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NIHR Fellowships 2018 Chairs Report




Round 11 of the NIHR Fellowships Programme was launched in October 2017. The Doctoral Research Fellowship scheme closed 19th December 2017 and the Post Doctoral levels closed 5th December 2017. A similar number of applications were received for round 11 of the programme compared to previous years.

Details of the total number of applications received and the numbers awarded funding are given below.

Round 11, 2018






















Chairs’ feedback and observations

Overall the Panels were pleased with the high standard of applications to this round of the programme. A number of common themes did emerge during the assessment of the applications and details of these are given below with the intention of providing applicants applying to future rounds of the programme some general points to consider when putting together an application.

Ownership of the project, particularly at Doctoral level, wasn’t always apparent. Whilst the Panel expect that applicants will have had help and support when preparing a Fellowship application it very important that the applicant has ownership of the research they are presenting and that this comes across at interview and in the application form.

When proposing to include a systematic review as part of an application it is very important that the rationale and justification for undertaking the review is made clear as this wasn’t always the case in this round. More senior post-doctoral applicants are expected to have completed a systematic review or reference a recent relevant one in advance of making an application to undertake primary research.

At Doctoral level applicants should consider carefully the type of outputs they can include to support their application. Where applicants don’t already have peer reviewed publications against their name, they can also think about including other types of publications which 2 highlight their ability to write, for example opinion pieces in professional journals. Doctoral applications should also ensure the experience of their supervisory team is clear in terms of their previous record of supervising doctoral students through to completion of a PhD. Applicants should also ensure they think carefully about the mix of experience in their supervisory team, making sure the key elements are covered. For example someone who can provide input and expertise on the methods being used as well as someone with relevant experience in the disease area being investigated. It became very apparent that this hadn’t always been fully considered by applicants who included a qualitative study as part of a larger programme of work. If including a qualitative study, even if a minor part of the Fellowship, it is important that suitable supervision is included in the application.

When attending for interview, applicants are advised to focus purely on the research they are proposing and a maximum of 1 slide for training and development. The Panels don’t want to see presentations which focus more on the achievements and CV of the applicant themselves.

As always, applicants who are returning with a second application having previously been unsuccessful should carefully consider feedback before reapplying. In particular it is important to think about how any changes affect the application overall. For example where including new elements in response to Panel feedback think carefully about whether other elements need to come out to ensure the project overall is still feasible.

At post-doctoral level, particularly for more senior post-doctoral applicants it is important the reason for applying for a fellowship is clear as opposed to applying for a research grant. The added value a fellowship will provide to the applicant’s career must be articulated and supported by a strong training and development programme. Data on Round 11 1. Applications to the NIHR Fellowships Programme from 2009-18*.

Data on Round 11

1. Applications to the NIHR Fellowships Programme from 2009-18*.

2. Applications to the NIHR Fellowships Programme by Profession from 2009-18.

3. % Success rate of applicants by professional background**.

*Please note NIHR TRFs were launched for the first time in 2013.

**Please note this chart (1) should be considered alongside chart 2 which shows application numbers, due to the small number of applications from certain backgrounds


DRF: Doctoral Research Fellowship

PDF: Post-Doctoral Fellowship

CDF: Career Development Fellowship

SRF: Senior Research Fellowship

TRF: Transitional Research Fellowship

NM: Nurses and Midwives

AHP: Allied Health Professionals

OHC: Other Healthcare Professionals

NHC: Non Healthcare Professionals