Applying for a Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship

In today’s blog, Charis Wilson, Senior Research Funding Specialist shares insights from our recent information event about the Leverhulme Early Career Fellowships.

The Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship scheme receives around 700 applications nationally each year. At the University of Edinburgh, 60 researchers have won these prestigious fellowships in the last 10 years.

Here we share our insights on the main points to consider when crafting an application and hear from a Fellow in the School of History, Classics and Archaeology.

Highlight your previous experience

Your previous experience and track record will demonstrate your ability to successfully carry out the research and deliver the planned outcomes or recognise and mitigate risks.  Previous experience can take the form of publications, jobs, collaborations etc.  It is relative to your career stage so there are no set criteria for what previous experience someone should have.

There is a free text question about “details of current and past research” where it is important to give a good overview of the skills and experience you have.

Willingness to take risks is fine, and in most cases it is a positive asset, but it needs to be balanced with appropriate skills and understanding to manage the risks.

Publications

Publications are an important aspect of your track record. You should list articles under review and those in preparation as well as published or accepted ones.  For the former it’s a good idea to include a target journal or publisher or give a brief sentence on its status, to show progress.  However, it is true that most successful applications have at least one published or accepted publication.

Mobility

Mobility is explicitly encouraged by Leverhulme but it is not an eligibility criterion and there can be valid reasons (personal, health or research-related) for its absence, which should be made clear in the application.

The main proposal

The main proposal should be very clear and succinct and easily navigable; using headings is recommended.  It should clearly show that you have carefully thought the project through in all its aspects, and for this reason make sure you avoid vagueness and wide assertions without giving concrete evidence.  You should demonstrate intellectual curiosity and a fresh take or direction regardless of discipline.

Interdisciplinarity is not mandatory and nor is it excluded, but in either case you need to show the gap in knowledge and what the project will contribute to your topic.  The main proposal is a maximum of 2 pages which means that every word counts. A useful rule of thumb for structuring your proposal is

    • Project background and context 25-30%
    • Methodology, methods, sources of data and analysis 60-65%
    • Outputs audiences and impact 10%.

Referees

Referees are a crucial part of the assessment process and should be chosen carefully.  It’s imperative that you contact your referees in advance to ask their permission and it is also a good idea to ask if they would be willing to read the application beforehand and give advice.

Make sure the referees know what is required of them in terms of the process and deadline.  External referees are strongly preferred by Leverhulme – that is anyone who hasn’t closely worked with you before or is going to be working closely with you as part of the project.  So the first starting point should be to identify and approach such a person e.g. external PhD examiners.

Perspective of a current Leverhulme Early Career Fellow

Dr Beatrijs De Groot, a current Leverhulme Early Career Fellow, based in the School of History, Classics and Archaeology, shared her experience of applying to the scheme and her advice.  She highlighted the following points:

  • This was one of many applications she submitted so don’t put all your eggs in one basket.
  • Her area of interest was the spread of the potter’s wheel in the western Mediterranean, but she related this to the wider issue of technological change. Leverhulme are interested in the broader implications of your project.
  • In the process of applying for other jobs the project gradually improved. Peer review was key to figuring out how to frame the project in a way that is of interest to a broader audience.
  • In order to find an appropriate host institution she emailed several scholars, some of whom she hadn’t met before. This was important for finding the right fit.
  • Her current mentor was enthusiastic about her project and was very helpful in providing feedback, so it pays find someone who is really interested.
  • Think about how the project will fit within the wider department and what the project will bring to the wider department also.
  • Think about the general environment and how you will benefit from it.
  • Write for a lay audience, and keeping working at it, it takes time to write a good proposal.

Next steps

The next step for potential applicants is to make contact with the appropriate University of Edinburgh School Research Office as soon as possible.  Most Schools will have internal selection processes and rigorous peer review requirements.  We also recommend reading about the Trust more generally on their website, as well as the specific scheme guidance, to get a good feel for what they are looking for.  In Edinburgh Research Office, we work with School Research Offices to support applications.

Further information

Download the slides from our information event (UoE staff only).

Leverhulme Trust Website

Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship Scheme Guidance

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Charis Wilson

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