I applied for fellowship funding from a few different funding bodies (NIHR, Wellcome Trust, MRC) 5 times in total before I was awarded the NIHR DRF. The whole process was completely overwhelming at first. It was a bit like setting out for a country hike and ending up scaling Everest! At the beginning of my journey back in 2009, I knew how to write a research proposal, but I had no idea how to cost a grant or how to write such a large application. It turned out to be a lesson in resilience, learning from experience, and being willing to face failure a few times along the way.
I would highly recommend making contact with other successful candidates, both within and outside your institution when applying for fellowships. In general everyone I spoke to was very helpful and responsive, and the advice was invaluable. The great thing now compared to even 10 years ago, is that there are more clinical psychologists who have held these awards, so the support network is larger than it used to be. In all honesty, looking back it was it was extremely tough to get the application ready whilst also working full-time in a clinical job. It took many hours in the evenings and weekends to get it done. However, I was very motivated to keep trying as I knew a fellowship would be transformational for me, and would help me develop a clinical academic career. Indeed, the opportunity to combine a clinical and research career was the reason I went into clinical psychology to begin with. Getting the NIHR fellowship was such an important stepping stone for me, not only in offering me protected time to focus on research, but also the support to undergo further specialist training through doing short courses at centres of excellence. I secured my first permanent academic position at the University of Bath directly after finishing my clinical trials fellowship, and I am now applying for grants as PI and building up my own research team.
“The opportunity to secure my own grant and start to pursue my own research ideas, through the fellowship gave me confidence and experience in becoming an independent researcher.”