MRC Board and Panel Associates Scheme

The Medical Research Council (MRC) Board and Panel Associates Scheme provides researchers the opportunity to gain experience of peer review, serve on an MRC funding board or panel and benefit from mentorship as part of a two-year programme. It is aimed at researchers from underrepresented groups who are actively transitioning to independence and leadership.

The scheme aims to nurture diverse talent and support the development and retention of researchers needed for the future research and development workforce. It is part of the objectives in our strategic delivery plan.

What the scheme offers

The scheme offers valuable experience that is an integral part of building a successful research career. Benefits include:

  • increasing insight into best practice in biomedical research
  • enhanced understanding of how we make funding decisions and ensure we fund the best quality science
  • developing insight into strategic considerations of funding and requirements for publicly funded research
  • gaining insight into the qualities of successful applications to help improve future grant submissions and competitiveness in the application process
  • developing skills as peer reviewers
  • using your expertise to contribute towards research funding decisions
  • receiving mentorship and training in peer review
  • networking with peers

MRC will monitor the impact of the scheme over the course of a three-year pilot, and seek regular feedback from associates. We will make any necessary changes to ensure that our approach remains responsive to our data and the needs of the research community.

Who can apply

This scheme is aimed specifically at those who would like or feel they would benefit from more peer review experience as part of their career. If you already have or do not feel you require this experience, we encourage you to apply instead through the usual board and panel recruitment rounds.

To be eligible to apply, you must:

  • meet the diversity requirements below
  • be undertaking biomedical research activity in either an academic, clinical or industry environment
  • be at the stage in your career where you are transitioning to independence or leadership, see eligible career roles below
  • possess relevant expertise in the scientific remit of the standing MRC funding board or panel you wish to apply to
  • be able to commit to the full scope of the programme, for example attending the funding board or panel meetings, participating in expert review (for further details see application timelines)
  • not already be an experienced member of a research funding board or panel

If you are currently taking a career break and intend to return to research you are also eligible to apply, provided you meet the eligibility criteria. You do not need to hold an MRC award.

Eligible career roles

Applicants could include those in the following roles:

  • intermediate career fellowships
  • tenure track
  • lectureship
  • senior postdoc or staff scientists who are actively developing their independence
  • senior career fellowships
  • senior research or technology specialist
  • group leader
  • associate professor
  • principal research fellow
  • equivalent roles in industry

Refer to biomedical research roles and career pathways and the interactive career framework for further information.

Diversity requirements

Interventions are needed to address the loss of individuals from underrepresented groups across the science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine (STEMM) academic pipeline. This is further outlined in the University of Oxford’s Equity and Inclusivity in Research Funding report.

We define underrepresented groups as including those who have been identified in the government Diversity and inclusion in STEM Inquiry and our diversity data. You are eligible to apply if you are:

  • disabled or have a long-term condition as defined by the definition of disability under the Equality Act 2010
  • from a disadvantaged socioeconomic background
  • lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer/questioning or identify with another gender identity (LGBTQ+)
  • a woman
  • from certain minority ethnic backgrounds such as those listed below

Minority ethnic backgrounds include:

  • Bangladeshi, Indian, Pakistani, Chinese or any other Asian background
  • African, Caribbean or any other Black background
  • White and Asian, White and Black African, White and Black Caribbean or any other mixed ethnic background
  • Gypsy, Irish Traveller, Traveller or Roma
  • other ethnic backgrounds such as Arab or Arab British

Meetings you can observe

The scheme is open in the following research boards and panels, which run two to three times per year:

Find out more about application timelines and meeting dates.

How to apply

Opening date: 4 March 2024

Closing date: 14 April 2024

The survey should take approximately 10 minutes and is largely made up of multiple-choice questions.

To see the questions before applying view the MRC board and panel associates scheme survey form.

Please note: we do not accept submissions by email.

UK Research and Innovation is Disability Confident Committed. We will do our best to support any particular requirements to enable you to apply, and participate fully as a board or panel associate if you are successful. Let us know using the email below if you would like to discuss any accessibility needs.

Contact if you require support completing the survey.

Selection process

We may lawfully prioritise applicants from underrepresented groups to:

  • mitigate disadvantage linked to certain characteristics in the wider research and innovation sector
  • address disproportionate levels of participation and disparities in award rates identified in our data

We strive for representation from research organisations across the UK. When shortlisting, we will consider geographical location and institution type along with the areas of expertise that would be complementary to our existing board and panel memberships. A limited number of two places per board or panel are available.

We will also consider applicants from other countries if their full participation is practical (able to travel to attend meetings in the UK or participate virtually during UK business hours). The Applied Global Health Research Board particularly encourages applicants based in low and middle-income countries.


MRC will not provide feedback on why you were or were not selected due to anticipated high volume of applicants.

What you’ll be doing

The Board and Panel Associates Scheme consists of two phases.

Phase 1: observing and gaining experience of written peer review

Duration: one year

Associates will:

  • be given a briefing on the grant assessment process and how it works in MRC
  • be assigned a programme manager (internal MRC staff) to provide support for the duration of the first year
  • be assigned an associate ‘buddy’ throughout the scheme for peer support
  • observe one to three board or panel meetings (dependent on opportunity)
  • observe one shortlisting or triage meeting (if applicable to the opportunity)
  • learn what makes a successful review, practice writing reviews and work with assessors to gain insight into how the review process works
  • have the opportunity to provide and receive feedback and insight on the process and peer review throughout the duration of the scheme
  • be provided with optional networking opportunities

At the end of phase one, MRC staff, mentors, panellists and associates will decide if associates are ready to progress onto the second phase of the programme. Instances where an individual may not move to the next phase could include:

  • lack of perceived readiness (in consultation with the associate)
  • lack of commitment to aspects of the scheme (for example, not attending without extenuating circumstances, not providing reviews or attending training)

Phase 2: receiving mentoring and acting as a panellist

Duration: one year

Associates will:

  • be invited to attend the new board and panel member induction meeting for networking with new panellists and gaining further understanding of the requirements for the role (one day in January or February)
  • be assigned an established funding board or panel member mentor for the duration of the second year
  • contribute to the discussions at board or panel meetings with close mentorship from established board or panel members
  • attend all the board or panel meetings over the course of the year (one to three, dependent on opportunity)

Throughout the two stages, associates can seek and provide feedback and insight. At the end of the two years, we will support associates to apply to become an MRC panellist, if they wish to do so.

Time commitment for associates

For board and panel associates we anticipate that the average amount of time would be one day a month going up to two days in the second year. Meetings and preparatory work need to take place at specific times across the year.

Research boards currently meet three times a year. Each meeting lasts one to two full days depending on the size of the agenda. Panels and the Applied Global Health Research Board meet two or three times a year.

We continue to hold some meetings virtually, as well as in person where possible, to improve engagement and networking. Attendance at in-person meetings is expected, with hybrid and flexible options available for people with particular requirements such as reasonable adjustments.


We will reimburse travel (standard class) and subsistence expenses (including family care costs) as appropriate for attendance at in-person meetings.

Ask a question about the associates scheme


Further information

Equality impact assessment

Last updated: 4 March 2024

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