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NIHR Pre-Doctoral Fellowship Round 4 Chair's Report


Published: 24 January 2023

Version: 1.0

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The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) launched the fourth round of the Pre doctoral Fellowship as part of 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 methodologies; specifically in one or more of the following areas: 

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

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

Pre-doctoral Fellowship Award Round 4 Competition January 2022 

The fourth round of the Pre-doctoral Fellowship award launched on 27 January 2022 and closed to applications on 17 March 2022. The numbers of applications received and awards made are detailed in Annex A. Following the close of the competition, the NIHR 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 4 saw the continuation of the scoring pilot alongside the HEE/NIHR ICA Pre-Doctoral Clinical Academic and Practitioner Academic Fellowship. The 1-5 scoring for each section was expanded to 1-10 and 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 19 May 2022 at the NIHR offices in Leeds. During this meeting, each application was discussed in an order based on the selection committee’s assessment scores. Following these discussions, 52 out of 69 applications were confirmed as fundable. Each fundable application was given a ranked position with 1 being the highest and 52 the lowest.

Following a review of the indicative budget for the programme, the NIHR recommended that all 52 fundable applications were funded. This recommendation was approved by the Department of Health and Social Care on 29 June 2022.

47 out of the 52 deemed fundable accepted their award, and have started (or are due to start) their fellowship between 01 September 2022 – 01 March 2023.

Selection Committee Observations

During the assessment of the applications in Round 4, 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 Applications

The Selection Committee highlighted that once again, applications in Mixed Methods tended to be less convincing compared to applications from other methodologies. It is imperative that foundational training/experience in Qualitative and Quantitative methods has been completed prior to submitting a Mixed Methods application.

Methodological Career

The NIHR Pre-Doctoral Fellowship is not only for undertaking methodological training; the commitment to a future career within your selected methodological field needs to be well articulated in the application, and the justification for how this fellowship will set you on course for a future career in research methods should be clearly evident to the Selection Committee.

Resources for Prospective Applicants

The latest set of Guidance Notes for the NIHR Pre-doctoral Fellowship are available from the NIHR 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.

Annex A: Pre-doctoral Fellowship Award Round 4 Summary

Table 1

Summary of Pre-doctoral Round 4 applications and awards

Number who applied: 70
Number who were eligible: 70
Number withdrawn: 1
Recommended for funding: 52
Awarded: 52

Table 2

Methodology spread and success rates (Pre-doctoral Fellowship Round 4 applications and awards)

 MethodologyTotal Applications Received%Fundable%Recommended%
Bioinformatics 5 7.2 1 1.9 1 1.9
Clinical Trial Design 3 4.3 3 5.8 3 5.8
Epidemiological Methods 9 13.0 5 9.6 5 9.6
Health Economics 5 7.3 5 9.6 5 9.6
Medical Statistics 28 40.6 23 44.2 23 44.2
Mixed Methods 12 17.4 9 17.3 9 17.3
Modelling 4 5.8 3 5.8 3 5.8
Operational Research 0 0 0 0 0 0
Qualitative 3 4.3 3 5.8 3 5.8
Total 69 100 52 100 52 100