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New film helps early career researchers take steps toward research independence

6 Feb 2020

The Medical Research Council’s (MRC) New Investigator Research Grant (NIRG) is a unique opportunity for talented early career researchers to get significant funding for their work. The MRC is launching a new short film that explains how the NIRG benefits early career researchers, how to apply and what makes a good application.

The NIRG is aimed at researchers who are capable of becoming independent Principal Investigators and are now ready to take the next step towards that goal. Most applicants are expected to have a PhD or an MD, although as with all of MRC’s funding schemes, there are no eligibility rules based on years of post-doctoral experience. Applicants can apply across all areas of MRC’s remit and combine time spent on the NIRG with other activities, such as other research grants or clinical duties, teaching, administration duties, or other time spent in faculty. As such, applicants are expected to request no more than 50% of their contracted working time on the NIRG.

“One of the fantastic opportunities with the NIRG is that it’s more a partnership between the university and the MRC. The NIRG gives you the opportunity to show that as a very talented post-doc a university has shown faith in, you are now in a position where you can get funding for your research,” says John Brickman, Professor of Stem Cell and Developmental Biology, University of Copenhagen, Deputy Chair of the MRC’s Molecular and Cellular Medicine Board (2016 – 2019).

Applicants should be able to clearly demonstrate that their skills and experience at the time of their application match those of the transition to independence career stage. They also need to provide clear reasons why a NIRG will best support their long-term career goals and chosen career route. “The best grants have three questions that take forward our knowledge of a particular question or area or disease, that have different approaches perhaps or different technologies associated with them, and that will have an equal chance of being successful,” says Professor Brickman.

A good application comes through experience, through building a track record, and also the environment – colleagues, and facilities that are provided by the research organisation. And support from the research organisation is key. “It’s like a regular research grant but it’s specifically tailored for me as a young researcher. And the university really has to commit to you – they have to commit [a minimum of] 50% of your salary,” says Franziska Denk, NIRG holder, King’s College London.

Good mentorship is cited as a key contributing factor to success for New Investigator Research Grant holders, and as part of the award successful NIRG holders  are eligible to apply for the Academy of Medical Sciences mentoring programme and also SUSTAIN, a programme that is tailored specifically towards women at the beginning stages of their independent careers.

Professor Fiona Watt FRS, Executive Chair of the MRC, explains the NIRG’s importance: “The MRC’s New Investigator Research Grant (NIRG) helps to ensure that researchers at an early stage in their independent careers can hit the ground running. We hope that this short video will help applicants by explaining what funding boards look for in a great NIRG application.”

You can view the film and find more information on eligibility and applying on the MRC website.

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