How do I obtain a competitive Research Training Fellowship
Research fellowships are very competitive but they are also very prestigious and once you are awarded one you are well on your way to a successful career as a clinical academic. Even if you decide afterwards that you would like to pursue a career as a NHS surgeon (perhaps with the future aim of undertaking clinical research) instead of becoming a full-time clinical academic it is likely that you will find the experience of a research fellowship very rewarding and helpful for your career progression. Applications for research fellowships are evaluated according to three criteria. First, the quality of the applicant is evaluated therefore, it is helpful if you have evidence of academic distinction such as an intercalated BSc, undergraduate or postgraduate prizes, and at least some evidence of scientific presentations and publications. This evaluation is aided by references from the proposed supervisor and the sponsor or head of the host department who will normally have met and agreed to support you in your application. Second, the quality of the proposed research proposal is evaluated for its relevance and scientific merit. It is very helpful if you or your host department can include preliminary results or evidence to indicate the feasibility and value of the proposed project. Third, the quality of the academic environment in which the proposed Fellowship is to be held is evaluated. The reviewers seek evidence that the host department and supervisor have a good track record of achievement, can provide all of the scientific support needed and that the research environment is stimulating and supportive. The first step in applying for a research fellowship is to talk to a relevant senior academic surgeon who will provide help and advice on how best to proceed. Some of the potential contacts in the Eastern region are given later. Applications may take months to prepare and then several months to be evaluated so it is vital to plan well ahead. It is usual to apply simultaneously to more than one funding body.
Most research fellowships leading to a PhD are for at least three years. There are also various one year fellowships available that allow trainees to obtain preliminary results as a prelude to applying for a longer tenure as a research fellow or instead that allow trainees to complete a shorter research project, possibly leading to a higher degree (for example: MS, MSc, MChir or MD), before returning to full time surgical training and a career as a NHS surgeon. The Royal College of Surgeons of England oversees a very successful research fellowship scheme that includes both one and three year fellowships.
The NIHR Integrated Academic training Scheme
This is a relatively new scheme and is aimed at individuals who show the potential to become research leaders in their particular field. Further information on the scheme is available on the NIHR website NIHR Integrated Academic Training Scheme The two major initiatives within this scheme are: Academic Clinical Fellowships (ACFs) Clinical Lectureships (CLs)
Academic Clinical Fellowship Scheme
These posts were developed to allow trainees with outstanding academic potential to make a significant start to their specialist clinical training and undertake a component of academic training that will enable the preparation of a competitive application for a research training fellowship, which will lead to a higher degree. The posts provide a balance of clinical and research training (25% research) and carry an academic training number. In Cambridge, no new posts are available in 2009, but in 2010, at least six new posts will be appointed in surgical disciplines (including transplantation, vascular surgery and Urology) based at Addenbrooke's Hospital. The posts will be advertised by the East of England Deanery in due course. They are aimed at individuals currently in F2 posts (or equivalent)-ST2 posts. Existing Specialist Registrars who already hold an NTN are not eligible.
The NIHR Clinical Lecturer Scheme
These posts are aimed at trainees who have already completed a higher research degree and who are usually within three to four years of completing their surgical training and obtaining a CCT. They are equivalent to traditionally funded Clinical Lecturer posts. Currently the NIHR positions available in the Department of Surgery in Cambridge are filled and no further posts are expected in 2009.