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Jamie Hartmann-Boyce and David Jameson

Making a difference – from evidence to impact.

Last week we attended the annual NIHR Trainees Meetings in Leeds. The NIHR Trainees Coordinating Centre (TCC) runs this event for its trainees every year – the theme this year was “Making a difference – from evidence to impact.” The event runs over two days and is jam packed with seminars, workshops, poster presentations, and ample networking opportunities. It was a buzzing atmosphere with an abundance of material covered, and if you are an NIHR trainee and haven’t gone yet, we recommend you look into it for next year!

Rather than trying to sum up the whole meeting (a monumental task), we’ve decided to reflect on the top pieces of advice we gleaned from the meeting, and to pass them on to you. So here goes:


From ‘How to Make a Successful Fellowship Application’:

  • Talk to funders early on in the process – they all have people whose job it is to talk to potential applicants, and want to hear from you!
  • The earlier you approach the NIHR Research Design Service, the more they can do for you.
  • If you make it to interview, remember its ok to be nervous and to not know everything. Admit what you don’t know, be happy to take advice, relax, and be yourself.
  • In NIHR interviews (and presumably for other funding bodies, too), the last slide of your presentation stays up for the remainder of the interview. So make it strong and visual – you don’t need to be formulaic.

From ‘Media Interviews – TV, Press and Radio’:

  • Use stories to illustrate a point – they don’t have to be your stories (but in that case, be honest about whose they are).
  • Come to an interview armed with three key points that you want to get across. These should include: your main point, condensed into one sentence; a story or illustration; and a call to action (i.e. what next?).
  • If you’re interviewed in a standing position for TV (which I can attest does happen, having been there myself once), hold the middle finger of one hand with the thumb and middle finger of the other hand and rest your hands at naval level. This sounds weird, but looks natural and it’s really tricky to know what to do with your hands in these scenarios.
  • Dress for TV – men should wear a tie and a jacket; women should wear a jacket with good shoulders, with hair pulled back and no dangly earrings.  Purple is apparently a great colour for TV (who knew), so consider a purple tie for men or a purple blouse for women.



From ‘How to Make a Successful Fellowship Application’:

  • Apply to a wide range of funders early on in the application process, including the MRC, BBSRC, MRC, NIHR and charities. They may all have money available to support your application.
  • The focal points of the application differ for fellowships and grant proposals. For fellowship applications the focus is on the person (you!), the project you will undertake and finally the place where you will undertake the project. Grant applications focus more on the project you will undertake, the people you’ll work with (why they are the best people to collaborate with) and the place where you’ll undertake the project (why is this the best place for this research project to be carried out).
  • Discuss about how the application fits in with your own career trajectory. What career outputs would you like to see from the results of your project?
  • Include your training needs as part of the application process. This shows you have thought about your project, and identified the skills you have and need for it to be successful.