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NIHR Pre-doctoral Fellowship Round 1 Chairs’ Report




The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Academy launched the first round of the Pre-doctoral Fellowship as part of the newly restructured NIHR Fellowship Programme, funded by the Department of Health and Social Care.

The new NIHR Fellowship Programme supports individuals with the potential and on a trajectory to become future leaders in NIHR research. The programme has been designed to support people at various points in their development to become leading researchers; from initial pre-doctoral training right through to senior post-doctoral research. Four different types of Fellowship are available:

  • Pre-doctoral Fellowship
  • Doctoral Fellowship
  • Advanced Fellowship
  • Development and Skills Enhancement Award

Pre-doctoral Fellowships are designed to support people who are looking to start or advance a career in health research methodology; specifically in one of the following areas:

  • Medical statistics
  • Health economics
  • Clinical trial design
  • Operational research
  • Modelling
  • Bioinformatics
  • Qualitative research
  • Mixed methods

The fellowship’s call for applications is launched annually in late January early February.


Pre-doctoral Fellowship Award Round 1 Competition

February 2019

The first Pre-doctoral Fellowship award launched on 11 February 2019 and closed on 24 April 2019. The numbers of applications received and awards made are detailed in Annex A. Following the close of competition, the NIHR Academy checked all applications for eligibility and to identify applications clearly outside of NIHR remit. All eligible applications were then assessed by two individual Selection Committee members.

The Funding Recommendation meeting took place on 03 July 2019 to discuss the Round 1 applications and make recommendations for funding. Each application was discussed in order based on the reviewer’s scores. Following review of the indicative budget for the programme, the NIHR Academy recommended that all 30 fundable applications are funded. All 30 applications were approved for funding by the Department of Health and Social Care.

Selection Committee Observations and Changes

During the funding recommendation meeting the Selection Committee discussed a number of changes which would improve the applications which are submitted for the fellowship. The key observations from Round 1 were:
  • A number of epidemiological focused applications were received.
The selection committee and the NIHR Academy Executive agreed that Epidemiology should be included as a discipline.
  • Level of detail provided about supervisors and their track record.
It was discussed in the funding recommendation meeting that not all applications included enough detail regarding the named supervisor(s) track record. The selection committee would like to see information regarding how many students named supervisors have supervised through to completion and how many they are currently supervising. The supervisor statement is very important to your application and it should ensure that you as the applicant have the support necessary to complete the fellowship and nurture you into a future health research methodologist.
  • Degrees not awarded at the time of application.

If your degree has not been awarded at the time of applying please provide a good indication of predicted grade and your supervisor should also mention this in their supporting statement.
Based on these observations a number of changes have been made to this round. The changes that were suggested are as follows:
  • Include epidemiology as a listed discipline in the guidance notes; as a number of applications were focussed on epidemiology as a discipline, the selection committee and NIHR Academy Executive agreed that epidemiology listed in the guidance notes.
  • A second supervisor is now mandatory; as a number of applications were let down by having weak supervision, the selection committee suggested making a second supervisor mandatory. NIHR Academy Executive agreed that a mandatory second supervisor would enhance all applications and ensure that awardees, particularly at this early stage in their academic career, received sufficient supervision and mentorship.

Resources for Prospective Applicants

The Round 1 (2019) NIHR Pre-doctoral Award Guidance Notes are available from the NIHR Programmes webpages. These provide full details of the Pre-doctoral award scheme, including the eligibility requirements, the funding available, the required employment arrangements and the assessment criteria used by the 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 2 competition. Applicants must ensure that they are referring to the most recent Applicant Guidance Notes when making an application.

The Building a Research Career Handbook has been designed to support aspiring clinical academics and their managers to make the most of the funding opportunities available and to help clinicians who are interested in becoming involved in research but do not know where to begin.

Current and previous NIHR training award holders are listed on the NIHR webpages and may be a useful resource for prospective applicants wishing to link in with other nonmedical clinical academics.

Annex A

Pre-doctoral Fellowship Award Round 1 Summary







Recommended for funding