Dr Hamish McAllister-Williams: I think with regard to an application for a CRTF the three important elements as always is the person, the project, and the place where they’re doing it. Professor Moira Whyte: The backgrounds of candidates that we see applying for CRTFs are very varied and diverse. So many of them are medics, but we do also see dentists, veterinarians, clinical psychologists, so they’re not all medics. They can come from pretty much any higher education institution in the UK, and they can be interested in a very broad range of clinical problems and clinical specialties. And actually, one of the attractions of the scheme is that we are open to everyone in the UK essentially who is clinically qualified, who has a passion for undertaking research. Professor David Ray: The candidate, we’re looking for someone who has demonstrated that they have a genuine interest in research. Have they got involved where the opportunities were available? You know, an undergraduate placement or a project that was a research flavour, or have they been involved in writing up a scientific paper, a case report, contributing to a review? Anything to demonstrate that they’ve genuinely got a commitment. Professor Paresh Vyas: For those individuals who have spent time in a laboratory and generated preliminary data of their own, that’s obviously very helpful. But that isn’t a requirement, and there will be some candidates who will not have spent time in the laboratory, and for them as long as the rest of the project hangs together that is fine. Professor Jane Armitage: What we’re looking for is that real spark of scientific interest, can they take an idea and really develop it and run with it and, you know, make good science out of it? Professor Moira Whyte: When we are assessing a CRTF application it is very much about the three Ps, about person, place and project. In terms of the project however, what we’re looking for is a clear research question that we think is relevant, and that it represents a distinct body of work. It’s not a smaller part of somebody else’s project, it’s a defined piece of work for which the candidate will take ownership. Professor Elieen Joyce: I think a good project is something that has a very clear hypothesis, or very clear aims and objectives, not too many, that lead to experiments or studies that are doable within three years and will deliver results. Of course, it would have to be of relevance and importance, but this is also about training of the candidates, so they need to demonstrate the training aspects of the projects that they’re going to be undertaking, and articulate how they’re going to be trained and what’s going to make a difference to them at the end of their three year fellowship. Professor Moira Whyte: So how you balance feasibility of a project with making it exciting and innovative can be a bit of a balancing act. The panel are concerned to make sure that a project is doable, so sometimes preliminary data is needed to show that a more novel technique or a technique that’s not previously been done in the laboratory of the supervisor is actually feasible and is going to work. Because we’re very conscious of the need for the candidate to have a successful PhD experience. So feasibility, deliverability is important, but equally we don’t want to see somebody repeating work that’s been already done with a minor variation, we want an interesting research question that deserves to be answered. Innovative approaches are very welcome, but a question that’s very often asked at interviews is, “What is your plan B?” So it’s very important to think, “If this exciting new technique doesn’t work, what am I going to do then?” Professor Paresh Vyas: When thinking about the place and the supervisor, the mentor, there are some really important rules here. The place should be a place that is uniquely able, if at all possible, to offer that project, so it may be a cohort of patients or technology, there may be a history of success in the place. It should also provide the individual with mentorship, mentorship so that if a project takes a different course then that is accommodated, that the individuals understand what a clinical academic career is about, and facilitate the individual to come back into medicine. Dr Hamish McAllister-Williams: If we are saying there are the three Ps that are critical for a successful application, the person, the project, and the place, with regard to the place, usually people are often coming from good research centres. To be frank, there aren’t lots of rubbish research centres in the UK, but they do all vary and they vary
a lot in size and structure. And I think that it is important the panel is confident that
the named supervisors have the breadth of expertise to be able to support and train the applicant, and that they have the capacity to be able to do that. So I think being able to document that the lead supervisor is able to provide regular supervision to the candidate, that the candidate has got supplementary supervisors who can plug important knowledge and skill gaps, I think is good. I think the other really critical issue with regard to the place is a potential problem if you’re coming from a very large research group. That can often look very good because there is a tremendous amount of experience and expertise and quality in this large group, but it can sometimes make the project look as if it is just simply a part of a much, much larger programme of work and that the applicant is just a pair of hands doing some of that work. And it is really important that the applicant is able to demonstrate what they own, their project and how it is theirs. Sure, it may well link in with what else is going on within the lab, but that there is a discrete project which is theirs.