Early Career Researchers

Engage, recruit, train and develop new researchers, health professionals, policymakers, advocates and others in both tobacco control and alcohol research policy and practice.

Within UKCTAS we have a large number of researchers who are in the early stages of their career. One of the main objectives of the centre is to engage, recruit, train and develop new researchers. It is for this reason that the ECR group meet a few times every year to discuss the work of individual researchers in alcohol, tobacco and e-cigarette research.

The most recent meeting on the 13th July 2016 was a great success, with updates from individuals and information for academics who’re looking to forward their career in this area of research.

Funding Opportunities

AHRC - Early Career Project grants

These awards support well-defined research projects enabling individual researchers to collaborate with and bring benefits to other individuals and organisations.

More information at: ahrc.ac.uk
Amount available: £50k-250k at 100% FEC (80% payable)

AHRC - Early Career Leadership Fellowships

This scheme allows time for post-doctoral staff to undertake individual research and collaborative activities. This is an open call, with no fixed deadlines.

More information at: ahrc.ac.uk
Amount available: £50k-250k at 100% FEC (80% payable)

ESRC – New Investigator Grants

This is for post-docs with up to 4 years post PhD experience. Projects of £100k - £300k (at 100% FEC) can be awarded. Proposals must contain at least 50% social science content, and can be submitted at any time – there are no fixed deadlines.

More information at: esrc.ac.uk

MRC – Career Development Award

This is fellowship funding of up to 5 years. There are no restrictions to the length of time since obtaining a PhD, and applicants without a PhD may be considered. This award provides personal salary plus research costs. The call is issued twice a year.
More information: mrc.ac.uk

MRC – New Investigator Research grants

Applicants can request funding to cover up to 50% of their contracted time, by combining the NIR grant with other contracted activities. Up to 3 years funding can be requested. There are no restrictions to the length of time since obtaining a PhD, and applicants without a PhD may be considered. Deadlines are usually around June and November.

More information: mrc.ac.uk
For those interested, MRC success rates for grants and fellowships can be viewed here!

Leverhulme Trust

The Trust offer matched (50%) funding to those without permanent HEFCE funded posts for 3 year early career fellowships. The fellowships need to start by September 2017 and the other 50% needs to be provided by the Fellow’s institution.

More information at: leverhulme.ac.uk

Cancer Research UK - Career Development Fellowship

This is for post-doctoral researchers with between 3 and 8 years research experience since their viva examination.

More information at: cancerresearchuk.org

Cancer Research UK - Career Establishment Award

This is suitable those in junior academic posts with 3 to 8 years post-doctoral research experience.

More information at: cancerresearchuk.org

Internal university funding

Look to your host university for travel grants and other small funding awards that can assist with your studies.

Help with funding applications:

Michael Ussher from St. Georges in London gave a talk earlier in the year to early career staff in tobacco and alcohol research from the UK and Uruguay entitled ‘practical tips on grant applications’.

The following points are worth taking note:

Be aware of funder remit and priority areas
Funders usually have a ‘mission statement’, examples of recently awarded projects and other information that shows the priority areas. Make sure that your proposal matches their priorities.

Emphasise the impact of your research on Public Health
State on the application how the findings will be applied. Will there be cost savings? Will the findings be straightforward to implement? Is the research related to existing guidelines?

Focus on one application at a time
Build up a profile of preparatory work – ensure a thorough literature review. Consult senior academics, involve patients/practitioners (if relevant) early on.

Don’t assume reviewers knows the subject area
Write in lay terms, avoid jargon and re-state (not repeat) the main arguments several times.

Have a journal in mind
Ideally, have a paper title in mind when applying for grants.

Participate in funding panels and /or be a reviewer of proposals
This increases your awareness of the decision-making process with regard to common mistakes and criteria.

Interpret reviewer’s comments carefully
If comments are ambiguous, ask for clarification rather than guessing what they mean.

Consult all co-applicants early on.
If the proposal is rejected, ask for some feedback.

Have a backup plan in case proposal is rejected
Another funding call in mind?


Ilze Bogdanovica from Nottingham was awarded a Cancer Research UK Career Development Fellowship and shared her ‘secrets of success’.

Why go for a Fellowship?
It provides a longer-term contract and is an opportunity to develop/steer your career.

Timing and funder priority areas are vital, at the time CRUK were keen to fund this topic area, and tobacco control is one of their prevention priorities.
Ensure you utilise support networks to prepare the application – both from your ‘home’ institution and across UKCTAS.

If the application gets shortlisted, remember the following when preparing for the interview:
Practice, practice, practice
Keep it understandable to a lay audience
Think carefully about and be willing to respond to questions based on reviewer’s comments
Show passion, enthusiasm ad confidence
Remember the fellowship is about YOU so you need to convince them to give you the funds

Career steps

Whether you’re in the final stages of writing up your PhD or are coming to the end of a fixed term research contract, you should be planning what you are going to do next. The multitude of options can be confusing so here is a site that can help you narrow down what your skills are and how you can move forward: http://www.strath.ac.uk/rdp/toolsresources/ecr/
The site contains guidance on finding and applying for jobs within and outside academia.

Network with your fellow ECRs

Communication with fellow PhD students and colleagues in your field of study is important – as this blog advises - https://www.findaphd.com/advice/blog/blog-post.aspx?bpid=1532

Get involved - submit work to conferences, local university ‘research days’, and contribute to your departmental seminars.

Join a professional association

You can join the Society of Social Medicine for free! https://socsocmed.org.uk/early-career-researchers/

Unfortunately, membership of other learned associations and societies comes at a price but here are some of the main ones relevant to tobacco & alcohol research:
Society for Research into Nicotine and Tobacco
Society for the Study of Addiction
UK Society for Behaviour Medicine

Blogs and Other websites

You can write a blog for UKCTAS

The following may be of interest include:
Kevin Morrell
Thesis Whisperer
Post Graduate Forum
The Guardian - Higher Education Network
Neuro Chambers - tough love insensitive guide

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