored around the applicant’s demonstrable training needs, taking into account their previous formal academic training experience and their previous research experience and the research area in which they wish to develop their clinical academic career.

Applicants must detail in their application how the proposed training plan will support their development as a clinical academic, how it meets their unique training needs and how the training plan will support the development of a competitive doctoral fellowship application.

The training may include, but is not limited to:

- formal courses (including Masters modules)
- training in specialist skills and research methodologies
- placements with other research groups or centres
- leadership training
- conference attendance
- research visits
- Patient and Public Involvement
- Dissemination of relevant research undertaken by the applicant

It is also possible to build in research activities as part of the training and development programme in order to build up experience of undertaking research, although applicants should be mindful that the award itself does not fund research costs.

The completion of a formal academic qualification, such as a Master’s degree, can be supported as part of the training plan if appropriate to the developmental needs of the applicant.

In addition, candidates are advised to consider the following:

  • Research Area

Alt the pre-doctoral fellowship level, applicants are not expected to have a fully developed PhD proposal (this will be an output of the award), however, applicants do need to have a clear idea of the research area in which they will be developing their clinical academic career (and therefore their doctoral fellowship proposal). The research area will inform the proposed training plan and the proposed supervisory team and should align with the applicant’s clinical work.

If the applicant’s current clinical work does not align with their area of research interest, the applicant will need to clearly demonstrate how they will work toward such alignment to support a competitive doctoral fellowship application.

  • Doctoral Fellowship Development

At the end of a PCAF award, applicants should be in a position to submit a competitive doctoral fellowship application. Candidates are advised to develop their PCAF application with this in mind, identifying any areas of weakness that need to be addressed over the course of the award. Applicants are also advised to clearly articulate in their application their plans for submission of a doctoral fellowship application and how the support they will receive over the course of their PCAF will be managed to facilitate this.

There are many routes to doctoral funding and in addition to the NIHR Doctoral Fellowship and HEE/NIHR ICA Clinical Doctoral Research Fellowship, applicants may wish to consider the opportunities available through disease-specific charities and professional bodies.

  • Scale and Scope

Over the course of their award, Fellows are required to complete the training plan as described in their application and to develop a doctoral fellowship application. Applicants are advised to consider carefully the amount of formal training proposed and the feasibility of undertaking this training in addition to the development of a doctoral fellowship proposal.

Supervisors

The choice of supervisor(s) must be clearly justified in the application and applicants are advised to consider the supervisory team for their PCAF proposal carefully. Areas for consideration:

  • Availability of the supervisor/ time commitment required from the supervisor
  • Fit of the supervisor’s expertise with the stated area of research that the applicant is developing their research career within
  • Record of conversion of Masters to PhD students.

Statement of Support

PCAF applications must include a “Statement of Support” from the Host Organisation. The statement should detail the experience of the organisation in supporting Masters students to progress to doctoral level research and the organisation’s support for non-medical clinical academic careers. The statement must also clearly describe how the institution will support the applicant and must be tailored to the applicant.

Changes for PCAF Round 3 (2020)

Following the completion of the Round 2 PCAF competition, the HEE/NIHR ICA Oversight group has agreed changes to the scheme, which will be incorporated from the Round 3 competition onwards.

Two distinct funding offers will now be available through the PCAF scheme allowing applicants to choose the level of support most appropriate to their individual requirements (see below).

Applicants are advised to consider carefully which stream is the most suitable for them, taking advice from their prospective supervisors regarding their training needs and ensuring a realistic but ambitious time-line for submission of a doctoral fellowship application.

1) Funding to support the submission of a doctoral fellowship application and to undertake Masters-level training – the “standard PCAF” offered in previous rounds but with changes to the uptake options.

The percentage uptake now reflects the amount of time undertaking the PCAF award only. Any activities that will be undertaken while completing the PCAF that would support the development of your clinical academic career (e.g. time working in your
stated profession) can be detailed within your application but should not be included in the percentage uptake of the award.

Award Uptake Options

  • Full time for 12 months (5 days per week)
  • Part-time over 24 months (2.5 days per week, 0.5 WTE)
  • Part-time over 30 months (2 days per week, 0.4 WTE)

Scope of Funding

  • Salary costs to cover the time undertaking the Fellowship
  • Up to £5,000 towards Master’s level training* and associated travel and subsistence
  • Up to £1,000 for conference/meeting fees and associated travel and subsistence
  • Up to £1000 Supervision and Mentorship costs

* If applicants are proposing the completion of a full Master’s degree as part of their training and development, it is possible to request a supplement to cover the Masters course fee if over and above the £5,000 limit.

2) Funding to support submission of a doctoral fellowship application and to undertake some training – the “PCAF Bridge”, a second stream of funding for individuals that do not need the level of training offered through the “standard” PCAF and are closer to being ready to submit a doctoral fellowship application, but who still require some support and the fellowship development time.

Award Uptake Options

  • 4 days per week for 6 months (0.8 WTE)
  • 2 days per week for 12 months (0.4 WTE)

Scope of Funding

  • salary costs to cover the time undertaking the Fellowship
  • up to £400 for formal courses and associated travel and subsistence
  • up to £500 for conference / meeting fees and associated travel and subsistence
  • up to £500 Supervision and Mentorship costs

Eligibility Criteria Changes

Applicants who have previously completed an HEE/NIHR ICA or CAT Masters Studentship are not eligible to apply for the “standard PCAF” but are welcome to apply to the new stream (the “PCAF Bridge).

Professional Development

Please note, given that the scheme supports aspiring clinical academics, all applicants are expected to be continuing to develop their career in their stated profession whilst undertaking the PCAF. This may be through the paid professional development time offered through the award or, if taking up the award part-time, through their current professional position, but must be clearly articulated in their application.

Useful Resource for Prospective Applicants

  • The Round 2 (2019) PCAF Applicant Guidance Notes are available from the ICA webpages. These provide details of the PCAF scheme, including the eligibility requirements, the funding available, the required employment arrangements and the assessment criteria used by the PCAF Selection Committee when reviewing applications. The Applicant Guidance Notes should be read in full before starting an application.

Please note – Updated Guidance Notes will be published with the launch of the Round 3 competition, which will include the changes details above. Applicants must ensure that they are referring to the most recent Applicant Guidance Notes when making an application.

  • The ICA Eligible Professions and Regulators are available via the ICA webpages.
  • The Applicants Guidance Notes for the HEE/NIHR ICA Clinical Doctoral Research Fellowship and the NIHR Doctoral Research Fellowship schemes are also available via the NIHR webpages. The guidance details the questions on the doctoral fellowship application form and the eligibility requirements for the scheme.
  • Current and Previous NIHR training award holders are listed on the NIHR web pages and may be a useful resource for prospective applicants wishing to link in with other non-medical clinical academics.
  • The NIHR Training Advocates are ambassadors for non-medical clinical academic careers and offer support to individuals beginning or continuing a research careers.
  • ICA Programme Bridging Scheme supports non-medical clinical academics to build on their previous academic training and to develop proposals for a doctoral or post- doctoral award, and to take the next step on their clinical academic pathway. Information on the bridging support in your region is available through the Health Education England Clinical Academic Careers webpages.

Annex A

PCAF Round 2 Summary

 

Number of Applications

Submitted

122

Eligible Submitted

122

Considered at the Funding Recommendation Meeting

122

Recommended for Funding

98

Funded

35

Success Rate

29%

PCAF Round 2 Applications by Region

Region

% of total applications

% of Total Applications Recommended for Funding

% of Total Applications in the top 35 Recommended for Funding

East Midlands

9.0

7.1

2.9

East of England

3.3

3.1

2.9

London

32.0

34.7

42.9

North East

4.9

5.1

5.7

North West

4.1

2.0

2.9

South Central

11.5

12.2

17.1

South East Coast

11.5

10.2

5.7

South West

7.4

9.2

8.6

West Midlands

5.7

5.1

8.6

Yorkshire and The
Humber

10.7

11.2

2.9

PCAF Round 2 Applications by Profession

Profession

% of total applications

% of Total Applications Recommended for Funding

% of Total Applications in the top 35 Recommended for Funding

Art Therapist

0.8

0.0 0.0
Chiropractor

0.8

0.0 0.0
Clinical Technologist

0.8

1.0 0.0

Dietitian

9.0

10.2

14.3

Healthcare Scientist

1.6

2.0

2.9

Midwife

8.2

10.2

8.6

Nurse

13.9

17.3

20.0

Occupational
Therapist

10.7

7.1

11.4

Orthoptist

1.6

1.0

2.9

Paramedic

0.8

1.0

0.0

Pharmacist

3.3

4.1

2.9

Physiotherapist

28.7

30.6

25.7

Podiatrist

1.6

2.0

2.9

Practitioner
Psychologist

1.6

2.0

0.0

Prosthetist / Orthotist

0.8

1.0

0.0

Radiographer
(Diagnostic)

2.5

1.0

0.0

Social Worker

0.8

0.0

0.0

Speech and
Language Therapist

12.3

9.2

8.6