NOTE: The submission date for the inclusion of projects for an October 2018 start is 1 May 2018.
Guidelines relating to the student selection process are included at Questions 26 and 27 below
1. HOW MANY STUDENTSHIPS ARE AVAILABLE?
Up to 3 additional studentships are available within the areas of AI and Data science within the GW4 BioMed MRC DTP for October 2018.
2. HOW DO I SUBMIT A PROJECT PROPOSAL?
Project proposals were already submitted as part of the bidding process to the MRC. These projects will now be light touch screened to ensure they have adequate financial backing and that supervisors are fully committed to being part of the DTP ethos, which includes taking part in training and cohort building events.
The deadline is 9.30am Tuesday 1st May 2018.
For information only, there is a copy of the survey in appendix 1. This is to help with your project proposal development only. Only proposals submitted via the online survey by the deadline will be considered. We have attached a version the Application Form in Word format so that you can share answers within your supervisory team before cutting and pasting your answers into the online BOS application form to submit them, as there is no function with the online system to enable you to share partially completed forms. We advise you save a version of your answers e.g. Word doc, in case the online survey crashes whilst you are completing it. You will be able to save and revise your proposal online before the deadline, however once it is submitted it is not possible to amend it.
Please ensure you read this FAQ document before completing your proposal.
3. INSTITUTIONAL APPROVAL
You will be asked to confirm that your faculty/school has approved the submission of your project, as the studentship award is unlikely to cover the costs of the research, given that the RTSG is primarily targeted at students’ training needs. A check will be made once all applications have been received that the home institution is content for the project(s) to go forward.
4. WHAT ARE THE KEY DATES FOR THE RECRUITMENT PROCESS?
|Tuesday 1 May 2018 by 9.30am||Supervisor project proposal submission deadline|
|Tuesday 8th May by 5pm||Confirmation of project shortlisting outcome|
|Thursday 10th May 9.00am||Projects advertised for student applications|
|Thursday 7 June by 9am||Student application deadline|
|Monday 18th June by 9.30am||Panel submit shortlist scores to DTP|
|Tuesday 19th June by 9.00am||DTP notifies candidates and supervisors of successful applications to that Theme.|
|From Tuesday 19th June to Wednesday 27th June 2018||Supervisor interviews all shortlisted candidates|
|By Thursday 28th June 2018||Supervisor sends report to DTP
Candidates sends references and transcripts to DTP
|Monday 9th July 2018||DTP Interviews|
|By Tuesday 10th July 2018 by 5pm||Studentship allocation announced|
|11th July – 18th July 2018||Adjustments for declined studentships|
|w/c 25th September 2018 TBC||Local Student and Staff Induction Events|
|1st October 2018||Official funding start date|
5. CAN I APPLY IN MORE THAN ONE YEAR?
The DTP is funded for three consecutive intakes; this is the third intake. Supervisors are only permitted to submit one proposal per year as lead supervisor, and if successful, can only be a lead supervisor in two of the three years. Supervisors can be co-supervisors on an unlimited number of projects in all years.
6. DOES THE PROJECT HAVE TO FIT IN WITH ONE OF THE THREE THEMES?
The studentships will be awarded against the three key research themes that characterise the GW4 BioMed DTP: Neuroscience and Mental Health; Infection, Immunity and Repair; and Population Health. Project proposals that sit outside the key themes but offer students outstanding training opportunities, especially in the cross-cutting skills priority areas, will also be considered for funding
7. CAN NON-BIOMEDICAL SUPERVISORS APPLY?
Yes. The DTP and MRC are particularly keen to promote interdisciplinary working with particular reference to mathematics, physical sciences, engineering and also social sciences. While it is not anticipated that many of the lead supervisors will be from disciplines outside of biomedical sciences, we are hoping that many of the projects will include co-supervisors or collaborators from these disciplines.
We also aim to attract excellent students from these disciplines and there is funding available to provide biomedical training as necessary.
8. HOW MANY SUPERVISORS CAN BE ON THE PROPOSAL?
There is no maximum number of supervisors. The application form allows space for up to four, so please use those spaces to identify the main supervisory staff and include the remainder as a project team in the later sections. Those listed as co-supervisors will be required to have a greater level of involvement in the student’s progression monitoring etc. Less experienced supervisory teams may include an experienced supervisor to act in a ‘mentoring’ role.
9. HOW WILL THE DTP CORRESPOND WITH THE SUPERVISORY TEAM?
The majority of communications will be directed via the lead supervisor, who will be expected to cascade the information onto the rest of their team. This is to try and reduce the volume of communication the DTP hub has to process. Last year we had 490 project proposals, with over 1500 supervisors.
10. IS IT ADVANTAGEOUS TO HAVE SUPERVISORS FROM MORE THAN ONE GW4 PARTNER?
Yes. The GW4 BioMed DTP aims to show what can be achieved by harnessing the combined power of four research intensive universities. Supervisors are strongly encouraged to seek out partners for training or experience in other GW4 HEIs and include them as co-supervisors. We have given an undertaking that at least 50% of projects will be across two or more GW4 partners.
Collaboration can mean access to laboratories, specific training, etc., not just co-supervision. However, experience has shown that one of the most effective ways of building collaboration and cohesion across a network, and adding extra value to the student experience is through co-supervision.
Funds are paid to the institution of the Lead Supervisor. Please see Paragraph 15 for details.
11. CAN OTHER PARTNERS BE INVOLVED?
Any partners (academic and non-academic) can be involved in the project, not just those within the GW4 partnership. Supervisors should be aware, however, that the DTP seeks to have at least 50% collaborative projects across at least two of the DTP institutions, so should consider opportunities for ‘internal’ collaboration as a priority.
12. IS THE DTP LOOKING TO CONVERT PROJECTS TO CASE?
There is no CASE conversion target. This does not preclude industrial involvement which strengthens the project proposal, and which can take several forms (including placement, co-supervision, and financial contribution to project costs). Industrial project proposals will not carry any premium in the selection process, but collaboration and subsequent enhancements to research and training opportunities will be scored favourably.
13. WHAT IS COVERED BY THE STUDENTSHIP?
Most of the studentships will be of 3.5 years’ duration, as this is the ‘notional’ duration defined by the MRC. Our award has been calculated on this basis. Applications for a longer duration will be considered on a case-by-case basis only where the nature and intensity of the training requires additional time to undertake the training and development activities. Part-time studentships will also be considered: part-time studentships are expected to be at around 60% of stipend and 50% of fees over a period of 6 years.
The elements of the studentship are: fees (UK/EU rate); RCUK national minimum stipend; RTSG (Research Training Support Grant); and conference/travel allowance (£300 p.a.).
Please note: the funding is linked to the successful student. If the student withdraws at any stage, the funding will be re-allocated by the Management Board to the next successful student, and their preferred project. Therefore supervisors will not be able to re-advertise their project for a new student.
14. WHAT FUNDING IS AVAILABLE FOR PROJECT COSTS – E.G. CONSUMABLES, ANIMAL COSTS?
Each studentship will include an RTSG (Research Training Support Grant) as a contribution towards training workshops, placements, travel to attend personal development activities, and basic consumables (excluding those items which would ordinarily be expected to be provided by the institution). MRC makes a distinction between ‘wet-lab’ and ‘dry-lab’ projects, and expects ‘wet-lab’ projects to receive £5k p.a. RTSG, and ‘dry-lab’ projects to receive £2k p.a. RTSG (minimum values). A further one-off grant from the ‘Flexible Supplement’ of up to £6k for the life of the project will be considered where there are in vivo costs, to cover the enhanced training costs associated with this work, such as Home Office workshops. Note that the studentship is expected to cover all training costs but NOT all consumable and equipment costs for the project; support is also expected to be provided from the project and programme grants held by the supervisory team.
The grant from the MRC also includes a ‘flexible supplement’. The value of the supplement was announced in March 2017 (£176,912 total) for cohort 2 (2017-18) with a note that cohort 3 could expect the same amount. It is a small budget considering the scope of training, research and development opportunities we promised and wish to deliver. The Management Board has taken time to consider how best to manage these limited funds, to ensure the needs of the individual students, projects and the wider GW4 BioMed DTP cohort can be met, fulfilling the strategic objectives of the DTP, MRC and RCUK. It is also a condition that this funding is available to other non-DTP MRC students who commenced from October 2016.
A proportion of the funding for individual/project needs has been ring-fenced to fund individual high cost research training needs. To determine the allocation of this funding the Management Board set up a funding panel; comprising the three Research Theme Leaders (Population Health; Infection, Immunity and Repair; and Neuroscience and Mental Health). They will hold calls for funding twice a year, and your application acts as your first call. Supervisors should identify in the application form any high-cost training or expenses (including travel) integral to the project, and whether or not this will require the project duration to be longer than 3.5 years (subject to this being to fund enhanced training activities as per para 13 above).
15. WHEN STUDENTS UNDERTAKE RESEARCH AT DIFFERENT GW4 INSTITUTIONS, HOW WILL THEIR RESEARCH BE FUNDED?
The RTSG, and any flexible supplement awarded, will be made available to the student and lead supervisor via the host institution. It is the responsibility of the supervisory team to manage the funds across institutions, to ensure costs are within budget. Co-supervisory institutions will not receive a portion of tuition fees.
16. WHAT TRAINING WILL THE DTP PROVIDE?
A core set of basic research skills consistent with those recommended by the MRC and vitae.co.uk has been agreed by the DTP and incorporated into bespoke elements of the RDF online portal (rdfplanner.vitae.ac.uk). All students are required to record their projected training plans and progress to completing these in their online RDF planner which will be shared with supervisors and the DTP Management. Supervisors will be required to undertake a Skills Needs Analysis with their student on a regular basis, and use entries by the student into their RDF planner to record this. An Online Core Training Course has been developed of 30 elements over 3 modules which covers all aspects of the agreed DTP research skills. It is a requirement of GW4 MRC Biomed DTP supervision/co-supervision that supervisors agree to contribute to student training, including online training.
Basic, core skills training as defined by the DTP may be provided at institutional level (research ethics and integrity, statistical approaches, presentation skills, etc.), or via the DTP Online Core Training modules or a mixture of both, so long as all areas are covered. Periodic review of RDF planner downloads will be reviewed by supervisors and the DTP to ensure that arrangements and progression are satisfactory.
In addition, students are strongly encouraged to take advantage of the wide range of advanced training offered across the 4 HEIs of the DTP. The DTP will facilitate access to a menu of advanced training across the partnership (e.g. specialist Masters modules and short courses; interdisciplinary skills training, e.g. in imaging; in vivo training courses) and will co-ordinate specialist research training days and Advanced Training Elements (aligned to MRC priorities for training) around the research themes. All students will be expected to undertake at least one Advanced Training Element, and one opportunity for broadening horizons (e.g. a public engagement internship, industrial placement, a research visit, a mini-MD), usually in years 2 or 3. There will also be induction days an annual congress and cohort building activities and supervisors are required to release students to attend these events
Supervisors will be required to undertake a Skills Needs Analysis with their student on a regular basis, and will be able to make applications for additional funding from the ‘flexible supplement’ to support specific training and development needs of the student.
Engagement with the DTP training programme will be compulsory. Continued sponsorship is contingent on that engagement.
17. CAN PROJECTS INCLUDE A MASTERS COURSE IN YEAR ONE, E.G. 1+3?
We are not running a 1+3 programme; however, if relevant, the student can undertake Masters components. If studying Masters components will significantly delay the PhD programme there is limited funding to extend the PhD by 6 months. As a rule, the DTP consider the dissertation portion of the Masters as unnecessary, as the student will develop these skills in the PhD stage.
18. SHOULD PROPOSALS INCLUDE FULL COSTINGS?
We do not need a formal budget for shortlisting projects; however, your own institution may require this to ensure the project will not be underfunded. Proposals need to outline anticipated highs costs and potential funding sources.
19. HOW WILL PROJECTS BE SELECTED?
Project proposals will be screened at institutional level. This will be a light-touch screening, primarily to ensure the supervisor/School/Dept. has the operational capacity and the supervisory team satisfies the local supervisory regulations. If any institution is unhappy for the project to be considered further it can be withdrawn.
Projects will be reviewed by a panel of academics on the Management Board. Where conflicts of interest are declared the panel member will abstain from scoring. Declarations are required whether the panel member is part of the project supervisory team or has a close involvement in that particular research team. The Director will chair and overview the process, including checks for scoring biases.
20. WHAT IS YOUR DEFINITION OF THE RESEARCH ENVIRONMENT?
We appreciate there are differences in what the ‘research environment’ encompasses, when considering ‘wet’ vs ‘dry’ lab projects. For ‘wet’ lab projects the research environment might refer directly to a physical lab run by a particular academic and the funding and equipment available. Whereas a ‘dry’ labs research environment could be about a wider network of academics and access to expertise from a range of disciplines. The selection panel will assess and score the environment based on markers of excellence relevant to type of research.
21. WHAT IS YOUR DEFINITION OF AN EARLY CAREER RESEARCHER?
For the purposes of the GW4 BioMed DTP an ECR is an individual who is within eight years of the award of their PhD or equivalent professional training, or an individual who is within six years of their first academic appointment. These durations exclude any period of career break, e.g. for family care or health reasons. The ‘first academic appointment’ is defined as the first paid contract of employment, either full-time or part-time, which lists research and/or teaching as the primary functions.
22. IS IT IMPORTANT FOR THE SUPERVISORS TO HAVE A RECORD OF MRC FUNDING?
No. The record of the proposed supervisory team in attracting research funding will be taken as evidence of a high-quality research environment in which the student will work. There is no requirement that the funding is MRC, but if there are no MRC grants then the supervisors will want to highlight other funding, publications and indicators that demonstrate the project and supervisory expertise lie adequately within MRC remit. Grants and publications from at least the last five years should be noted on the application form.
23. HOW MANY PROJECTS WILL BE SELECTED FOR ADVERTISEMENT?
All projects submitted as part of the bid for additional MRC studentships will be selected as long as they are deemed to be financially viable and able to support any project costs other than training, and the supervisory team commit to engagement with the programme. Successful project proposals will be advertised on the GW4 BioMed DTP website, on partners’ own local websites, and FindAPhD (arranged by each partner). The GW4 BioMed DTP will also promote the programme in targeted advertising.
24. CAN APPLICANTS APPLY FROM DISCIPLINES OTHER THAN BIOMEDICAL SCIENCE?
Yes. The DTP is particularly interested in recruiting students from non-biomedical, but numerate subjects (e.g. from a computing, mathematics, statistics, chemistry, engineering or quantitative social sciences background). Such students may need to undertake additional biomedical training in their first year to prepare them for their project.
25. WHAT ARE THE STUDENT ELIGIBILITY CRITERIA?
Students will need to meet the standard academic eligibility criteria: a first or upper second class honours degree (or equivalent) in a relevant subject; a less than sufficient first degree may be enhanced to meet the requirements by the acquisition of a Masters.
The following statement was issued in April 2017 by RCUK in light of the EU referendum:
Research Councils UK welcomes today’s announcement by Universities and Science Minister Jo Johnson which confirms that non-UK EU doctoral students applying for courses beginning in the academic year 2018/19 remain eligible for RCUK support.
Professor Philip Nelson, Chair of RCUK, said: “Supporting future researchers through the provision of Research Council studentships is not only essential for the development of the UK research base but also important for the Research Councils to be able to attract the most talented students. We are therefore extremely pleased that the Minister has provided early confirmation of the position for EU students starting courses in the academic year 2018/2019, as this will enable both students and higher education institutions to recruit for the next academic year with confidence. As we transition toward the creation of UKRI we need to ensure that UK science and innovation remains world leading and that we are able to recruit some of the best and brightest enabling us to maintain our competitive advantage. We will continue to work with government to provide clarity and assurance for the future.”
RCUK EU students are presently eligible for funding under Research Council support for postgraduate training. EU students eligible for RCUK support under current rules will continue to be eligible if currently undertaking or about to start in the 2017/18 academic year, or who have been (or will be) recruited through open competition for starting in the 2018/19 academic year, and will continue to receive funding for the duration of their courses. Future funding arrangements and immigration status for EU students will be determined as part of the UK’s discussions on its future relationship with the EU.
(RCUK, 21 04.17 – Accessed 23/08/17)
Full awards may be made to UK students and EU students who have been resident in the UK for at least three years. International (non-EU) students are not eligible for funding.
Students will need to meet/pass the English Language requirements of their home institution. The DTP application form asks, if applicable, whether the student has taken the IELTS test and met the required level; taken the test and failed to meet the level; or needs to take the test. This question is for administration purposes only; the Management Board will not be made aware of applicant’s English language skills during the shortlisting process. We have requested this information as a simple check, in particular to encourage applicants to consider their eligibility against the requirements. Successful applicants will still need to meet the requirements of their home institution.
26. HOW WILL CANDIDATES APPLY?
Applications will apply via centralised online application form, between 9.00am 10th May and 9.00am 7th June 2018. Applicants can apply for up to three projects,
The DTP application process aims to select the best students and will make an ‘offer of funding’ to the top ranked applicants, one representing AI and two representing Data Science areas of MRC priority skills. The host institution will be responsible for checking eligibility and making an ‘offer to study’. Each institution requires applicants to make the application for the ‘offer to study’ to the University at different stages: for Cardiff this is at the time of the application to the DTP, but for Bath, Bristol and Exeter this will only be if the candidate is successful. The process for applying will be made clear on the advertisements. Documents provided by shortlisted students can be shared by the hub to speed up the local application process.
27. HOW WILL STUDENTS BE SELECTED?
Students can select up to three projects for which they wish to be considered. We will keep you updated on the number of applications to your project. Panels will consider and score all applications before drawing up an interview shortlist of around 10-12 applicants. Shortlisted applications will be passed to the Lead supervisor of the chosen projects by 19th June. Shortlisted students are required to meet (in person or remotely) with all their potential lead supervisors, between 19th and 27th June. We place the onus to make contact and arrange these meetings on the applicant. Please note that expenses will not be available for candidates to attend these first-round interviews.
Supervisors will be provided with standardised student reports to complete following the interviews and return to GW4BioMed@Cardiff.ac.uk by 5pm 28th June. The purpose of these reports is to assist the interview panel with their deliberations.
Candidates that have been informed they have been shortlisted for interview will be required to provide their academic transcripts and two references, which they are responsible for obtaining, to the DTP by 28th June. They can either be sent directly to the hub from the referee or via the student. There is no standard format for references, but as a guide not more than 500 words is expected.
Supervisors are reminded that the final selection will be based on the qualities and performance of the student and will be competitive between all students according to the criteria listed below.
- Proven academic quality: normally evidenced by an excellent performance to first degree and/or Master’s level but may also be demonstrated by a record of relevant professional practice.
- Research potential: evidenced through their supporting statement and supported by performance in research projects at first degree and/or Master’s level, or another form of dedicated preparation for research.
- Personal motivation and commitment: evidenced through their supporting statement, by their enthusiasm for the project area and how they see it relating to their career goals.
- Non-biomedical disciplines: In line with supporting interdisciplinary and quantitative skills, special consideration will be given by the interview panels to non-biomedical applicants, therefore supervisors are encouraged to consider for nomination those candidates who may be disadvantaged by the selection criteria, which may be biased towards biomedical applicants
And interview performance assessed by:
- Critical thinking (discussion of a student selected piece of data)
- Fit with project (why did they chose the project and their understanding of the key issues in the project)
- Personal commitment/motivation
In the event that a project receives multiple quality applications, supervisors are encouraged to pass details of quality students on to other projects that fit with the candidate’s experience and interests, at least one week before the report submission deadline.
Candidates will then be interviewed by a centralised DTP Theme-based interview panel with representation by from all HEIs. Interviews will be 30 minutes in length and include a discussion of a piece of research data they were involved with; presented on a single side of A4. Candidates are scored and ranked according to the agreed criteria. Moderators will be present across all interview panels to ensure parity of scoring and allow students to be competitively ranked.
Interviews will take place on Monday 9th July.
The Panel will aim to interview around 10-12 applicants. It is therefore in the interests of the supervisory team to attract the best possible candidates, who meet the criteria above, to their project. Centralised, generic advertisements will be placed by the DTP on FindaPhD.com between 10th May to 10th June, and projects will also be advertised on the GW4BioMed DTP website. Institutions may advertise specific projects on their own FindaPhD sites and school/faculty webpages. However, supervisors are strongly encouraged to use their own networks and spheres of influence to attract good candidates.
The supervisor report, interviews, academic transcripts, references and the application form will all contribute to the panel’s considerations for allocating studentships. The MB will allocate studentships based primarily on candidate quality ranking, but also taking account of the scientific strategy of the DTP, ensuring balance across themes and strategic skills. Students for whom their first choice project has already been taken will be offered their second or third choice project.
28. HOW WILL THE BALANCE BETWEEN THE THEMES AND INSTITUTIONS BE ACHIEVED?
The overriding goal of the DTP is to recruit excellent students. There is no internal quota and alignment with the research themes should not preclude an excellent project proposal, particular one which will provide outstanding training in one or more of the vulnerable skills areas. That said, the DTP seeks to recruit students in approximately equal numbers to the three research themes, and there are institutional expectations that the allocation of studentships will reflect, to some extent, the relative research grant success that underpins the value of the DTP award.
The final allocation decisions will focus on the quality of the applicants but also take into account: balance between themes; balance between institutions; involvement of early career researchers as supervisors; inclusion of high ranking students from non-biological disciplines; cross-institutional supervision.
At the project selection stage, some consideration will be given to ensure that the portfolio is not too heavily skewed away from a reasonable representation of theme or institutional balance. Note that balance will be sought over the three years of intake, so that imbalances in one year due to the spectrum of students who applied, may be redressed later. We are also monitoring for equality and diversity and will take action as necessary to redress any imbalance.
29. WHO WILL STUDENTS BE REGISTERED WITH?
Students will register for a PhD with the HEI of the lead supervisor. They will be registered with one HEI only, but will have access to the other HEI(s) (e.g. through visiting student status).
The monitoring of progression, appraisal and pastoral support will be provided in the first instance by the relevant PGR office of the ‘home’ HEI. The GW4 BioMed Management Board, however, will oversee the progress of all students as well, receiving reports from the PGR offices and supervisors, as well as the students themselves. Where problems arise, the Management Board will seek to provide additional support over and above, but in collaboration with, that provided by the local PGR/Doctoral office.
30. FURTHER QUESTIONS?
Please contact the DTP Manager: Sarah Brasher GW4BioMed@Cardiff.ac.uk or the institutional or theme lead:
|Prof Colin Dayan||Directorfirstname.lastname@example.org|
|Dr Emma Kidd||Cardiff Academic Lead||Kiddej@cardiff.ac.uk|
|Prof Paul Martin/ Prof David Sheppard||Joint Bristol Academic Leads||Paul.Martin@bristol.ac.uk|
|Prof Tim Frayling||Exeter Academic Lead||T.M.Frayling@exeter.ac.uk|
|Professor Roland Jones||Bath Academic Lead||R.S.G.Jones@bath.ac.uk|
|Dr Anthony Isles||Neuroscience and Mental Health Theme Lead||IslesAR1@cardiff.ac.uk|
|Prof Phil Taylor||Infection, Immunity and Repair Theme Lead||TaylorPR@cardiff.ac.uk|
|Prof Kate Tilling||Population Health Theme Lead||Kate.Tilling@bristol.ac.uk|