Masterclass: 10 Top Tips for Winning a National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) fellowship award

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This week, I have been engaging with National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) funders, in a ‘bid’ to learn more about the fellowships currently available to researchers. This masterclass was held at @unibirmingham, and it really was a great opportunity to speak to the funders and get some sound advice on how and what to apply for. In this blog I will share 10 top tips which have been formulated as a result of attending this masterclass. I hope this may help other applicants (like myself) to maximise their chance of success.

  1. Firstly, know which type of award is best for you and your future plans and ideas. I will be applying for a post-doctoral fellowship as an early career researcher.

 

Image result for NIHR FELLOWSHIP success rates

 

2. Contact the Research Design Service early…talk through your ideas, take advice and learn all you can. This service can point you towards other team members, experts to talk to and new ways of thinking. They can be involved at every stage of your application and they really do give great feedback.

3. Once you have the basics of your project together, think about designing the right team. If you are planning at RCT for instance, who is on your team who can help you with that? Do they have the right expertise? Seek out the right mentors, collaborate outside of your institution, start building relationships with people who you can work with throughout your fellowship (and hopefully throughout your career)! The NIHR want to see that you will be well supported to succeed.

 

What are the chances of success?

Competition is fierce! – Make sure you stand out!

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4. Make your application logical, clear and really show that you can demonstrate the impact and trajectory of your research. How will you disseminate your research (other than papers and social media) – Could you make a film? Hold a dissemination event? Additionally, make sure you answer every section in detail and check your application against the current guidance materials.

See full and official NIHR guidance here

5. Set out your own personal career goals and create a comprehensive training plan. This is where most applications fail. This is not just a list of courses you will take. This is about who will mentor you, where you will learn, can you arrange a secondment? Work experience? International conferences? – How will you grow and develop into an independent researcher? – Why should they invest in you as a person?

 

 

6. How will you involve patients, end users and the public in your research? Patient and public involvement (PPI) will form a key component within your application, and should feature throughout your research plans. Involve is a great place to start. You can apply for a small £500 grant to carry out PPI activities before submitting your fellowship application, ask your regional RDS service for more details, and be sure to include the results of these activities within your application!

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7.What if you get called for an interview? Make sure you know your application inside out (it may be a long time since you submitted your application – and you may be asked some really complex questions by people who are not experts in your field!)

 

 

8. Be sure to have mock interviews with your peers (they will be much harder on you than the interview panel). Challenge yourself, be willing to change your ideas in response to feedback. Embrace every opportunity to improve!

9. Be yourself. Yes you will be nervous, but the panel wants to see who they are investing in. Its OK to show personality and be ambitious. They want to invest in new talent, the research stars of the future. Show them your potential. Don’t be afraid to take criticism – engage in constructive dialogue throughout, yet leave the panel with a punchy take away message where they can see your potential and future trajectories.

10. Be on time – don’t miss deadlines, arrive early to the interview and be ready to showcase yourself and your ideas. The NIHR want to fund you…they want to spend tax payers money wisely. Leave them in no doubt that both you, and your project are worth it. You are the future the world needs to see!

 

See full and official NIHR guidance here

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Until next time, look after yourselves & each other..💜

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