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NIHR Global Advanced Fellowships Round 1 2024 - Guidance Notes

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Published: 18 January 2024

Version: January 2024

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Section 1: Introduction

The National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) is pleased to announce the first round of the Global Advanced Fellowships postdoctoral award which will meet the aims and ambitions set out in the following call guidance notes.

  • Award funding: Up to £750,000 over 2 to 5 years
  • Applicant: postdoctoral researcher working in applied global health
  • Contractor: UK Higher Education Institution (HEI) or Low and Middle Income Country (LMIC) HEI or Research Institution

The NIHR Global Advanced Fellowship awards support postdoctoral researchers in LMICs and the UK working in applied global health research. Round one of the Global Advanced Fellowships will launch on 16th April 2024. This is an annual scheme that is anticipated to launch around the same time each year.

This document provides full details of the NIHR Global Advanced Fellowship scheme, the means by which applications should be submitted, and how they will be assessed. You must ensure you have read this guidance before submitting an application.

Round 1 of the scheme opened for applications on 16 April 2024 and will close on 11 July 2024. Further guidance to support the completion of an application form is available; please refer to this guidance as you progress through the application form.

You may wish to refer to the NIHR Global Health Research Programmes Core Guidance for Applicants alongside the scheme specific guidance outlined in this document. 

We will be hosting a webinar to support applications. The webinar will run twice on Tuesday 23 April 2024:

A recording of the session will be available on YouTube.

Section 2: Background

The NIHR Global Health Research portfolio funds applied health research in areas of unmet need for the direct and primary benefit of people in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs).

It is underpinned by 3 principles which guide development and delivery:

  • Meet eligibility criteria as Official Development Assistance (ODA), i.e. funded research directly and primarily benefits people in ODA-eligible countries on the DAC-list
  • Deliver high-quality applied health research, building on the Principles of the NIHR: Impact, Excellence, Effectiveness, Inclusion, and Collaboration
  • Strengthen research capability and training through equitable partnerships

Further information on the NIHR Global Health Research portfolio is available on our Funding Awards website.

Section 3: About the Global Advanced Fellowships

Recognising a gap in the global health funding landscape for mid-career researchers, particularly for researchers employed in LMICs, the NIHR is launching a new Global Advanced Fellowship scheme. The scheme aims to address this gap by creating a sustainable pathway to research leadership for global health researchers at the postdoctoral level.

The NIHR Global Advanced Fellowships are postdoctoral awards that provide funding and support to individuals with the potential to become future leaders in global health research within the NIHR’s remit in LMICs and the UK. The Global Advanced Fellowship scheme will support any field of applied global health research for the direct and primary benefit of people living in one or more ODA-eligible country/ies.

The strategic aims of the NIHR Global Advanced Fellowship scheme are to:

  • Develop a pathway to research leadership for postdoctoral global health researchers
  • Support postdoctoral researchers to conduct a research project in a strategic area of applied global health and receive a bespoke training and development programme relevant to their needs
  • Strengthen institutional capacity for research in LMIC

The Global Advanced Fellowship is aimed at anyone working in global health with a PhD who hasn’t yet been awarded a Professorship/Chair. This call is open to applicants from both LMICs and the UK. Up to 10 NIHR Global Advanced Fellowships will be available in this first round. The Global Advanced Fellowship includes funding up to £750,000 over 2 to 5 years to support a research project in applied global health, salary costs, a personal training and development plan and wider institutional capacity strengthening.

You are eligible to apply for a Global Advanced Fellowship if you are someone who has recently been or about to be awarded a PhD, or someone with several years of postdoctoral experience. You are asked to indicate which of the following uses of a Global Advanced Fellowship best describes your application:

  • You have recently completed or soon to be awarded a PhD but are not established as an independent researcher.
  • You are either starting to establish yourself as an independent researcher, or are already established as an independent researcher but are not yet recognised as an international leader in your field.
  • You are looking to transition into applied health or social care research from a basic science or non-health/care research background.
  • You are seeking to re-establish a research career following a significant career break.

If you don’t fit with one of these descriptions, please contact the NIHR who will be happy to discuss your proposed application with you.

Your application will be assessed individually based on your experience and the opportunities that will have been available to you based on your professional background and circumstance. We recognise that career pathways and structures may vary in different countries. Please contact the NIHR if you have any queries surrounding your circumstances on academy-awards@nihr.ac.uk.

The NIHR strongly encourages applications from researchers employed by LMIC institutions and these applications will be given strategic priority. Applications received under this strategic priority will have to meet the same quality threshold required for funding, but will be given priority if the number of fundable applications exceeds the maximum that can be funded in this round. 

3.1 NIHR Academy Remit for personal awards

All research funded by the NIHR as part of a training award managed by the NIHR Academy must fall within the following remit:

  • The overallremitoftheNIHR is early translational (experimental medicine), clinical and applied health research, and social care research.
    1. Proposals must have clear potential for directly benefiting patients/service users, carers and the public (but recognising the training element of the research).
    2. Proposals can involve: patients/service users and/or carers; samples or data from these groups, other people who are not patients/service users and/or carers; populations; health technology assessment; or health or care services research.
    3. A clear and plausible path to patient /service user, carer or public benefit must, however, be demonstrable.
  • For domestic doctoral-level applications and applications to Global health programmes early translational (experimental medicine) research is not within remit. Doctoral level early translational (experimental medicine) research is funded through the NIHR early translational (experimental medicine) infrastructure and particularly the NIHR Biomedical Research Centre (BRC) training programmes.
  • NIHR does not support basic research or work involving animals or their tissue.
  • If the work involves biomarkers:
    1. research that tests whether application of new knowledge can improve treatment or patient outcomes, and has obvious direct potential benefit, is within remit; this might include application of known biomarkers, or other prognostic factors, to refine and test novel therapeutic strategies
    2. research that aims only to elucidate mechanisms underpinning disease, or identify risk factors for disease or prognosis (including search for biomarkers) is out of remit.

Section 4: Eligibility

4.1 ODA eligibility criteria

The NIHR Global Advanced Fellowship is funded by Official Development Assistance. Applications must directly and primarily benefit patients and the public in countries on the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s Development Assistance Committee List of ODA Recipients (OECD DAC list).

To meet ODA eligibility criteria, applications must demonstrate:

  • Which country or countries on the OECD DAC list of ODA eligible countries will directly benefit
  • How the application is directly and primarily relevant to the development challenges of those countries and
  • How the outcomes will promote the health and welfare of a country or countries on the OECD DAC list.

Where Middle Income Countries are included, the application must make a clear case for how the research will be of primary benefit to the development challenges of those countries, and how outcomes will promote health and welfare.

Where some elements of the research are not undertaken in an ODA-eligible country during the award (including where a country graduates from the DAC list during the lifetime of the award or there is a need for specialist expertise) the application must clearly state the reasons for this with due consideration to the benefit of the research to ODA-eligible countries.

Research that is primarily of benefit to patients and the public in the UK is not eligible for a Global Advanced Fellowship. You should refer to the NIHR Advanced Fellowship which launches in April and October each year.

Further information can be found in NIHR ODA Guidance for Researchers and in Global Health Research Programmes - Core Guidance for applicants and resources.

4.2 Individual eligibility 

To apply for a Global Advanced Fellowship you must:

  • Hold a relevant PhD or postgraduate medical research degree, or have submitted your thesis for examination at the time of application. You must have been awarded your PhD or postgraduate medical research degree by the time you attend interview.
  • Not already hold a Professorship/Chair at the point of application.
  • For clinical applications: have completed relevant pre-registration training.
  • Be employed by a Higher Education Institution (HEI) or Research Institute in a LMIC or a HEI in the UK
  • Be conducting research that directly and primarily benefit patients and the public in countries on the OECD DAC list.

The scheme is open to all health, public health and social care research and methodology professions.

For applicants who haven’t been awarded their PhD or postgraduate medical research degree, your primary supervisor will need to be added to the application form as a participant to confirm that your thesis has been submitted for examination. Written evidence of the award from the awarding body of the PhD or postgraduate medical research degree will be required prior to interview.

Please note that only applicants with research PhDs are eligible. Professional doctorates are not accepted. Please speak to NIHR should you have any queries about your eligibility.

Career background

Applications are welcomed from a broad range of clinical and non-clinical professional backgrounds including public health, social care and methodologists, including but not limited to:

  • Allied health professionals
  • Clinical psychologists
  • Dentists
  • Health economists
  • Healthcare scientists
  • Nurses
  • Methodologists
  • Midwives
  • Public health staff
  • Social care staff
  • Social scientists

For those not directly involved in delivering clinical, public health or care services, you will need to demonstrate how you will link with clinical, public health and care practice and policy colleagues in order to deliver your research for the benefit of patients, public health or social care users.

While the Global Advanced Fellowship cannot be used to fund clinical trials, individuals with experience in applied health/social care or clinical research can look to use the Advanced Fellowship to transition to become a future health/social care research leader competent in clinical trials. In this case the fellowship should provide a period of intense training in a wide range of subjects relevant to clinical trials and applicants are encouraged to partner with a Clinical Trials Unit (CTU) and undertake masters level training where appropriate. You are strongly encouraged to read the additional guidance for applicants looking to include research and/or research training relevant to clinical trials in their fellowship application, particularly the key skills for competent clinical trialists.

Advanced Fellowship applicants making a transition

The Global Advanced Fellowship can be used by people to support a transition in their research career. This may be from an area of basic science or non-health/social care related research into a research area within NIHR’s remit. If you are aiming to use the fellowship in this way, you must clearly articulate how the research project and training and development programme proposed will enable you to make the transition and must also describe the direction you see your research career going in as a result of the fellowship.

4.3 Institutional eligibility

Host organisation

The Host Organisation for the award will be your employing organisation; this should be a LMIC HEI or Research Institution or a UK HEI. The Host Organisation must be capable of fulfilling overall responsibility for proportionate, effective arrangements being in place to set up, run and report a research project. The host will act as the contracting organisation, meaning that it will be the recipient of the funds, and will ultimately be responsible for the delivery of the research. All funding must be routed through the host and it will be the responsibility of the host to undertake appropriate due diligence and instigate appropriate and relevant financial controls for any funding to be disbursed to partner organisations.

There is no limit to the number of applications that can be submitted per institution, however we do not expect to fund more than two awards per host institution per round.

If your host organisation is in an LMIC

  • The institution must be able to provide appropriate academic support throughout the length of your Fellowship such as: skills development, professional development activities, career development pathway and mentoring
  • The institution should have examples of recent research awards and a track record of research funding.
  • You may wish to include other LMIC partner organisation/s (see below)
  • The research outputs must be of direct and primary relevance to the health challenges of LMICs.

If your host organisation is in the UK (England and Devolved Administrations):

  • You must have at least one partner organisation in LMIC(s) (see below)
  • The research outputs must be of direct and primary relevance to the health challenges of LMICs

Partner organisation(s)

Undertaking research in an LMIC must be a large component of your proposal. You should either be based at or have links with collaborators or partners in institutions in countries on the OECD DAC list in which you plan to conduct research.

Partner organisations may be HEIs, research institutions, non-governmental or charity organisations that can support the delivery of your research. Your award should strengthen links between all organisations involved in your research and support research capacity strengthening in these institutions.

4.4 Research topic

Funding is available for any field of applied global health and public health research that meets the NIHR remit and ODA eligibility criteria.

However, we particularly encourage interdisciplinary applications addressing under-funded/under-researched areas which could have a significant impact on mortality/morbidity in LMICs.

Section 5: Scope and length of funding

Scheme specific finance guidance can be found in the application form guidance (which will be published in April 2024 when the scheme launches) .Our key principles for research supported by NIHR Global Health Research funding can be found in our GHR Finance Guidance.

5.1 Scope

NIHR Global Advanced Fellowships are individual training awards which will offer up to £750,000 funding towards the salary costs of the individual, and the costs of an appropriate research project and training and development programme.

The award consists of a package to support a Global Advanced Fellowship. This includes costs towards:

  • A research project
  • Salary
  • A support post (e.g. a PhD post)
  • Training and development, including £2000 per year conference related costs
  • Travel for fieldwork, collaboration and training
  • Institutional capacity strengthening (for LMIC host or partner institution)
  • Community Engagement and Involvement
  • Knowledge mobilisation and research uptake

5.2 Funding length

Fellowships are between 2 and 5 years in duration and may be taken up on a part-time basis between 50% and 100% WTE. Awards cannot be undertaken for less than 2 years (24 months) at 100% WTE, or longer than five years (60 months) at any WTE.

The Global Advanced Fellowship has been designed to be flexible to meet the needs of individual applicants, however this means that careful thought is needed as to the amount of support and duration of fellowship being requested. Requests should be justified and evidence based, and demonstrate the desired impact the fellowship will have on the applicant’s career trajectory.

Individuals are eligible to be awarded up to two Global Advanced Fellowships sequentially, not normally totalling more than 8 years WTE of funding. If you have previously been awarded an NIHR Advanced Fellowship you will be eligible to apply for one Global Advanced Fellowship with a duration that would not total more than 8 years WTE of funding for the two awards.

For this round fellowships will be available to start between 01 April 2025 and 01 October 2025. The start of NIHR Global Advanced Fellowships cannot be deferred.

Extensions will be considered where they enable completion of formal NIHR-funded training posts following a period of statutory leave. The length of any extension request should be reasonable and in line with local policies.

When considering the length of Global Advanced Fellowship, both in terms of WTE and the length of the award, careful thought should be given to the following:

  • Clear justification for the total length requested (between 2 and 5 years) and WTE requested, in terms of what the funding will enable you to do (both research and training) and more importantly what the impact of this will be on your career.
  • How the fellowship will be managed over the total duration of the award, taking into account (especially for longer awards) how the research and training programme will adapt to advances in the field and how suitable management and governance arrangements will be maintained over the whole duration of the award.

The award is a personal award and is not a project or programme grant. Therefore extensions to the duration of the award to allow for completion of research and/or development are not permitted.

5.3 Support post

As part of the award, you may include one research support post. Funding for this post can cover salary and training costs. The post may be a research assistant, PhD student or postdoctoral position, as appropriate based on your career stage. For example, if you have recently completed or are soon to be awarded a PhD but haven’t yet established yourself as an independent researcher, we would not expect you to include a postdoctoral support post in your application.

We encourage applicants to consider support posts based at LMIC host or LMIC partner institutions.

If you include a PhD post as your support post, funds can be requested for student fees for LMIC national students who are registered at an HEI in an ODA-eligible LMIC or high-income country (HIC). In cases where the application includes LMIC student fees at a UK or other HIC institution (often charged at higher rates for international students), it is expected that the applicant will negotiate with the HIC institution for reduced fees for the LMIC candidate to bring them in line with those paid by nationals. The application should show evidence of fees being reduced. NIHR would require justification where only partial or no LMIC student fee reductions have been achieved.

HIC HEI student fees or associated stipend costs are eligible only for ODA-eligible LMIC national students. Student fees or stipends for HIC national students would not be eligible, regardless of the programme and location of study.

In addition to fees, NIHR will make a maximum contribution of £3,000 (including any identified travel and subsistence) towards training and development costs for the support post.

Support posts’ contracts

Support posts will terminate with the end of the Fellowship, therefore early recruitment is recommended. Should any of the appointments extend beyond the term of the Fellowship, including for statutory reasons (maternity/paternity, adoption or sick leave), NIHR will cover reasonable costs and extensions will be considered to enable the completion of formal training awards.

Staff normally employed in a partner organisation to the host HEI or Research Institute would require a sub-contract or collaboration agreement between the host and partner organisations.

Where support staff will be based remotely from the NIHR Global Advanced Fellow for significant periods of time, whether in a UK or an LMIC HEI or Research Institute, appropriate provision must be set out to ensure sufficient support and supervision

5.4 Community Engagement and Involvement

Our vision for Community Engagement and Involvement (CEI) is that all global health research is undertaken in collaboration with the communities affected by the research outcomes. Marginalised groups must have a meaningful voice both in the research funding process, design, delivery and dissemination.

CEI may be known as patient and public involvement and engagement (PPIE) in some settings.

You must set out how you will involve the community you seek to serve in your budget. This could include, but is not limited to, establishment of community groups, meetings with community leaders, dissemination materials, and community media activities.

More information on CEI can be found in the NIHR GHR Core Guidance for applicants.

5.5 Travel

You can travel internationally for field work, collaboration and to ensure support and supervision. Support posts may also travel internationally where there is a clear rationale and research need for them to do so.

All such options or proposals must be justified in the application from a scientific, career development and finance perspective.

Value for money and environmental impact should also be considered including whether a trip is necessary and whether alternative cheaper options (e.g. tele-conferencing or video conferencing) offer a viable alternative.

5.6 Training, development, research support and mentoring

Global Advanced Fellowships include a bespoke training and development programme to meet individual needs. You should include both the training you may need to undertake the research being proposed, as well as training designed to support your development as a future health/social care research leader. Training may include, but is not limited to; formal courses, training in specialist skills and research methodologies, placements with other research groups or centres, leadership skills, conference attendance and overseas research visits. Training could also include development of education and teaching skills to support overall career development. This could involve formal education qualifications e.g. Postgraduate Certificate in Academic Practice. However, given the focus of personal research training fellowships, educational training shouldn't make up the majority of a training programme, with the focus being on research training.

For clinical/practice applicants, training and development may include time taken during the award to undertake clinical/practice work. Global Advanced Fellowships can request up to 40% WTE be allocated. You should make clear in your application what percentage of time is being requested and how any clinical/practice time being covered by the Fellowship links to and is complementary to the research being proposed.

Within your application you should identify individuals who can provide research support, also known as mentorship. We believe that you will benefit from research support or mentorship regardless of career stage or background. The research support or mentorship role will provide you with support throughout your Fellowship in both your research endeavours and your overall career development. It is a two-way process that may be challenging for both parties. For this reason, choosing who will provide research support or mentorship will require careful thought. The individuals who provide research support may or may not be based in your host organisation. They should, however, have a clear understanding of the research process, the demands your chosen area of training and development are likely to place on you, and your particular strengths and weaknesses.

You will be required to name a minimum of one and maximum of four individuals to provide research support or mentorship. At least 50% of the individuals must be based in an LMIC institution.

Funding is not available for fees or salaries for research support/mentorship, however the applicant can include travel and subsistence for themselves to meet with their research support/mentors if required.

5.7 Research Costs

We support clinical and applied health research, public health research with clear potential for benefiting patients, public health and care users and carers in LMICs. The research can involve:

  • patients
  • the public
  • care users and/or carers; and/or their samples or data
  • populations
  • health technology assessment
  • health services research

5.8 Institutional capacity strengthening

Global Advanced Fellowships must include support for research capacity strengthening at the institutional level. This element should be focussed on building long-term, sustainable research capacity in the LMIC institution named in the application (either the host or partner institution). Activities should be identified and developed in partnership with the LMIC host or partner institution and they may include:

  • Training and development for research support staff (for example, finance, HR, data managers, grant managers, project managers, technicians)
  • Establishing or strengthening institutional systems for coaching, mentoring and/or peer-mentorship.
  • Strengthening and sustaining support systems, such as IT and libraries

As the Global Advanced Fellowship is a personal award, we expect that no more than 5% of the total budget should be allocated to the institutional capacity strengthening element of your application.

Section 6: Assessment criteria

Applications for Global Advanced Fellowships are assessed on the following criteria:

6.1 Person 

  • The likelihood that you will make a long-term contribution to applied health research, capacity building and research leadership in your chosen field in the OECD DAC list country or countries in which you will be working
  • The outputs from and impact of the research you have undertaken to date considering the context, circumstances and opportunities available to you
  • Your success in securing funds for your research to date
  • Demonstration of how the award will contribute to an upward career path to become a global health/social care researcher
  • For early career postdoctoral applicants or those transitioning into applied health/social care research: evidence of commitment to a career as a researcher in applied health or social care research
  • For more experienced postdoctoral applicants: evidence of independence or starting to establish independence as a researcher, including establishing collaborations and building research capacity
  • The projected impact of the NIHR Global Advanced Fellowship on your future career path

6.2 Project

  • The quality of the proposed research project
  • The suitability of the proposed partnership/s for the research and your development
  • Evidence as to why a specific issue or discipline has been identified for further research
  • Quality and scope of review of existing evidence
  • Evidence that the proposed research programme and partnership(s) has addressed this need
  • Suitability and standard of methodology and research design to answer the research question being proposed
  • Likely impact of the research to patients/service users, carers, the public and health and/or care services
  • Demonstration that your CEI approach is appropriate and effective in the local context and for your study design.
  • Relevance of research to patients/service users, carers, the public and health and/or care services
  • Evidence of relevant collaborations and partnerships to support the application.
  • The amount of support requested is justified and evidence based (both financial and duration of the Fellowship) and whether the total funding requested represents good value for the use of public/NIHR funds
  • The long-term impact of the institutional capacity strengthening component for the LMIC host or partner institution(s)
  • The research meets ODA eligibility criteria and is directly and predominantly relevant to improving the health of people in countries on the DAC list
  • Quality of plain English summary

6.3 Host (employing) organisation

  • Examples of recent research awards and a track record of research funding
  • Standard and level of employing organisation’s support and commitment to the applicant, including evidence of supporting other early career researchers
  • Track record of Host Department(s) in the research area being proposed
  • The commitment of the host and partner institutions to enabling research uptake
  • A strong track record in global health, public health or social care, and evidence of relevant and substantive LMIC collaborations and partnerships to support the application. Evidence of input by collaborators to the content and design of the proposed research programme, and an outline of how they will be equitably engaged throughout implementation, analysis, reporting and dissemination
  • Evidence of the employing organisation(s) commitment to creating and maintaining an inclusive and supportive research culture, including evidence of commitment to the principles of equality, diversity and inclusion and research integrity.

6.4 Training and development

  • Quality and relevance of the academic training and development plan proposed
  • The suitability of the proposed training to the needs of the project
  • Where relevant, the extent to which the proposed practice activities will support the development of the applicant as a global health researcher
  • The extent to which the training and development plan will support the career aspirations of the applicant
  • Suitability and experience of research support and mentoring team

Section 7: Application Procedure

Applications will be screened for eligibility by NIHR. Eligible applications will be considered by a Funding Committee. Applications will then be reviewed by external peer reviewers. Finally, shortlisted applicants will be invited to interview.

We will inform you as soon as possible after a decision has been taken to invite you to interview following eligibility checks and shortlisting.

If you are selected for interview you will usually be notified of the decision as soon as possible after funding arrangements have been confirmed.

The Funding Committee will rank fundable applications based on the assessment criteria scores.

The Funding Committee’s recommendations will be considered by the UK Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC). DHSC final funding decisions will be based on ranking based on assessment criteria, available budget, overall portfolio balance, alignment with relevant UK Government policies, NIHR strategic priorities, and institutional balance.

7.1 Application Timetable

  • Competition opens April 2024
  • Submission of online applications closes July 2024
  • Interviews held virtually January 2025
  • Awards start between April and October 2025

7.2 Start Dates

Fellowships must start on the first of the month. For this round fellowships will be available to start between 01 April 2025 and 01 October 2025.

Applicants looking to start their fellowship later than 01 October 2025 should apply to the next round of the competition, launching in April 2025.

Section 8: Completing an online application

Applications for Round 1 of the Global Advanced Fellowships will open in April 2024.

At this time additional guidance will be published to support the completion of an online application form in the NIHR online application system ARAMIS.

Image description: Application submission Process Flow Diagram Step 1: Application created, Step 2: Applicant adds participant and signatory details, Signatories and Participants log in and confirm their participation, Signatories and Participants complete sections of the form where applicable, Step 3 Applicant continues entering data completing all the relevant sections of the form, Step 4: applicant presses the submit button, Step 5: Automated emails sent to notify signatories, Step 6 Once all signatories have approved the application it is automatically submitted to the NIHR for consideration (rejection of the application by any individual at step 6 will return the application to Step 3).

Section 9: General advice

  • All submissions via the online application system must be in English.
  • Applications will not be accepted if submitted after the exact closing date and time. The system will automatically prevent this from happening.
  • It is your responsibility to allow sufficient time to submit an application and signatory sign off.
  • Refer to the scheme's application form guidance notes.
  • You must contact the NIHR Global Health team by emailing academy-awards@nihr.ac.uk or call 0113 532 8444 (Option 4) immediately if you think there is a system problem, whilst attempting to continue with your submission.
  • This document should be read with the Global Health Research Programmes - Core Guidance for Applicants for further guidance.