Skills & careers

Fellowship assessment process

This page outlines the review process and assessment criteria for fellowship applications. More general information about peer review and how the MRC manages the review process is available.

Review process

Applications are assessed in a three stage process: external peer review, shortlisting, and panel interview.

All fellowship applications are subject to an early suitability assessment, ahead of external peer review. Applications outside the remit of the scheme will be rejected. For more information please see our fellowship FAQs and our peer review guidance.

External peer review

All applications for MRC fellowships are assessed by independent scientific experts in the relevant fields. A minimum of three reviews from independent experts are sought for each application, though more may be obtained depending on the scheme and the response rate of the reviewers contacted.

Shortlisting

Shortlisting is conducted by panel members. Three panels consider fellowship applications: the clinical training and career development panel, the non-clinical training and career development panel, and the skills development fellowship panel.

Informed by the reviewers’ comments, the relevant panel will decide which applicants are short-listed and invited to interview.

Panel interview

Interviews are conducted by the relevant panel (see above links). Interviews usually last approximately 30 minutes and are normally at the MRC’s head office London.

The MRC makes a contribution towards the costs of interviewees' return travel by the most economic route. The MRC cannot pay for meals during journeys, nor for taxis or accommodation unless agreed with the MRC’s fellowships team in advance of the interview date.

Applicants are informed as soon as possible once a final decision has been made, and are usually informed of the outcome within five working days of the interview.

Feedback

All applicants receive copies of the external reviewers’ comments after the shortlisting stage. Candidates who are interviewed will receive further feedback from the panel after the interview summarising the reasons for the panel’s decision.

The MRC’s shortlisting and interview decisions are final and not open to appeal.

Assessment criteria

In assessing applications, external reviewers and panel members will consider not only the scientific merit of the project, but the potential of the applicant and the career development opportunities the host institution will offer.

The applicant’s potential

The MRC offers fellowships to support a range of career points. See the Guidance for Fellowship Applicants (PDF, 862KB) and Applying for a fellowship 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 scheme:

  • Early-career: Consolidation and exploration: applicants should have delivered previous research projects and have evidence of outputs. They should have plans for a coherent and integrated training programme.
  • Transition to independence: applicants should have the potential to become independent researchers by having clear research plans that are distinct from their current group / leader and citing outputs from their research experience to date to demonstrate their readiness to develop. Applicants will generally have experience of more than one research environment.
  • Transition to leadership: applicants should have a track-record of nationally competitive research and already be independent and effectively leading a research team. They should demonstrate the potential to become a leader in their field.

At all levels applicants should state their career aspirations and describe how the fellowship will enable them 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 appropriateness 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: Applicants should demonstrate they will be in a world-class environment that will support their development as a leading researcher in their field.

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

Contacting MRC

For any queries contact the MRC fellowships team at fellows@headoffice.mrc.ac.uk