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Skills & careers

2. Considerations before applying

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2.1 Suitability criteria for fellowships

To be considered suitable, applicants must articulate why support via a fellowship is appropriate for their long term career goals and chosen career route (this should be explained in the career intentions section, see section 3.1.3). Applicants must also clearly demonstrate that their skills and experience at the time of their application match those of the relevant career stage in the applicant skills and experience table (this should be made clear throughout the proposal and should particularly be addressed in the research experience section (see 3.1.2) and the applicant’s CV).

All applicants must familiarise themselves with the guidance for the relevant schemes before completing an application. An overview of the schemes offered and their suitability requirements can be found on the 'Applying for a fellowship' page. Information relating to each of the fellowships can be found on the fellowship landing page and queries about any MRC fellowship scheme should be directed to fellows@headoffice.mrc.ac.uk

Where a proposal contains interdisciplinary research applicants should consult the relevant Programme Manager via fellows@headoffice.mrc.ac.uk well before the submission deadline to confirm whether the research fits within MRC’s remit.

2.2 Time commitments during a fellowship

All MRC fellowship schemes provide competitive salaries, allowing fellows protected time to fully concentrate on their research, training and development and establish a competitive position by the end of the award. Fellows in receipt of full-time awards may spend up to six hours a week (pro-rated for part-time fellows) on other commitments (e.g. teaching, demonstrating, other funded projects) or undertaking up to two clinical sessions a week in the case of clinical fellows. Greater flexibility may be permitted during the second half of a fellowship. Existing fellows wishing to dedicate over six hours a week to non-fellowship activities must contact fellows@headoffice.mrc.ac.uk to request permission prior to making any commitment.

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2.3 Second centres and industrial partners

MRC is supportive of fellows who wish to spend part of their fellowship carrying out research at a second academic centre, either within the UK or overseas, or with an industrial partner to benefit from unique training opportunities. Applicants may spend up to twelve months of their award at a second organisation. Applicants intending to spend longer periods abroad should contact MRC at fellows@headoffice.mrc.ac.uk before submitting a proposal.

All MRC fellowship schemes provide support for the costs incurred by undertaking training at a second centre, as detailed in section 3.1.11 of this guidance. All applications must be submitted via the lead host research organisation, which will remain responsible for the administration of the award during the fellow’s period at another centre. Details of the second centre should be included in the Collaborations Explanation section of the proposal form and in the case for support (see sections 3.1.3 and 3.2.3 for details), and all associated costs clearly labelled as ‘2nd centre costs’ in the Resources section of the form.

2.4 Applicants for a Clinical Research Training Fellowship registered for a PhD or MD

Applicants who have already started a PhD, MD, or equivalent research degree may apply for a Clinical Research Training fellowship if at the proposed award start date they will not have been registered for that degree for more than twelve months (FTE). Applicants must clearly state any courses for which they are enrolled in their CV and should attach a letter of support from their research organisation’s postgraduate office to confirm their registration date and the percentage of time for which they are registered. Such applicants may seek a standard three year award if they wish (pro-rated for part-time fellowships, minimum 50% of the fellow’s time). The minimum period for a clinical research training fellowship is two years (pro-rata for part-time awards).

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2.5 Applicants for fellowships expecting to receive their PhD

There are a number of early-career fellowships where applicants may apply without having their PhD, but where they expect to receive it by the time of their take-up of a fellowship. In this case, the prospective fellow must have obtained their PhD within the approved take-up period for the competition (advertised on the MRC website). Should the prospective fellow fail to obtain their PhD within the take-up period, the award will lapse; no extension will be permitted and they must re-apply. It is the responsibility of the fellow to provide documentary evidence of their PhD to the MRC at RFPD@headoffice.mrc.ac.uk.

2.6 Overseas applicants

Overseas applicants may apply to MRC fellowship schemes. All candidates are expected to demonstrate a long term aspiration to strengthen the UK research base. All fellowship applicants must comply with the Department of Employment requirements and hold a valid work permit where appropriate.  Any queries should be addressed to the research organisation concerned.

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2.7 Non-European Economic Area Applicants and Tier 1 Visas

Successful Career Development Award, Senior Non Clinical Fellowship, Clinician Scientist Fellowship and Senior Clinical Fellowship applicants who require a visa to work in the UK will be eligible to be considered under the Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) visa route. In line with the highly prestigious nature of the award, this visa route is designed for people who are internationally recognised as world leaders or potential world-leading talent in the fields of science and the arts and enables the holder to be both adaptable and flexible during their research in the UK.

The grant of any visa is always subject to the standard Home Office general grounds for refusal of a visa.  UKRI is able to provide additional guidance regarding the appropriate evidence required to complete the visa application process under the Exceptional Talent visa. Please contact fellowtier1info@rcuk.ac.uk for further details.

2.8 Multiple submissions

Applicants may only have one fellowship proposal under consideration by MRC at any point, however, may simultaneously apply to other funders’ fellowship schemes.

Applicants may not have simultaneous fellowship proposals under consideration by MRC and UKRI fellowships schemes.

Where a proposal contains interdisciplinary research, applicants should consult the relevant Programme Manager via fellows@headoffice.mrc.ac.uk well before the submission deadline to confirm which Research Council is best placed to consider the proposal.

Applicants may simultaneously seek grant support for other projects, from MRC or other funders, while their MRC fellowship is under consideration, however;

  • No part of the fellowship project may be under consideration as a grant proposal with any organisation while under consideration for an MRC fellowship award.
  • Any funding secured from MRC or other funders must be in compliance with the MRC fellowship terms and conditions if awarded, including the time commitments conditions detailed in section 2.2.
  • Applicants may not apply as principal investigator on a grant to MRC while simultaneously applying for an MRC fellowship (with the exception of Senior Fellowship applicants).

Any fellowship or grant submissions under consideration at the time of application should be noted in the ‘Other Support’ section of the proposal form.

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2.9 Resubmissions

Resubmissions must include substantive amendments from the original submission, which should be detailed in the cover letter. Applicants may submit to any MRC fellowship scheme only twice, regardless of the extent of changes to the proposal.

Applicants should allow at least a year between submissions whether applying to the same or a different scheme. Applicants wishing to reapply within a year should request permission from the relevant programme manager prior to resubmission by contacting fellows@headoffice.mrc.ac.uk.

2.10 Equal opportunities

As part of the MRC's equal opportunities policy, equal consideration will be given to applicants returning to research following a career break and those with flexible working arrangements. There are no age limits for any of our schemes.

The MRC also sponsors at least two Daphne Jackson Fellows a year which are aimed at people returning to research after a career break and offer an opportunity to re-establish scientific credentials whilst retraining and renewing skills that are essential for a future career. For full details, please refer to the Daphne Jackson Trust webpage.

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2.11 Part-time and flexible working

The MRC is very supportive of applicants wishing to combine their research training with domestic responsibilities or to meet professional clinical requirements (see below), and all our fellowship awards may therefore be held on a part-time basis or within flexible working arrangements. Normally at least 0.5 full-time equivalent (FTE) must be dedicated to the fellowship and the value of a part-time award may be requested on a pro rata basis (not exceeding the full-time equivalent of the Fellowship scheme period). For example, a three year fellowship on a full-time basis would equate to a 6 year fellowship with the fellow working 0.5 FTE, but the value of the award would remain the same.

Examples of applicants who may need to apply for a part-time award to continue professional clinical responsibilities include GPs, midwives, nurses and members of allied health professions. Medically qualified applicants may not apply for a part-time award in order to continue higher specialist training during the fellowship. As part of a full-time award, medically qualified fellows may continue to undertake up to two clinical sessions a week. Applicants should contact the MRC Fellows team at fellows@headoffice.mrc.ac.uk if their specialty would require a greater time commitment to clinical duties.

2.12 Open source software

The Government policy on Open Source Software (OSS) is available from the e-Government Unit of the Cabinet Office. Further information is available from The Open Source Initiative.

Publicly funded R&D projects which aim to produce software outputs should specify a proposed software exploitation route at the start of the project. At the completion of a project, the software should be exploited either commercially or within an academic community or as OSS. Note that the policy on exploiting R&D software does not apply to software developed in the area of defence, national security or law enforcement. It also does not apply to software developed by Trading Funds.

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