Seventh NIHR Infrastructure Doctoral Research Training Camp
Developing Your Post-doctoral Career: Attracting Health Research Funding

Rashmi Becker, PhD Student. NIHR CLAHRC East of England, Cambridge Intellectual & Developmental Disabilities Research Group

I have just returned from a three-day conference at Ashridge Business School for over one hundred doctoral students from NIHR Biomedical Research Centres, Biomedical Research Units, Collaborations for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care, Patient Safety Translational Research Centres, School for Primary Care Research and School for Social Care Research.

My lasting reflection as we said our goodbyes was just what a privilege it was to be selected to be part of the training camp. It was my first such experience coming together with so many passionate, intelligent people from across England with such a wide breath of specialisms who all want to make an impact through their research.

Many of us had the same initial anxieties on arrival: would we be able to contribute and benefit from the training camp given our niche areas of research. My own concern was being one of the few non-clinical researchers and the initial esoteric presentations on day one (i.e. intra-coronary nitrite suppresses the inflammatory response following primary percutaneous coronary intervention for acute myocardial infarction), did nothing to relieve that initial worry. But by the afternoon, having exchanged reflections with my peers I realised we were all in the same boat.

The afternoon of day one took a positive turn when we were briefed on the focus for the rest of the camp – to work in groups to create a grant proposal on the theme of improving public health. We were told this must not be clinical-based but rather a public health initiative. My group was quick to nominate a team leader (me – because I happened to have spoken first and apparently ‘seemed organised’) and project theme (older people and adherence to physical activity). The next twenty-four hours was spent huddled around various meals, coffee breaks and in a seminar room writing the grant proposal. New demands were introduced during the project but our group worked well together, communicating effectively and respecting each other’s contributions.

One clear message that struck me over the three days was the importance placed on patient public involvement. This stood out above everything else when it came to grant funding and we were expected to consider patient public involvement in every aspect of the research from design to dissemination.

After handing in the grant proposals at the end of day two, participants were treated to a truly inspiring after-dinner talk from Dr Giles Yeo Director of Genomics/Transcriptomics, WT-MRC Institute of Metabolic Science, University of Cambridge. Dr Yeo captivated the audience as he talked about the decisions and circumstances that influenced his career choices and the qualities he thinks are invaluable in achieving success. He told the audience to never look back, that all careers will have setbacks but one should never give up the pursuit of one’s passions.

The final day saw ten groups presenting their grant proposals and taking part in a Q&A with a panel, which included a patient and public involvement advisor. A proposal to tackle health inequalities amongst the travelling community was awarded the fictitious grant though I was impressed by the quality, creativity and relevance of grant proposals from all ten groups.

The Research Training Camp was both rewarding and exhausting and something I would strongly recommend for PhD researchers at any stage of their research.

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