Guidance

Fellowship application and policy guide for UKRI Funding Service

From:
MRC
Published:

1. Introduction

The purpose of this guide is to outline the policies and procedures that should be followed when applying to MRC fellowship funding opportunities in the UKRI Funding Service. Where possible, the guide will direct you towards policies harmonised across UKRI.

This guide does not outline how to use UKRI Funding Service, or complete applications in the system, but instead specifies the policies that should be considered when preparing an application. Detail on how to complete your application can be found in UKRI Funding Service.

Ask a question about fellowships

For fellowship enquiries regarding the policies and procedures outlined in this guide email: fellows@mrc.ukri.org

For general funding policy enquiries contact the MRC Research Funding Policy and Delivery team, email: RFPD@mrc.ukri.org

For queries concerning an application submission contact the Funding Service Helpdesk at:

email: support@funding-service.ukri.org

telephone: 01793 547490

2. Roles and responsibilities

Applicants

Fellowships are personal awards to support researchers at key transition points in their careers. The funding helps develop your skills, and the new knowledge you generate also strengthens the scientific community and helps it respond effectively to current and future challenges in medical research.

A range of fellowships are available to meet diverse needs, allowing training placements in the UK, abroad or in industry. Specific eligibility criteria can be found on the specific fellowship funding opportunity web page on the funding finder.

Fellowships help develop your career as a researcher by:

  • supporting your move to the next stage in your career, normally through a change in role
  • providing a consolidated period of time to dedicate to research, with protection from other professional commitments
  • funding a challenging research project
  • supporting your longer-term career goals
  • securing the host research organisation’s clear commitment to supporting and mentoring you

Responsibilities of the applicant

If you become a fellow you are expected to:

  • manage your career and personal development
  • maximise the impact of your research
  • act as an ambassador of MRC and offer support to the next generation of researchers

Find out more about the expectations that come with an MRC fellowship.

Read the UKRI Statement of Expectations for Research Fellowships and Future Research Leaders.

You are also expected to read and abide by UKRI’s terms and conditions for funding and MRC’s additional terms and conditions.

If you are a clinical trainee, please additionally read the UK clinical academic training in medicine and dentistry: principles and obligations.

We expect all funded researchers to adopt the highest achievable standards in the conduct of their research. This means exhibiting impeccable scientific integrity and following the principles of good research practice detailed in MRC’s Good Research Practice guidelines.

Equality, diversity and inclusion

We are committed to achieving equality of opportunity for all funding applicants. We encourage applications from a diverse range of researchers.

We support people to work in a way that suits their personal circumstances. This includes:

  • career breaks
  • support for people with caring responsibilities
  • flexible working
  • alternative working patterns

Research organisations

The fellow must be hosted at an eligible research organisation, which will be responsible for administering the award.

The host research organisation must be committed to supporting, developing, and mentoring the fellow and act in accordance with MRC and UKRI expectations.

Expectations are that your host organisation will:

  • give proper recognition to you
  • support your career development
  • support the development of science

If the host research organisation changes after the application is submitted, you should email fellows@mrc.ukri.org as soon as possible to discuss how to proceed.

Responsibilities of research organisations

By submitting an application to us, a research organisation indicates their formal acceptance and approval of:

Administrative authorities have responsibility for ensuring that the salaries and resources requested in the application are sufficient to undertake the proposed research, to attract sufficiently experienced and skilled staff, and represent good value for money. The salary requested should be in line with the level the research organisation would provide were the fellow appointed within their own pay structure.

Organisations receiving UKRI funding are expected to adopt the principles of the concordat to support the career development of researchers and must create an environment in which research staff are selected and treated on the basis of their merits, abilities and potential.

Please note there are additional obligations for those responsible for clinical academic training:

MRC institutes (MRC Harwell, MRC Laboratory of Medical Sciences and MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology)

Applicants may apply for fellowships to be based at one of the MRC institutes if they are not currently employed by UKRI.

Applicants should justify their choice of host organisation as part of their application.

Applicants currently employed by UKRI in one of MRC’s institutes and proposing to hold their fellowship within the same MRC institute, will only be considered under exceptional circumstances. Individuals in such cases are only eligible to apply if given prior written permission by us.

Applications without prior approval will not be considered further. Permission must be sought by the institute director (or a nominated deputy) on the applicant’s behalf by emailing fellows@mrc.ukri.org at least two months prior to the application closing date.

The case for exception should:

  • demonstrate that a fellowship would lead to a substantial change in in the role of the applicant, with significant potential for research and career development
  • confirm the source of funding for the applicant’s current post within the unit. Permission to apply for an MRC fellowship will normally only be granted if the applicant’s current post is supported by a grant or is a non-core funded supernumerary post (normally for at least 12 months)

Second centres and industrial partners

We are 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. You may spend up to 12 months of your fellowship at a second organisation. If you are intending to spend longer periods overseas you should contact us at fellows@mrc.ukri.org before applying.

All our fellowship funding opportunities provide support for the costs incurred by undertaking training at a second centre. Please see resources and cost justification under section 5 for details on costing second centres.

All applications must be submitted via the 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 approach’ section of the application, and associated costs justified in the ’resources and cost justification’ section of the application.

3. Considerations before applying

Suitability criteria for fellowships

You must articulate why fellowship support is appropriate for your long-term career goals and chosen career route (this should be explained in the ‘career progression’ section).

You must also clearly demonstrate that your skills and experience at the time of application match those of the relevant career stage in the applicant skills and experience table. This should be made clear throughout the application and should particularly be addressed in the ‘applicant capability to deliver’ section.

You must familiarise yourself with the guidance for the relevant schemes before completing an application. An overview of the fellowships offered and their suitability requirements can be found in the MRC fellowships overview.

Before developing an application, you can contact us at fellows@mrc.ukri.org to ask if your research is within its remit. It’s a good idea to do this if your research is interdisciplinary or not clearly within MRC’s research areas.

Time commitments during a fellowship

All MRC fellowships provide competitive salaries, allowing you protected time to fully concentrate on your research, training and development and establish a competitive position by the end of the award.

You may spend up to six hours a week on a full-time award (pro rated for part-time fellows) on other commitments (for example, teaching, demonstrating, other funded projects).

Greater flexibility may be permitted during the second half of a fellowship. If you are an existing fellow wishing to dedicate more than six hours a week to non-fellowship activities, you must email fellows@mrc.ukri.org to request permission prior to making any commitment.

Clinical sessions

Clinical fellows can allocate 0.2 full-time equivalent or FTE (one day each week) towards clinical sessions as part of a full-time award. We’ll pay your full salary costs, including for clinical work.

Clinical sessions for postdoctoral fellows working in craft specialities or undertaking patient-orientated research

For individuals in craft specialities (for example, surgeons) you can allocate up to 0.4 FTE (two days per week) to maintain clinical skills as part of a full-time award.

If you are proposing to undertake patient-orientated research, where the clinical sessions covered by the fellowship link to and are complementary to your research, you can allocate up to 0.4 FTE (two days per week) towards clinical sessions as part of a full-time award. Within an application you must articulate how the additional clinical commitments complement the research proposed.

We’ll pay your full salary costs, including for clinical work.

Flexible working practices

Career breaks

You can apply for any MRC fellowship after returning to research after a career break, so long as you meet the fellowship’s eligibility criteria.

Your track record will be taken into consideration if you’re applying for MRC funding, and the review panel will consider how you’ve spent time outside the active research environment, including through career breaks or flexible working.

You should state clearly in your application any substantial time you’ve spent away from research. The review panel will only use this information to make appropriate adjustments when assessing your track record, productivity and career progression.

For further guidance, see MRC’s publication on career breaks and flexible working.

Fellowships for researchers returning from a career break

If you’re returning to research after a career break or plan to do so, consider applying for a Daphne Jackson Trust fellowship. This fellowship gives returning researchers an opportunity to re-establish their scientific credentials while retraining and renewing their research skills.

We sponsor at least two Daphne Jackson fellows a year. For more information, see the Daphne Jackson Trust website.

Part-time and flexible working

We are supportive of applicants wishing to combine research training with caring responsibilities. You can apply to take up any MRC fellowship on a part-time basis or within flexible working arrangements, so long as you meet the fellowship’s eligibility criteria.

Normally at least 0.5 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 FTE of the fellowship scheme period).

For example, a three-year fellowship on a full-time basis would equate to a six-year fellowship with the fellow working 0.5 FTE, but the value of the award would remain the same.

You can also request for an existing fellowship to be amended to accommodate part-time working. If you are a current MRC fellow and would like further information on continuing your award on a part-time basis, see the UKRI terms and conditions for funding.

Fellowships cannot be held on a part-time basis to spend time on other activities, such as working on other research grants, teaching or to continue medical speciality training.

Part-time awards for healthcare professionals

We are supportive of applicants wishing to combine research training with professional clinical requirements. Examples of applicants who may need to apply for a part-time award to continue professional clinical responsibilities include GPs, midwives, nurses and allied health professions. At least 0.5 full-time equivalent must be dedicated to the fellowship.

Medically qualified applicants may not apply for a part-time award to continue medical speciality training during a fellowship.

As part of a full-time award, medically qualified fellows can allocate 0.2 full-time equivalent (one day each week) towards clinical sessions.

You should contact us at fellows@mrc.ukri.org if your specialty would require a greater time commitment to clinical responsibilities.

Higher degree registration for predoctoral clinical research training fellows

You do not need to have registered for a PhD or similar at the time of your fellowship application.

If you have already started a PhD, you may apply for a predoctoral clinical research training fellowship. This requires that at the proposed award start date you have not been registered for that degree for more than one year in a full-time capacity.

If you have spent more than one year on a PhD course in a full-time capacity, you must explain in your application why you are a suitable candidate. Please email us at fellows@mrc.ukri.org before applying.

If you have spent significantly more time than one year on your PhD course, we will consider your application only in exceptional circumstances. Please email us at fellows@mrc.ukri.org before applying.

The minimum duration of a predoctoral clinical research training fellowship is two years (pro rata for part-time awards).

Applicants for postdoctoral fellowships expecting to receive their PhD

Postdoctoral fellowship applicants are expected to have completed a PhD or equivalent.

You must have completed a PhD or equivalent before the fellowship award can start. If you have not yet completed your PhD, you should email fellows@mrc.ukri.org before applying.

There are no eligibility rules based on age or years of postdoctoral experience.

To be considered suitable for a scheme, you should be able to clearly demonstrate that your skills and experience at the time of the application match those at the corresponding career stage as outlined on the skills and experience needed to win support web page.

There are some early-career fellowships you may apply for without having your PhD, if you expect to receive it by the time the fellowship would start. In this case, you must obtain your PhD within the approved take-up period for the funding opportunity.

Should you fail to obtain your PhD within the take-up period, the award offer will lapse. No extension will be permitted, and you must re-apply. It is your responsibility to provide documentary evidence of you PhD to us at RFPD@mrc.ukri.org

International applicants

International applicants not residing in the UK may apply to MRC fellowship funding opportunities. All fellowship applicants must comply with Home Office requirements and, where appropriate, hold a valid work visa or work permit to cover the period of the fellowship.

Any queries regarding residence eligibility or visa requirements should be addressed to the research organisation concerned.

Visa guidance for international applicants (including EU, EEA and Swiss applicants)

Successful fellowship applicants who require a visa to work in the UK will be eligible to be considered under the Global Talent visa (route 2: individual fellowships).

See the Royal Society’s list of approved fellowships for this visa. In line with the highly prestigious nature of the awards, this visa route is designed for talented and promising individuals in specific sectors wishing to work in the UK.

MRC fellowships on the approved list are eligible for fast-track endorsement for the Global Talent visa under the ‘exceptional promise’ category for future research leaders. To apply for endorsement under this route, you must select the relevant ‘fast-track’ option on the Stage 1 (endorsement) application form and provide a copy of your fellowship award letter.

If your Stage 1 application is endorsed, you can apply for a Global Talent visa under Stage 2 on GOV.UK. You will need to supply a copy of your endorsement letter.

Endorsement as part of Stage 1 is not of itself decisive as to whether a Global Talent visa will be issued, and the granting of any visa is always subject to the standard Home Office general grounds for refusal of a visa.

For more information see GOV.UK’s guidance on working in the UK as a researcher or academic leader.

UKRI can provide additional guidance regarding the appropriate evidence required to complete the visa application process under the visa. Please email globaltalentvisa@ukri.org for further details.

Resubmissions

As an individual, you may submit to any one MRC fellowship scheme twice. Resubmissions must include substantive amendments from the original submission, which should be detailed in the ‘related applications’ section. Moving institution or submitting a different project does not reset the number of previous applications.

You should allow at least a year between submissions, whether applying to the same or a different scheme. If you wish to resubmit a fellowship application sooner, please discuss this with a relevant programme manager by emailing fellows@mrc.ukri.org.

Multiple submissions

You may only have one fellowship application under consideration by UKRI (which encompasses all fellowship schemes led by any of the research councils or Innovate UK).

You may apply simultaneously to other funders’ fellowship schemes (those funders outside of UKRI).

You may simultaneously seek grant support for other projects, from us or other funders, while your application is under consideration, however:

  • no part of the fellowship project may be under consideration as a grant application with any organisation while under consideration for an MRC fellowship
  • any funding secured from us or other funders must comply with the MRC fellowship terms and conditions if awarded, including the ’time commitments during a fellowship conditions’ (above)
  • you may not apply as project lead on a grant application to us 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 ‘related applications’ section of the application.

4. How to apply

All applications must be submitted using the UKRI Funding Service.

To apply select ‘start application’ button near the beginning of the fellowship funding opportunity web page on the UKRI funding finder. This takes you to the online application form in the service.

If you do not have a UKRI Funding Service account, you’re able to create one before starting the application form.

All applications must be submitted through the host research organisation where the fellow plans to undertake the fellowship, which must also be registered with UKRI Funding Service. If you are not currently based at that organisation, ensure the research office are aware of your application before starting an application.

When an application is submitted through UKRI Funding Service it does not pass directly to us, but to the research organisation’s administration team, which will then submit the application to us.

All applicants are strongly advised to contact the team responsible for application submissions at their research organisation to confirm how much time they will need to process the application and complete the submission process.

Please see further guidance on how applicants use the UKRI Funding Service.

All applications must be submitted to the UKRI funding service by 4pm on the advertised closing date. Applications received after the closing date will not be considered.

For information on application timelines, please see MRC’s application timelines for opening, closing and funding decision dates.

We reserve the right to amend any of the published dates for opening, closing, shortlisting and meetings. Please check regularly in case of any changes.

5. The application

Fellowship application section questions and assessment criteria

These sections are used in all MRC fellowship applications in the funding service:

  • summary
  • start date
  • duration
  • core team
  • vision
  • approach
  • career progression
  • applicant capability to deliver
  • degree registration (predoctoral fellowships only)
  • clinical activities and training (clinical fellowships only)
  • references
  • head of department statements
  • sponsors or supervisors
  • mentors
  • project partners
  • industry collaboration framework (ICF)
  • facilities
  • data management and sharing
  • ethics and responsible research innovation (RRI)
  • genetic and biological risk
  • research involving the use of animals
  • conducting research with animals overseas
  • research involving human participation
  • research involving human tissues or biological samples
  • resources and cost justification
  • clinical research in the NHS, public health or social care
  • related applications
  • joint funders

In each section, applicants are asked a question and then given guidance and the criteria that the assessors will be looking for in their response. This information is also published under ‘how to apply’ in each fellowship funding opportunity web page on the UKRI funding finder:

Most questions can be answered using a text box in the section.

For some opportunities, the ‘vision’ and ‘approach’ sections are completed by uploading a single document (PDF file) covering both questions. Over time, we aim to reduce the number of document uploads needed as part of the digital application process.

Sensitive information

If you or a core team member need to tell us something you wish to remain confidential, email the UKRI Funding Service helpdesk at support@funding-service.ukri.org

Include in the subject line the funding opportunity title, ‘sensitive information’ and your UKRI Funding Service application number.

Typical examples of confidential information include:

  • individual is unavailable until a certain date (for example, due to parental leave)
  • declaration of interest
  • additional information about eligibility to apply that would not be appropriately shared in the applicant and team capability section
  • conflict of interest for UKRI to consider in reviewer or panel participant selection
  • the application is an invited resubmission

For information about how UKRI handles personal data, read UKRI’s privacy notice.

Start dates

The start date should be realistic and would normally be between one and six months after the date of the decision-making meeting. Please see application timelines for the dates of all forthcoming panel meetings.

Degree registration

Predoctoral clinical research training fellowship applicants must indicate in the degree registration section if they are already registered for a research degree, including the type of degree, registration date and percentage of time dedicated if registered part-time.

Clinical activities and training

Clinical fellowship applicants must explain their clinical activities and training and how these relate to the proposed fellowship, including:

  • your professional registration number (name of body and registration number for example, HCPC/GMC 1234567)
  • your clinical speciality or profession
  • your current training stage or nearest equivalent (foundation, speciality registrar with grade, consultant)
  • your completion of training date
  • Royal College examination, with name of exam and date or anticipated date
  • whether you intend to be clinically active during or after the fellowship
  • whether you will seek an honorary clinical contract
  • the percentage of your time you will spend on clinical duties, you may spend up to 20% of your time on clinical duties as part of a full-time fellowship (two clinical sessions a week)
  • the percentage of this time that will have direct relevance to your proposed work

Sponsors and supervisors

At least one sponsor or supervisor is required for all fellowship applications. They must provide a statement of support.

Sponsors and supervisors should be assigned as ‘professional enabling staff’ under the core team section of the application.

For predoctoral fellowship applications, at least one supervisor must have academic responsibility for you and be from the department where you are applying to host your fellowship. Other supervisors can be named if necessary to support all areas of the proposed work and may be from other organisations.

A supervisor should have expertise in the research area of the application and will act as guarantor for the quality of the proposed research, suitability of you as a fellowship candidate and the quality of training and development you will receive.

For postdoctoral fellowship applications, at least one sponsor must be a senior member of the department where you are applying to host your fellowship. Other sponsors can be named if necessary to support all areas of the proposed work and may be from other organisations.

The sponsor is not expected to fulfil a supervisory role during the award, but act as a supporter for the application. The sponsor should have expertise in the scientific area of the application and will act as guarantor for the quality of the proposed research, suitability of the candidate and level of training and development the department will provide.

Sponsors and supervisors are not expected to request funds to support their time as part of a fellow’s application.

Sponsor and supervisor costs can only be requested in exceptional circumstances and must be justified. The request should not exceed 5% of their time (or a total of 5% full-time equivalent across all sponsors and supervisors if more than one is named).

The associated cost should be entered as a directly allocated researcher cost. For predoctoral clinical research fellowships, applicants may request costs to support supervisors’ time or PhD fees but not both.

Mentors

A mentor is someone who provides independent career advice and is distinct from a sponsor or supervisor. If a mentor has been identified, they should be named in the response to this question and provide a statement of support detailing how they will support you. Mentors should not be listed in the core team. We will not fund costs for mentors.

Project partners

Details of any collaborating researchers or organisations (other than the lead research organisation) that will make specific contributions to the fellowship should be listed in this section. The organisations may be from the UK or overseas, and the contributions may be financial or in-kind.

In-kind contributions may include staff time, access to equipment, sites or facilities, or the provision of data, software or materials.

MRC Industry Collaboration Framework (ICF)

For fellowship applications involving a collaboration with one or more industrial partners (contributing either in cash or in kind), refer to Industry Collaboration Framework (ICF).

Facilities

This section should be completed if the project requires access to UKRI or national facilities. A list of facilities is available through the funding service. You should confirm before applying that the facility is able to provide the required facilities.

Data management and sharing

The data management and sharing section should clearly detail how you will comply with MRC’s published data management and sharing policies, which include detailed guidance notes. Provide your response following the MRC data management plan template.

You should demonstrate how you will meet, or already meet, your responsibilities for research data quality, sharing and security. It should refer to any institutional and study data policies, systems and procedures and be regularly reviewed throughout the research cycle. Where the organisation is ISO 27001 compliant, the registration number should also be included.

Detailed guidance is available in section 2.2.7 of the guidance for applicants.

Ethics and responsible research and innovation (RRI)

This section should be completed to give details of any ethical or RRI implications and issues relating to the proposed work. Consider the MRC guidance on ethics and approvals.

If your proposed research involves any of the following areas you will need to complete the related sections:

  • genetic or biological risks
  • the use of animals
  • human participation
  • human tissues or biological samples

Applications that include the use of animals should be prepared after careful consultation of the MRC guidance for proposals involving animal use to understand the information that must be included when describing the experimental design and planned analyses.

Resources and cost justification

Full economic costing for postdoctoral fellowships

All research grant proposals and postdoctoral fellowship applications are costed based on full economic costs (FEC). If a grant is awarded, we will provide funding at a rate of 80% of the FEC and the research organisation(s) must agree to fund the balance of the FEC for the project from other resources.

Predoctoral clinical research training fellowships are not subject to full economic costing.

If you are planning to spend time at a second centre overseas, you may request support for 100% of the costs associated with any overseas research and staff salaries. Please refer to section 3.3 of the guidance for applicants and email RFPD@mrc.ukri.org for advice on requesting exceptional costs.

Costing predoctoral clinical research training fellowships

Predoctoral clinical research training fellowships are not subject to full economic costing. Estates and indirect costs are therefore not payable, and awards are made at 100% of the requested funding. All costs should be entered as exceptions in the application resources and costs section.

Predoctoral clinical research training fellowships comprise support for your salary and up to £25,000 each year to cover consumables, equipment, and travel. You can also choose to request PhD tuition fees (at standard home student rate as set by your research organisation), or a portion of your supervisor’s time up to 5% full-time equivalent but not both. You may be able to request extra funding for:

  • the cost of training at an overseas or second centre or industry placement
  • the purchase and maintenance cost of animals, excluding experimental costs, related consumables, or project licences
  • the costs associated with healthy volunteer studies, where costs for patient studies would be met by local clinical research networks
  • the costs associated with an experimental intervention or challenge in humans, and human medical imaging (such as magnetic resonance imaging), where costs cannot be met by local clinical research networks

Only these costs can be applied for above the £25,000 each year limit. Proposals requesting costs outside these limits will not be considered.

If you are requesting costs above the £25,000 each year limit, you should be mindful of the scope and aims of the fellowship, with the proposed project demonstrating an appropriate level of ambition. You will need to explain the request in ‘resources and cost justification’.

Fellow’s salary

Your salary is awarded as a directly incurred cost. The salary requested should be in line with the level the research organisation would provide if you were appointed within their own pay structure.

Salaries for predoctoral clinical research training fellowship applicants will be paid up to, but not including NHS consultant level and should be appropriate for a training fellowship.

For senior clinical and non-clinical fellowships, you can request a salary contribution of 50% of your total contracted working time. The expectation remains that 100% of your contracted working time is focused on your research, training, and development. See time commitments during a fellowship above for further information.

Salary for the remaining 50% must be underwritten by the research organisation. These awards are made under the full economic costing framework, and we will fund 80% of the full economic cost. This will result in a total salary contribution of 40% from us and 60% from the research organisation.

The salary contribution can be differentially profiled across the years of the fellowship, provided that the total cost of 50% salary is met during the lifetime of the fellowship. Senior clinical fellows may not work more than the time commitment for clinical duties stated in the application. We may request a copy of your job plan to ensure your research time is robustly protected.

The total salary requested should be calculated to include provision for anticipated salary increments and promotions, such that the salary at the end of the fellowship is in line with the research organisation’s career structure for a researcher with equivalent experience.

Salary increments should exclude indexation as this is calculated post award. Once the fellowship is awarded, no additional requests can be made for supplementary salary costs.

For guidance on salaries for clinical academics please see:

Staff

Project co-leads are not permitted in fellowship applications. Where required (and if the terms of the fellowship allow) support for researchers, technicians and other staff may be requested. Support for students may not be requested. See roles in funding applications for different role types and guidance.

For both pre and postdoctoral clinical research training fellowships, staff costs should not be requested. Staff costs will only be funded in exceptional circumstances where the delivery of the project requires additional staff costs.

You should email fellows@mrc.ukri.org to discuss the request before applying. Please note that for predoctoral clinical research training fellowships, additional staff costs must be requested within the £25,000 a year limit.

The salary requested for each member of staff should reflect the full anticipated cost during the lifetime of the fellowship, including any anticipated promotions and salary increments, to ensure that the costs requested are as accurate as possible.

Indexation should not be included as this is calculated post award. Once the fellowship is awarded, no additional requests can be made for supplementary salary costs.

Staff may be entered as directly incurred and directly allocated. The salary of any staff whose contribution to the project can be supported by an auditable record for the duration of the fellowship should be requested as directly incurred.

Any directly incurred staff (whether full or part-time) who are not contracted to work 100% of their time on the fellowship project will be required to maintain timesheets or project records for auditing purposes.

Funding for staff whose time will not be exclusively dedicated to the project and whose contribution will not be supported by an auditable record should be entered as directly allocated.

Travel and subsistence

Funds for travel and subsistence for the fellow and any staff working on the project, including any overseas costs, should be entered under this fund heading. Justification for costs for significant travel for field work or collaboration should be included in the resources and cost justification section of the application.

All travel must occur between the start and end date of the fellowship and should be costed by the most suitable and economical means at current prices with no allowance for inflation. Subsistence rates, both UK and overseas, should be those applicable within the host research organisation.

If you plan to attend conferences, in general a request to attend one UK or European conference per year, and one major international conference every other year (expecting one per three-year grant and two per five-year grant) is considered reasonable.

If the project includes a period overseas of six months or more, costs for fares, baggage, medical insurance and rent of reasonable accommodation should be included and an overseas living allowance may be requested. In general, a request of up to 11% of the fellow’s salary is considered a reasonable contribution towards the cost of living overseas.

Travel costs for a spouse and children may be requested if the fellow intends to spend more than six months overseas and their family will accompany them for the whole period.

Equipment

Any item over £10,000 (including VAT) should be requested as an equipment cost. Please refer to the guidance for applicants for full details about what should be included in this section.

Other directly incurred and directly allocated costs

Any item less than £10,000 (including VAT) is classed as a consumable. Consumables explicitly identifiable as arising from the conduct of a project should be entered as directly incurred other costs. Any costs arising from resources used by the project that are shared by other activities should be entered as directly allocated other costs.

You cannot request funds for publication costs. These are now funded by UKRI by means of a block grant to eligible research organisations. Please refer to section 3.7 of the guidance for applicants for further information.

NHS costs should be entered as directly incurred other costs. See section 3.5 of the guidance for applicants for further details. If you plan to spend six months or more at an overseas research organisation, the associated research costs may be requested and, in most cases, will be paid at 100%. Please refer to section 3.2.5 of the guidance for applicants for advice on requesting exceptional costs and email RFPD@mrc.ukri.org for advice on requesting exceptional costs.

Animal costs

The costs associated with the purchase, breeding and maintenance of each species of animal used should be included under directly allocated or directly incurred other.

Estates and indirect costs

Estates and indirect costs will be calculated by the research organisation and the agreed rates can be obtained from their finance department or research office. The costs should be entered as single annual figures (£ total a year for the project) and do not need to be justified.

Those research organisations which have not developed their own rates should use the default rates which can be found at the funding assurance programme.

Estates may include building and premises costs, basic services and utilities, lease and rent rates, insurance, cleaning, porters, security, safety costs, staff facilities, and any clerical staff and equipment maintenance not already included as either a directly incurred or directly allocated cost.

Indirect costs are non-specific costs charged across all projects based on estimates that are not otherwise included as directly allocated costs.

They may include general office and basic laboratory consumables, library services, learning resources, typing or secretarial support, finance, personnel, public relations and departmental services, central and distributed computing and the cost of capital employed (including redundancy). The costs of ethics reviews and infrastructure technicians can be included under this heading.

Estates and indirect costs at second centres

If you plan to spend time during your fellowship at a second UK centre, overseas, or undertaking an industrial placement, estates and indirect costs will continue to be payable to the lead research organisation if this period is less than six months (per absence).

For a period of six months or more, indirect costs will continue to be paid to the lead research organisation. Estates costs will not be payable to the lead research organisation for the period of your placement, however a contribution to the second centre’s costs may be requested as described below, and the total figure for estates costs requested should be adjusted accordingly.

We will not make direct payments to the second centre, either in the UK or overseas. This must be arranged through the lead research organisation.

If you plan to spend six months or more at a second UK research organisation, the lead research organisation should request estates costs on behalf of the second centre for the duration of the fellow’s training period there, at the second centre’s agreed rates for estate costs.

If you plan to spend six months or more at an overseas centre, a contribution to the centre’s estates and indirect costs can be requested as directly incurred other costs.

These can be requested at 100% (email RFPD@mrc.ukri.org for advice on requesting exceptional costs). The estates and indirect costs associated with overseas locally employed research staff in developing countries may also be requested as other directly incurred costs at 100%.

Clinical research in the NHS, public health, or social care

Projects that will incur NHS costs will need to complete a schedule of events cost attribution template (SoECAT) to be eligible for the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) portfolio and the support it provides.

For MRC opportunities opening from 1 April 2023, applicants will be required to use the online NIHR central portfolio management system (CPMS). The ‘study information’ and ‘summary’ page of the ‘funder export’ form should be converted to PDF and uploaded to your application. See 3.5 NHS costs for full details.

6. Post award

Administering your award in Je-S

Successful applications submitted through UKRI Funding Service are currently being awarded via Je-S. Once the award management feature is available in UKRI Funding Service, awards will be migrated across. This is not anticipated until 2024. The guidance below refers you to Je-S and will be updated to reflect any changes at the migration.

Terms and conditions

MRC-supported researchers must adhere to various terms and conditions of funding including the conduct and reporting of your research.

The research councils have agreed a set of core terms and conditions for all grants funded by UK research councils, including MRC.

We have MRC additional terms and conditions, which supplement those of UKRI. These conditions set out detailed operational, legislative, and ethical requirements relating to medical research. We reserve the right to amend additional grant terms and conditions and fellowship terms and conditions.

Research organisations and award-holders have absolute responsibility for ensuring all required licences, approvals, permissions and consent are in place before any research is undertaken and that these are followed.

Managing your award

For information on managing your award please see manage your award and the terms and conditions of funding within your award offer letter.

Requesting a change

See requesting a change to your project for more information. Enquiries regarding the following should be emailed to PAA@mrc.ukri.org.

Transferring money between types of cost

If your plans have changed, you may be able to transfer some of your funding to a different heading to be spent elsewhere on your project. See transferring money between types of cost for more information.

Supplementary salary costs

Maternity, paternity, adoption and parental leave pay

Fellows (and staff funded 100% of their contracted time by the grant) are entitled to the same maternity, paternity, adoption and parental leave pay as any other employee at the research organisation at which they are employed, and we will meet any additional costs incurred within the original grant period as a result. See RCG8.3 of the terms and conditions for research grants.

Promotions and pay rises

The salary requested for each member of staff at the time of application should reflect the full anticipated cost during the lifetime of the award, including any anticipated promotions and salary increments.

It is your and your research organisation’s joint responsibility to ensure that the costs requested are as accurate as possible. Once the fellowship is awarded, additional requests for supplementary salary costs will not be considered.

Extensions

Maternity, paternity, adoption and parental extensions

Fellows requiring leave for any of the above reasons should inform us as soon as they know the date on which the leave will commence. If there are no other staff funded under the grant, the fellow should raise a grant maintenance request via Je-S for the grant to be suspended.

When the fellow returns from their leave, they should inform us by submitting a further grant maintenance request to initiate the reactivation and extension of the award. Payments will then recommence, and the grant will be extended by the period for which leave was taken.

While a grant is suspended, no payments will be made to the research organisation and no expenditure should be incurred in respect to the grant during this period Therefore, suspension is only possible if alternative arrangements are made for other staff funded by the grant for the duration of the suspension.

Sick leave

For periods of absence by the fellow (or staff funded 100% of their contracted time by the grant) an extension can be requested via a grant maintenance request on Je-S.

Non-recruitment of staff

An extension may be requested to compensate for delays in the recruitment of staff employed on the grant. A grant maintenance request should be raised in Je-S, and details should be included to demonstrate the impact of the delays on the project and that the fellow has attempted to mitigate their impact as far as possible.

Exceptional circumstances

Extensions can be requested for exceptional unforeseen delays. A grant maintenance request should be raised via Je-S, detailing the impact of the delays on the project and the steps taken to mitigate the delays.

For further guidance, please see MRC funding: making a complex change. Before submitting an exceptional extension, fellows should email us at PAA@mrc.ukri.org to discuss their circumstances.

Transfers

If the organisation you wish to transfer your fellowship to is eligible and can provide a suitable environment, you should submit a grant maintenance request via Je-S. You should provide:

  • rationale as to how the move will enable you to achieve the aims of the fellowship. Reference to the specific aims of the fellowship should be made, in addition to how this would help more broadly
  • a letter of support from the new institute that outlines the support and facilities being offered
  • information on plans for staff funded on your grant, access to patients, animal colonies, equipment and infrastructure

If the transfer is approved, the first research organisation will reconcile the grant up to the point of transfer and the remaining funds will be transferred as a new award to the second research organisation, which will then need to accept the award in the normal way.

Once the grant has transferred you should check Je-S to confirm that the end date has been extended to reflect any delays caused by this process.

Applying for or working on other research grants

All our fellowships provide competitive salaries, allowing you protected time to fully concentrate on your research, training and development and establish a competitive position by the end of the award.

If you are in receipt of a full-time award, you may spend up to six hours a week (pro rated for part-time fellows) on other commitments (for example, teaching, demonstrating, other funded projects).

Where you are working on other research grants, you must ensure there is no overlap of salary and time commitment, and the aims and objectives of your existing fellowship must not be compromised.

Greater flexibility may be permitted during the second half of a fellowship. If you are an existing fellow wishing to dedicate more than six hours a week to non-fellowship activities, you must email fellows@mrc.ukri.org to request permission prior to making any commitment.

Events and opportunities

Annual fellows’ symposium

Those holding an MRC intermediate fellowship, new investigator research grant or senior fellowship are invited to the MRC annual showcase event. The day is a mix of talks and interactive sessions, offering the opportunity to network with peers, MRC board and panel members and head office staff.

Academy of Medical Sciences mentorship scheme

If you hold an MRC intermediate fellowship, new investigator research grant or senior fellowship you are eligible for the Academy of Medical Sciences mentoring programme.

The programme pairs postdoctoral clinical and non-clinical researchers with an academy fellow, NIHR senior investigator or NIHR research professor.

This prestigious programme promotes an enabling, non-directive approach to help mentees make critical career decisions. Mentors provide a framework for making career choices and act as a signpost to information and resources, while gaining insights into the needs of early career researchers.

Watch our video on why mentoring matters for a career in medical sciences, including:

  • why mentoring matters
  • the benefits of mentoring
  • how to get the most out of a mentoring relationship

If you are interested in getting involved in the mentoring programme, please visit the mentoring programme page at the academy’s website or email mentoring@acmedsci.ac.uk.

SUSTAIN scheme

If you are a woman researcher and hold an MRC intermediate fellowship or new investigator research grant you are eligible to apply for SUSTAIN, a programme run by the Academy of Medical Sciences. It offers women researchers an opportunity to benefit from individualised support on key topics such as leadership, career planning, building a research team, grant writing and work-life balance.

NIHR reviewer development scheme

If you hold an MRC intermediate fellowship or new investigator research grant you are eligible for the NIHR reviewer development scheme.

The scheme offers members the opportunity to gain experience of peer review for NIHR funding programmes and in turn influence research commissioning.

As a scheme member you will receive feedback on your reviews, have access to experienced reviewers’ comments and be notified of the committee’s decision about the research brief or proposal you have reviewed.

Each year, all post-doctoral scheme members are invited to apply for a limited number of one-year NIHR Committee Member Development Scheme) roles.

 

7. Fellowship assessment criteria

Fellowship applications are reviewed by external reviewers and by members of either the clinical training and career development panel or the non-clinical training and career development panel.

They will consider not only the scientific merit of the project, but also the potential of the applicant and the career development opportunities the host institution will offer.

The applicant’s potential

MRC offers fellowships to support a range of career points. See MRC fellowship overview for further details.

Reviewers will assess the alignment of the applicant’s experience with the fellowship scheme’s aims, evidence of the applicant’s ability to carry out the proposed project and evidence of clear research training and career development plans. This will be dependent on the level of the scheme.

Early career: consolidation and exploration

You should have delivered previous research projects and have evidence of outputs. You should have plans for a coherent and integrated training programme.

Transition to independence

You should have the potential to become an independent researcher by having clear research plans that are distinct from your current group or leader, and citing outputs from your research experience to date to demonstrate your readiness to develop. You will generally have experience of more than one research environment.

Transition to leadership

You should have a track record of nationally competitive research and already be independent and effectively leading a research team. You should demonstrate the potential to become a leader in your field.

At all levels you should state your career aspirations and describe how the fellowship will enable you to realise them.

The project

The scientific merit of the project will be assessed in terms of its originality and the importance of the scientific questions addressed. The overall approach will be assessed, including the suitability of the proposed methodology, risks and alternative strategies, the requested resources and feasibility of the timescale. The project should be appropriately ambitious and offer suitable career development opportunities for the level of fellowship.

The place

The appropriateness of the host institution will be considered in terms of its areas of research excellence and alignment with the project, and access to the facilities, expertise, training and support it will offer the applicant.

Early career: consolidation and exploration

The host laboratory should provide an excellent research training environment and the opportunity to substantially develop new skills and techniques, and generate new interactions.

Transition to independence

There should be a clear training element and host institution support to facilitate the development of the applicant in becoming a fully independent researcher. A continuation of existing work that would fail to add new skills is outside the remit of the scheme.

Transition to leadership

You should demonstrate you will be in a world-class environment that will support your development as a leading researcher in your field.

All fellowship schemes offer applicants the opportunity to undertake a period of research training overseas, in industry or a second UK research centre. You should describe how this will broaden your research experience and training and benefit your long-term career development.

The fellowship assessment process (related content)

All applications to MRC are assessed according to the UKRI principles of assessment and decision-making.

All proposals submitted to us are scrutinised by independent experts, who consider the importance, scientific potential and cost-effectiveness of the research concerned. Find out more about the assessment process we use for proposals for funding. More information, including an overview of our review process, can be found on our peer review pages.

We have produced two YouTube videos to support researchers looking to apply for a fellowship:

While both are specifically related to clinical research training fellowships, the principles they illustrate are relevant to all fellowship interviews.

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