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I would personally recommend and urge trainees to attend this training camp as it provides trainees with skills and confidence to work on future funding applications and to further develop skills to network and work collaboratively.
- Yumna Masood

This year the NIHR Doctoral Research Training camp took place on 4th-6th July at the prestigious Ashridge House in the superb setting of Berkhamsted.  The training camp aimed to offer PhD students and early career researchers the essential skills and processes required for successful grant applications.

The three-day training camp involved lectures from senior academics, workshops and group work. Dr Rebecca Kearney gave the welcome lecture and spoke about building a post-doctoral career using her experience from her work in the area of trauma and orthopaedic rehabilitation. Three talks from delegates followed, and a lecture by Dr Lisa Cotterill, director of NIHR trainee coordinating centre giving advice about how TCC can advise and support early career researchers through an expanded network. A motivating talk by Dr Pamela Jacobsen on how to make the most of the training camp, where she shared her experience of the group work and the do’s and don’ts of the group task. Following that we were given an opportunity to present our research with posters, this session was a useful way to meet and engage with researchers from wide-ranging backgrounds.

After the poster session, we were assigned to small groups of 7-8 researchers.  We were tasked with producing a funding application, over the course of the event, and presenting it to a panel of experts on the final day. Each group consisted of researchers from a range of disciplines including medical doctors, statisticians, psychologists, and health economists.  For our first task, our group came up with a name and assigned a team leader.  The next task was to agree on a topic area of public health. We brainstormed some ideas discussing the various public health issues.  It was a challenge to decide on a topic because of the range of interests and backgrounds of group members, but we finally agreed on our subject: Social perception of integrated real-time tracking technology – a novel devise for challenging hazardous alcohol consumption. The next stage was all about planning the projects, where our group explored everyone’s individual skills and research experiences, allocated appropriate tasks and worked on a plan for the next day.  Later we decided on a group leader who would delegate and ensure we were right on track with the various deadlines.


The second day started early with a lecture from Professor Sue Ziebland advising us on how to make a proper funding application.  The rest of the day was quite pressured and intensive, we had to attend mini-workshops, meetings with experts and work together to produce the written grant application. The two workshops consisted of ‘presentation skills for panel interviews’ and ‘the art of framing your research question’.

For the group task I had overall responsibility for PPI involvement and attending a mini-workshop. I was given an opportunity to discuss our plans for the PPI engagement and a lay summary with an expert PPI panel. They gave relevant feedback which was incorporated into our application. We had to work around deadlines throughout the day until the submission deadline at 5pm. Although the tasks were daunting, we as a team still managed to submit our application on time. To add to the intimidation, we were frequently given surprises in the form of spontaneous queries on numerous occasions from the judging panel.  After the submission of the application and a chance to unwind, we enjoyed an evening with a formal dinner served in a spectacular dining room. This was time for us to do some networking with other researchers from other groups. 

The final day involved presenting our research to the panel of judges and elaborating on our ideas.  It was amazing to see how a range of projects were formulated and brought together in just two days, it was quite impressive! The winners were announced later on in the evening. Overall, it was an enjoyable and rewarding experience to learn from each other and to work collaboratively to come up with an innovative and engaging application.

I would personally recommend and urge trainees to attend this training camp as it provides trainees with skills and confidence to work on future funding applications and to further develop skills to network and work collaboratively.

Yumna Masood is SPCR trainee at the University of Manchester.

The NIHR Infrastructure Training Camp is organised by the NIHR Trainees Co-ordinating Centre (TCC) and is open to SPCR trainees after a selection process which takes place in January/February every year. Find out more about the programme.