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Dr Lorraine Watson is an NIHR School for Primary Care Research Post-Doctoral Fellow and Registered Dietitian, School of Medicine, Keele University.


The Twelfth NIHR Doctoral Research Training Camp was held in Leamington Spa and brought together delegates from across the country from a range of research backgrounds. This was my first time at a NIHR Training Camp, and after 18 months of so many things being held online it was great to be able to attend in person. The theme of the training camp was ‘Applying for further funding’ and it started with an afternoon packed with presentations on key topics such as how to frame your research question, what makes a good funding application and presentation skills for panel interviews. Una Rennard and Dr Paula Wray delivered a thought-provoking talk about the importance of Patient and Public Involvement and Engagement (PPIE) when forming a research question and throughout the stages of a research project. Una and Paula’s tips for how to recruit PPIE group members will be especially helpful for my own research project. Dr Laura Coates, NIHR Clinical Scientist and Senior Clinical Research Fellow at the University of Oxford, shared her experiences of applying for post-doctoral funding and some of her key learning points from her career. We also heard about all the opportunities and support available from the NIHR Academy from the Dean and Associate Dean for the NIHR Academy Professor Waljit Dhillo and Professor Anne-Maree Keenan.

After an afternoon of presentations, we were put into groups and presented with our task, which was to apply to a fictitious Public Health funding call. We had just 24 hours to think of a research question and submit a funding application. During that time we met with PPIE group members, the Research Design Service, the head of finance, and the director of the programme, whilst writing the full application. After the application was submitted, we presented our research plans and fielded questions from the research programme steering committee. I was fortunate to be in a fantastic multi-disciplinary team for the activity and, although at times it did feel a little like we were on an episode of the Apprentice or Dragon’s Den, by the end we were all proud of what we had achieved and learnt as a team. For me personally it highlighted how much could be achieved in a day by sharing tasks and working in a team, even when under pressure. It also emphasised all the different components of a grant application and the best way to approach each aspect.

As well as the presentations and activities, the camp provided lots of networking and mentorship opportunities with other NIHR researchers. As a dietitian it was great to meet other nutrition researchers funded by the NIHR to hear about the different research topics and to share knowledge and experiences. As I'm currently undertaking intervention research it was also great to network with other researchers in the same field, to discuss different approaches to the research. If you get the chance, I would definitely recommend attending the NIHR training camp. The training camp increased my knowledge, practical skills and confidence in attracting future research funding, which will be essential as I progress on my post-doctoral career.