Clinical Research Training Fellowships – Frequently Asked Questions
This page contains some of the frequently asked questions regarding Clinical Research Training Fellowships, including questions and answers regarding eligibility, funding and application process.
1. What’s the difference between predoctoral and postdoctoral CRTFs?
If you are applying for a fellowship to support you while undertaking PhD or MD you should apply to the predoctoral scheme. These awards are FEC exempt and support is limited to the Fellow’s salary and £15k per annum for costs (see Q18).
If you obtained your PhD at least 5 yrs ago but have not been research active since that point, you may apply for a postdoctoral CRTF award to allow you to move back into research. These awards will be awarded under the FEC framework and you can request reasonable research costs.
2. At what stage of my career should I apply for a CRTF award?
Candidates are usually undertaking their specialty training and are at ST3/ST4 level and have normally completed their MRCP (or equivalent) exams.
The expectation is that candidates will be at an appropriate point to step out of programme to undertake a PhD. Having undertaken a substantial part of their specialty training they should have a clear idea of their future career path and will enter clinical practice soon enough after completing their fellowship they will not de-skill in the intervening period.
3. I’m earlier/later in my training that ST3/ST4 – can I still apply to the scheme?
Candidates should be undertaking specialty training but may apply at stages other than ST3/ST4.
Candidates earlier in their career will need to make a robust case as to why they are ready to undertake research training and how they will complete their specialty training and combine research and clinical work in their future career.
Candidates later in their careers (up to obtaining their CCT – see Q5) will need to make a robust case for why they now wish to embark on a research career and convince that they are dedicated to this career path. Due to differences in training pathways, there are exceptions. In particular, it should be noted that GPs are considered to be at an appropriate career stage to apply to this competition up to three years post-qualification as a GP.
4. I was awarded my PhD some years ago. Can I apply for a CRTF?
Yes. The scheme offers the opportunity for candidates who undertook a research degree early in their training who have since been unable to establish a research career due to the demands of completing their training to apply for a postdoctoral fellowship to allow them to make the transition to a research career. If applying for a Postdoctoral CRTF you must have obtained your PhD/MD at least 5 yrs ago and not have been research active for that time.
Postdoctoral CRTF applicants are considered in open competition with predoctoral applications.
5. I already have my CCT. Can I still apply?
The expectation is that you will not be eligible. If there are specific issues relating to your chosen specialty that result in you being unable to undertake a Clinical Research Training Fellowship before this point in your career you may be eligible, but you must contact the office to discuss you application before submitting a proposal.
It should be noted that GPs are considered to be at an appropriate career stage to apply to this competition up to three years post-qualification as a GP.
6. Can I apply if I’m not clinically qualified?
Nurses and allied health professionals may apply to the predoctoral scheme for support while undertaking a PhD. Candidates must have an MSc in a relevant subject.
Researchers who are not clinically qualified but hold a BSc and PhD in a relevant subject are not eligible to apply to the scheme and should consider our non-clinical fellowship schemes. Information about all MRC fellowships is available here.
7. What is the minimum tenure of an award?
24 months is the minimum tenure for an award. If the fellowship is undertaken part time, the full time equivalent (FTE) must be at least 24 months (e.g. 50% time for 48 months)
8. Can my proposal be longer than 36 months?
Awards are usually a maximum of 36 months. If the proposed project is patient-based you may apply for support for up to 48 months to allow extra time to e.g. collect patient samples, complete follow up assessments etc.
9. Can I work part time on my fellowship?
It is MRC’s expectation that fellows will step out of programme to work on their award full time. To accommodate the dual clinical-research training career path, fellows are allowed to spend up to 20 per cent of their time on NHS sessions (2 sessions per week) while undertaking a full-time fellowship and such candidates should request 100% of their salary in their application.
Fellowships may be held on a part-time basis for domestic reasons or in exceptional circumstances where the fellow’s training path does not permit them to step out of programme. The tenure of the award must still equal 2 years full time equivalent and the requested salary should be entered on a pro rata basis.
10. I’ve already started a PhD/MD. Can I still apply?
If you have already started a PhD, MD, or similar type of research degree, you may only apply to the scheme if at the proposed start date you will not have been registered for that degree for more than 12 months (on a full time equivalent basis if registered part-time). Applicants must clearly state any courses for which they are enrolled in their CVs 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 (simply stating “part-time” is insufficient).
When determining the tenure of the programme to take into account, any time spent on a MPhil/MD etc. which will count towards the degree undertaken during the fellowship should be taken into consideration e.g. if you are registered for an MD and plan to upgrade this to registration for a PhD, the period from the start of the MD must be taken into consideration.
11. I’ve already started an MPhil (or equivalent). Does this affect my application?
If the research undertaken for the MPhil will contribute to the research degree undertaken during the fellowship, the programme of research to be taken into consideration when determining eligibility for the scheme starts from the point of registration for the MPhil, not the date of registration for the higher degree.
12. Can I apply to other funders at the same time as my MRC application is considered?
Applications for fellowships may simultaneously be submitted to the MRC and charities, such as the Wellcome Trust. You may not apply simultaneously to the MRC and another Research Council or NIHR.
You must list any current applications in the ‘Other Support’ section of the MRC form and mention your MRC application in any applications to other funders.
13. Can I apply to more than one MRC fellowship scheme?
You may not submit simultaneous applications to more than one MRC fellowship scheme.
If your application is declined by one scheme you may resubmit to a different scheme so long as you are eligible to apply. This application would count as a resubmission.
14. Do I have to register for a PhD/MD/equivalent degree if awarded a fellowship?
If you are awarded a predoctoral fellowship you are required to register for a PhD or equivalent. If you are a postdoctoral candidate returning to research after obtaining a PhD some time ago you would not need to register for a further degree.
15. Can the tenure of the award extend beyond the award of my PhD?
Clinical Research Training Fellowship awards aim to support a discrete project that will lead to a higher research degree and do not fund unspecified follow-on work following the submission of the PhD/MD thesis. Exceptionally a short discrete piece of specified research, building on the MD/PhD project may be supported; however, should the Panel decide not to support the follow-on work and as a result the tenure of the fellowship falls bellow the 24 months, you will then be ineligible for an award.
16. I’ve had a previous MRC fellowship application declined. Can I resubmit?
MRC Fellowships are personal awards. As an individual, you may submit to any MRC fellowship scheme twice. In the ‘Relevant Applications/Submissions’ section of the Je-S application for you should include the reference number, title and scheme applied to (double check). Moving institution or submitting a different project does not reset the number of previous applications.
17. I have had my resubmission declined. If I apply with a new project does it still count as a resubmission?
Yes. You may only apply to any MRC fellowship scheme twice. Moving institution or submitting a different project does not reset the number of previous applications.
18. Will my award be made with the Full Economic Costing (FEC) framework?
Predoctoral awards are FEC exempt and MRC will fund 100% of the requested amount. As they are FEC exempt, Estates Costs and Indirect costs are not awarded for predoctoral awards. Postdoctoral awards will be awarded within the FEC framework.
19. Are there limits on the funding I can request?
Predoctoral candidates may apply for funding to cover their salary, which may be up to but not including starting consultant level, and for up to £15,000 per annum to cover the costs of the project (pro rata if part time). The £15k pa must cover all costs such as consumables, PhD fees, conference attendance etc. All costs should be submitted as directly incurred costs.
Certain costs may be requested in addition to the £15,000 per annum. Predoctoral candidates my apply for the costs incurred by undertaking training at an Overseas Centre/2nd Centre/Industry Placement and the cost of animals (including costs of obtaining animals and their maintenance but excluding additional experimental costs) in addition to the £15,000 per annum. These costs should be clearly noted in both the Application form and Justification of Resources attachment Only these costs can be applied for above the £15,000 pa limit.
Postdoctoral candidates may apply for their salary, which may be up to but not including starting consultant level, and for reasonable research costs which will be awarded under the FEC framework. There is no limit to the research costs which may be requested, but candidates should bear in mind that their application will be considered in open competition with applications costed using the advice above.
20. Can I request for more than £15,000 per annum for a predoctoral project if my project is expensive and I explain why I need the extra funding in the proposal?
No. Only the costs described in Q18 may be requested in addition to this limit.
21. Can I include my supervisor’s time as a staff cost?
It is unusual for a supervisor to cost his time on a fellowship application. Staff requests should be for staff actually undertaking activities on the project.
22. Why should I apply for Joint Funding?
The MRC is proud to collaborate with a number of Royal Colleges and Charity funders to offer a number of jointly funded Clinical Research Training Fellowships each round. These awards offer the prestige of having the relevant organisation co-fund your fellowship and may offer additional opportunities to report on your project, present your work at meetings and for professional networking.
All applications are considered in open competition, therefore a request for joint funding will have no effect on the outcome of your application. Any jointly funded fellowships will be offered at the same funding level as any other MRC clinical research training fellowship and under standard MRC terms and conditions except where additional terms and conditions are specified by the joint funder. See MRC’s website or contact the funder for further details.
All Clinical Research Training Fellowship applicants must upload the form available here as part of their cover letter to state whether they would like to apply for joint funding.
A full list of the organisations with which the MRC currently collaborates is available on the MRC website. Not all jointly funded opportunities are available for each competition round; please see the competition deadlines for information on which funders are offering awards for each competition.
23. What happens if the Joint Funder I apply for is unable to offer funding this round?
You will automatically be considered for a standard MRC CRTF award instead.
24. If I apply for joint funding can I request more money?
No. The same limits described in Q18 apply
25. How are jointly funded awards administered?
The award will be administered in the same way as a standard MRC CRTF, though some additional terms and conditions may apply (see Q21). Your research organisation will not need to contact the joint funder regarding the award and MRC will administer all funding issues.
I have already secured funding from my Research organisation/a charity for part of the period I will be undertaking a PhD, can I apply to the MRC to pay the remainder?
MRC’s current policy is that we will not ‘top-up’ funding already secured from other sources. You should therefore apply for the full amount needed for the remaining tenure of your proposed project, subject to the minimum tenure described above – see Question 7. Should MRC offer you an award you would be expected to relinquish any previous award.
26. My project incurs NHS costs. Where should I include these in the proposal?
These should be noted in the case for support and a letter of support from the relevant health authority uploaded with the application stating that they are prepared to cover the costs incurred.
27. How do I apply?
All applications to the MRC must now be made through the RCUK Joint electronic-Submissions system (Je-S). The URL for the Je-S application system is https://je-s.rcuk.ac.uk.
28. Does my application have to be submitted through my research organisation’s administration department?
Yes. You will need to ensure that your research organisation is registered on Je-S as an administering authority in order to submit your proposal. Further information and guidance is available on the Je-S Help Pages.
Please note that when an application is submitted through Je-S it does not pass directly to the MRC, but to the Research Organisation’s administration team who will then process the submission to the MRC
You are strongly advised to contact the team responsible for proposal submissions at your Research Organisation to confirm how much time they will need to process your application and complete the submission process. All applications must be submitted to the MRC via the RCUK Joint electronic-Submission system by 4pm on the advertised closing date.
29. How much time will my Research Organisation need to process my application before submitting it to MRC?
This will depend on your Research Organisation and you will need to contact the team responsible for submissions to confirm this.
30. Can I submit offline instead of using Je-S?
No. All applications must be submitted via Je-S.
31. Which call should I submit to?
Within Je-S you will be able to submit to either the predoctoral or postdoctoral CRTF calls. The exact name of call may vary each round, but will generally take the form of the scheme name, pre/postdoc, and the month and year of the deadline date.
32. Where can I get advice on how to complete my application?
General guidance on Fellowship Applications can be found on the MRC Website. For guidance on using Je-S, please see the Je-S handbook or contact the Je-S helpdesk at JeSHelp@rcuk.ac.uk or +44 (0) 1793 44 4164.
33. If my application does not reach MRC by the deadline can it still be considered?
No. Applications not submitted by 4pm on the day of the deadline will not be considered.