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NIHR Pre-doctoral Local Authority Fellowship Scheme Summary for Managers


Published: 25 February 2022

Version: 1.0 Feb 2022

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What is the PLAF?

The Pre-doctoral Local Authority Fellowship (PLAF) scheme is one element of the NIHR’s wider Local Authority Academic Fellowship Programme. This initiative has been designed to facilitate service benefitting research within local authority settings by supporting the academic ambitions of individuals wishing to develop as health and/or social care researchers whilst remaining employed within local authorities or local authority supporting services.

The PLAF scheme supports award holders to undertake a programme of research training and project development whilst continuing to work.

A PLAF award funds the awardee’s salary for up to one year WTE whilst they:

  • undertake a programme of award funded research training and associated personal development;

  • attend award funded conferences and develop networks and collaborations;

  • develop a PhD proposal with support from an academic supervisor and award funded public involvement and engagement activities.

How does it work?

The PLAF is a Personal Research Training Award and an application must be made by the prospective awardee. Applicants do, however, require the support of a Host Organisation - an organisation that will provide the necessary infrastructure to enable the undertaking of the funded training and development programme and that will support the awardee to develop as a researcher and a practitioner in parallel.

The Host Organisation:

  • will employ the awardee for the hours and duration of the award;

  • can be a:

    • local authority

    • provider of local authority commissioned services

    • nonprofit organisation (such as a charity) that provides services on behalf of a local authority, or that otherwise supports a local authority in meeting its objectives

    • english university or university college;

  • does not have to be the applicant’s current employer.

It is anticipated that most applicants will propose that their fellowship is hosted by their current employer, and the award structure is designed with this preference in mind.


What are the benefits for the Host Organisation?


A PLAF funds the salary of the award holder, freeing the Host to backfill the award holder’s role whilst they are undertaking the research training.

Paid practice time / supernumeracy

20% of PLAF award time can be spent undertaking professional practice/development.  Awardees will be supernumerary within their department for this component of the fellowship, with their salary being paid by the award.

Enhanced research literacy, capacity and capability

PLAF awardees develop research skills and experience that are more broadly applicable than to their own research interests and projects. This enhanced research literacy can facilitate the adoption of evidence-based practice, even in areas not directly related to the research area of the awardee.  As research champions, awardees will act as research advocates and support awareness raising across their services and beyond, develop the research skills of colleagues, and further enhance research capacity and capability at the Host Organisation.

Staff retention and recruitment

Research training opportunities are attractive to experienced health and care professionals.  Supporting access to research training opportunities has been found to improve retention of senior and/or experienced staff and make departments more attractive to prospective employees.

Attainment of research strategy objectives

Supporting access to research training awards such as the PLAF can help an organisation achieve its research strategy objectives, improve local care outcomes, and create demonstrable linkage between the two.

Strengthening academic partnerships

Research training awards such as the PLAF serve to strengthen and formalise links with universities,  facilitating further and broader cooperation and engagement.

Increased research profile

NIHR research training awards are prestigious and will raise the research profile of the Host Organisation.


Who at the Host Organisation is required to engage in the submission of a PLAF application?

Finance Manager

A finance manager is required to support the costing of the PLAF application and to confirm, via a declaration on the application form, that the finances it contains are accurate.

Head of Department/Directorate/Service or other appropriate Senior Manager

This senior individual at the Host Organisation is required to confirm, via a declaration on the application form, that they support the application.  Following submission of the application, the same individual is required to “sign off” the submitted application.

This individual is also required to write a ‘Statement of Support’ for inclusion within the application form, which details the organisation’s support for the applicant and their undertaking of the training and development programme proposed.


What is required of the Host Organisation if an application is successful?

Award payments will be made to the Host Organisation, which will be responsible for managing award funds and making payments to external bodies for training and conference attendance funded through the award.

In addition, the Host Organisation will be required to submit financial reports of award spend to the NIHR on request.

These responsibilities will be covered by a standard contract with the Department of Health and Social Care, which the Host Organisation must be party to.


Funding available through a PLAF award

Two distinct funding offers are available through the PLAF scheme, allowing applicants to choose the level of support most appropriate to their individual requirements:


Full salary costs for fellowship hours:

  • Full time for 12 months

  • 2.5 days per week for 24 months

  • 2 days per week for 30 months

Up to £5000 towards Masters level training and any associated travel and subsistence

Up to £1000 for conference/meeting fees and any associated travel and subsistence

Research development support costs up to £1000 (PI&E* costs and travel for supervision)

PLAF Bridge

Full salary costs for fellowship hours:

  • 4 days per week for 6 months

  • 2 days per week for 12 months 

Up to £400 towards Masters level training and any associated travel and subsistence

Up to £500 for conference/meeting fees and any associated travel and subsistence

Research development support costs up to £500 (PI&E* costs and travel for supervision)

* Public, Service User and Carer Involvement and Engagement