Research Design Service: East Midlands
National Institute for Health Research
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NIHR Fellowship tips

  Created on Thursday, 16 Jun 2016. Posted in Funding Tips

The following documents tips and highlights from the NIHR Fellowship webinar (16 June)

Tip 1: You must demonstrate impact in your application
Fellowships like any other NIHR funded projects have to fall within the remit of the NIHR. This means that they have to be people based, applied health or social care research projects with the potential to have impact on the needs of the public within 5 years of completion.

Tip 2: Demonstrate that you have the commitment and potential to be a leader
The NIHR ‘fellowships for all’ are aimed at doctoral level and above and are personal research training awards. They require various levels of experience and research outputs but the panels are all looking for evidence of a candidate’s commitment to a research career and their potential to inspire others and become a future leader.

Tip 3: Embed public involvement throughout your application
As with other NIHR funding streams the fellowships take public involvement very seriously. It is important not only that you have thought about involvement but it needs to be woven throughout your application and not added as an afterthought! The RDS administers a small Public Involvement Fund award which can be used to enable early public involvement activity in the design process and may serve to strength your bid substantially.

Tip 4: Have you application peer reviewed!
Remember the plain English summary is the first thing that the panel will be reading. You need to make sure that it’s well written and concisely conveys your ideas. Something that is being advised more and more is to have your application peer reviewed, be it by supervisors, senior academics, mentors, colleagues or the RDS. Constructive feedback will only prove to strengthen your application and get you thinking about the issues that your project faces from a different perspective. Ideally you’d resolve any flaws before submitting to the panel giving your application the best chance of success.

Tip 5: Do your research and look at past funded fellowships and feedback documents
Of course it always helps to know your audience. The NIHR TCC website holds lists of previous award holders, panel members and funded topics. There is also a collection of chaired reports from the panels which list general feedback on common mistakes made in applications. The recent fellowship webinar which inspired this blog along with audience questions is also posted on the site and can give you vital background information to inform your application.

More generally fellowship application success depends on 5 areas: PPPTS
P – Person:
Where are you in your research career? Your CV, outputs and network/collaborations will all create a story and need to show your journey towards a research career. Sometimes you may need to do some additional work to make yourself fellowship ready! But remember that outputs are not exclusively journal publications they can be posters, conference presentations and other engagement activities.

P – Project:
As with other funding streams you’ll need to demonstrate a need for the research and show that the methodology suggested will answer the question. Very important is that it is achievable within the timeframe. Evaluation is also an important part of the project.

P – Place:
Pick the right place for you - ask: Is this a leading centre for my type of work? Do they have experience of successful NIHR fellows?
You need somewhere that has a good name but also shows commitment to helping researchers develop their career.

T- Training:
The fellowships are research training awards and as such training plays a vital role in the application. The training must be at the appropriate level and can vary from training in a specific skill or method to help with your research project; to management and leadership training so that you can inspire others. The timing of the training is also really important and should be scheduled before you need the ‘new skill’ in the project. It is also encouraged that candidates think outside the box and search for appropriate external sources of training rather than stick to what is offered by their hosting institute.

S – Supervision:
Don’t choose your supervisor as an afterthought – you have to work long periods together and they need to have the time to support you. It is possible to have more than one supervisor and they can be from different locations, however each must bring something unique to the table that will help support your mentorship.

Fellowships are about the development of a person.
Applications need to show how gaining the award will have an impact on you and take you to the next step of being a research leader.

Writing an application takes time so get in touch with your RDS as soon as possible to talk over which fellowship would suit you best and get the ball rolling. For those that get invited to interview RDS can provide you with a mock interview experience so that you are fully prepared on the day! Our panel will put you through the rigours of an interview and ask the tough questions that you might be faced with on the day.