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NIHR Pre-doctoral Fellowship Round 3 Chair’s Report


Published: 03 December 2021

Version: 1.0 December 2021

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The NIHR Academy launched the third round of the Pre-doctoral Fellowship as part of the newly restructured NIHR Fellowship Programme, funded by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC). 

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 3 Competition

January 2021

The third round of the Pre-doctoral Fellowship award launched on 28 January 2021 and closed to applications on 25 March 2021. 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. Each eligible application was then assessed by two individual Selection Committee members.

Round 3 of the Pre-Doctoral Fellowship was selected alongside the ICA Pre-Doctoral Clinical Academic Fellowship to undertake a scoring pilot developed to make it easier to judge/asses applications at the Funding Recommendation/Interview stage of the application process. The old ‘ABCD’ scoring system was replaced with a purely numerical system. All Pre-Doctoral Fellowship applications were still scored against the quality of the Candidate, Host and Supervision and Training & Development.

The 1-5 scoring for each section was expanded to 1-10. In turn, the A-D grades were replaced by the total score calculated from all three sections. The mean score from the two reviewers was then calculated and used to decide which applications were deemed fundable.

The Selection Committee Funding Recommendation Meeting was held on 3rd June 2021. During this meeting, each application was discussed in an order based on the selection committee’s assessment scores. Following these discussions, 39 applications were confirmed as fundable. Each application was given a ranked position with 1 being the highest and 39 the lowest.

Following a review of the indicative budget for the programme, the NIHR Academy recommended that all 39 fundable applications were funded. This recommendation was approved by the Department of Health and Social Care on 18th Jun 2021.

Selection Committee Observations

During the assessment of the applications in Round 3, 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:

Mixed Methods and Qualitative Research Applications

The Selection Committee noted that applications in Mixed Methods and Qualitative Research tended to be less convincing compared to applications from other methodologies. They advise that applicants wanting to pursue a career in these areas of research garner a good understanding of what they entail, both at early career level and as an established academic, before submitting an application.

Award Duration

Applicants who choose a 24 month fellowship duration without undertaking a full master’s degree should ensure that they have a fully comprehensive training and development plan to justify why the full time allowance is necessary.

Resources for Prospective Applicants

  • The Round 3 (2021) NIHR Pre-doctoral Fellowship Award Guidance Notes are available from the NIHR Personal Awards webpages 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 non-medical 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 3 Summary

Table 1: Summary of Pre-doctoral Round 3 applications and awards
Applied 56
Eligible 56
Withdrawn 0
Recommended for Funding 39
Awarded 39
Table 2: Methodology spread and success rates (Pre-doctoral Fellowship Round 3 applications and awards)
MethodologyTotalPercentage (%)RecommendedPercentage (%)
Health Economics 5 8.9 3 7.7
Medical Statistics 21 37.5 19 48.7
Clinical Trial Design 3 5.4 2 5.1
Operational Research 0 0 0 0
Modelling 5 8.9 3 7.7
Bioinformatics 5 8.9 2 5.1
Qualitative Research 4 7.1 3 7.7
Mixed Methods 11 19.6 6 15.4
Epidemiology 2 2.6 1 2.6
TOTAL 56 100 39 100