What is a Fellowship?
A fellowship is a type of research proposal that aims to fund an individual researcher for a significant amount of their time to develop a broad research vision.
UK and international funders offer many fellowship opportunities, some at post-doctoral level where you would carry out the fellowship with support from a more senior academic, and others schemes for more senior researchers aiming to demonstrate their research independence, to support them in transitioning from a researcher position to an academic position. Winning a fellowship grant can help you to secure a permanent academic position at a UK University, as it demonstrates that you have developed and planned a novel research programme that you are best placed to lead.
Things to Think About
A fellowship proposal is a big undertaking, and unfortunately most schemes receive many more applications than they are able to fund. You need to plan your application in detail and in advance. Here are some things to think about...
Discuss your career options
Discuss your career options with your supervisor / line manager / mentor – your annual review or P&DR is a key opportunity for this discussion, but you should do this regularly and well in advance of the end of your contract. The Code of Practice for the Management and Career Development of Research Staff is an important document to refer to, as it allows expectations to be set for the research project and a research staff member's own development.
Develop your Research Vision
Start to develop your own research ideas, using your own unique skills and experience. You may be able to apply for smaller seed funding grants to network or do preliminary investigations to test your idea. Your research vision is the research activity you would like the fellowship to fund, this should be a broad research topic that you would like to build your academic career around. It should be distinct from the work of your supervisor and complementary to the work of your host School/Institute.
The University of Edinburgh might not be the most appropriate place to deliver your fellowship, if you are thinking of applying with another host institution you should start to make contact with them, they may have a selection process you need to engage with before they are willing to submit your bid.
Identify Appropriate Funders
If one of your career options is a fellowship application, start to identify appropriate funders for your research idea. Investigate where your colleagues, group or Institute get funding from or use ResearchProfessional to identify other funding streams
Login to ResearchProfessional [external link]
Look up people that have won fellowships from the funder you want to apply to, visit the funder’s website, read their annual report, search researchgate or google scholar. Compare that person’s publications, citations, prizes and impact to your own - Do you have a similar track record? What do you need to do to get to that level?
Take time to investigate the priorities of your chosen funder, you might need to
- Make links with specific research groups or centres;
- Develop relevant collaborations internationally, with clinicians, patient groups, industry, policy makers;
- Discuss your proposal with academics that regularly review proposals or sit on peer review panels for your chosen funder;
- Consider the actions you need to take to ensure your research has impact;
Get in touch with the funder directly, or attend their briefing sessions or webinars to understand if your research is interesting to them.
Plan your timeline
You should think about
- Time to develop your research profile including publications, collaborations, industry/user engagement, feasibility or proof of concept data
- Time for an application to an internal or small grant fund to support preliminary data collection or networking
- Time to develop your research vision – this is the research activity you would like the fellowship to fund, this should be a broad research topic that you would like to build your academic career around. It should be distinct from the work of your supervisor and complementary to the work of your host School/Institute
- Discuss your plans with your line manager and Head of Centre – request their support to develop a fellowship application
- After internal approval you should plan 6 months to put together a full fellowship application - especially if you don’t have much experience of writing research grants
- Time for internal review from your colleagues. People are very busy, build in enough time for them to review your proposal and time to allow yourself to make amendments
- Time for the funder to process you application – UKRI and other large funders take about 6-8 months from the point you submit your application to the funder letting you know the outcome.
Support & Advice
Make sure you ask for support and advice, you might want to consider discussing your application or your potential application with
- Your Line Manager or Supervisor
- Your Academic Colleagues, particularly those that hold, or have held fellowship funding
- Your Head of Group, Centre or Institute
- Your School or Institute Research Manager
- Research Funding Team, Edinburgh Research Office, University of Edinburgh
- Institute for Academic Development, University of Edinburgh
Applying for a Fellowship with University of Edinburgh as an External Applicant
If you are not currently a staff member at University of Edinburgh and are interested in undertaking your prospective fellowship with us we'd be happy to hear from you. We support fellowship applications from external applicants reguarly. Please contact a relevant academic staff member within the School/Institute you would like to be based within to discuss your potential application, someone that can support your application and potentially act as a mentor to you during the application process.
Please get in touch with this person early, at least 6 months before the funder deadline. There are sometimes selection procedures for certain funding schemes which may have already identified the University's preferred candidate if you leave it too late.
Your academic staff contact will be able to introduce you to the relevant research office in their School and arrange meetings with the Head of Centre/School/Institute as appropriate as well as provide any information on selection processes you need to engage with.
Training & Resources
A Comprehensive Guide to Fellowship Applications | Institute for Academic Development
Applying for a Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship | Edinburgh Research Office Blog
Proposal Writing Support [Your University Login required]