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NIHR Pre-doctoral Fellowship Round 2 Chair’s Report

Contents

Introduction

The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Academy launched the second 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 or more of the following areas:
  • Medical statistics
  • Health economics
  • Clinical trial design
  • Operational research
  • Modelling
  • Bioinformatics
  • Qualitative research
  • Mixed methods
  • Epidemiology
The fellowship’s call for applications is launched annually in late January early February. 

Pre-doctoral Fellowship Award Round 2 Competition 

January 2020

The second round of the Pre-doctoral Fellowship award launched on 30 January 2020. The competition call was scheduled to close on 26 March 2020; however, due to Government COVID-19 restrictions and closures announced in March the closing date for submission of applications was extended by two weeks to 9 April 2020. Submission rules around authorisation of participation from supervisors and submission from Host signatories were also relaxed, allowing candidates to submit this information after the closing date.

The numbers of applications received and awards made are detailed in Annex A. Following the close of the 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.

Due to the extended submission deadline, the date of the Selection Committee Funding Recommendation Meeting, originally scheduled for 2 June 2020, was moved to 1 July 2020. During this meeting each application was discussed in an order based on the selection committee’s assessment scores and following these discussions 35 applications were confirmed as fundable. Each application was given a ranked position with 1 being the highest and 35 the lowest.

Following a review of the indicative budget for the programme, the NIHR Academy recommended that 30 of the 35 fundable applications were funded. All 30 applications were approved for funding by the Department of Health and Social Care.

The candidates who were placed in rank order 31-35 received feedback confirming that although their application was fundable it was not ranked highly enough to be funded with the monies at the Fellowship Programme's disposal. These candidates were also informed that, because their application was fundable but not funded, it would not be counted towards the maximum of 2 application attempts.

Selection Committee Observations

During the assessment of the applications the selection committee highlighted the following observations with the intention of providing future pre-doctoral applicants some general points to consider when preparing an application.
  • Training and Development
    The selection committee stressed the importance of a high quality and comprehensive training programme that clearly demonstrates how it will support the candidate’s future career pathway. It is also advised that a Gantt chart is submitted with the application to make it clear when the training is taking place during the proposed award.
  • Supervisory Team
    Round 2 of the NIHR Pre-doctoral Fellowship saw the inclusion of a mandatory second supervisor as part of the application. The selection committee noted that at least one supervisor should have expertise in the candidate’s chosen field of methodology and that applications should demonstrate each supervisor’s experience by including the current number of masters and PhD students that they are supervising and the number of students they have supervised to completion. Applications should also clearly describe the support supervisors will provide throughout the fellowship.
  • Host Institution
    Applications to the pre-doctoral programme should demonstrate the host’s track record in supporting aspiring methodologists and describe how the organisation intends to support the applicant to complete their training plan and develop their research career in the long term.

Resources for Prospective Applicants 

  • The NIHR Pre-doctoral Fellowship Award Guidance Notes are available from the NIHR Fellowships Programme webpage which provide full details of the 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 Guidance Notes should be read in full before starting an application.
Please note – updated Guidance Notes will be published with the launch of each competition.  Applicants must ensure that they are referring to the most recent Applicant Guidance Notes when making an application. 
  • Current and previous NIHR career development award holders are listed on the NIHR Funding and Awards webpages and may be a useful resource for prospective applicants wishing to link in with other nonmedical clinical academics.

  • NIHR Your Path in Research webpages provides information about undertaking a career development award with the NIHR Academy and how to enhance your research career.

Annex A

Pre-doctoral Fellowship Award Round 2 Summary 

Table 1: Summary of Pre-doctoral Round 2 applications and awards
 
ApplicationsTotal
Applied 60
Eligible 60
Withdrawn 2
Recommended for Funding 35
Awarded 30
 
Table 2: Methodology spread and success rates (Pre-doctoral Fellowship Round 2 applications and awards)
 
Methodology TotalPercentage (%)RecommendedPercentage (%)
Health Economics 8 13.3  20.0 
Medical Statistics 17  28.3  12  40.0 
Clinical Trial Design 8.3  0.0 
Operational Research 3.3  0.0 
Modelling 1.7  3.3 
Bioinformatics 6.7  6.7 
Qualitative Research 6.7 10.0 
Mixed Methods 15  25.0  20.0 
Epidemiology 6.7 0.0 
TOTAL 60  100 30  100