In today’s blog, Charis Wilson, Senior Research Funding Specialist in Edinburgh Research Office, 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, 68 researchers have won these prestigious fellowships in the last 10 years.
Here we share some insights on the main points to consider when crafting an application.
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. If you have non-academic work experience that is relevant you can include this to help situate the project and explain your interest in it.
In the application, 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 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 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, especially the aims and outcomes, and 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% including ethical and practical issues
- Outputs, audiences and impact 10%.
Your project should clearly link with your PhD research and be a logical continuation but you must show how you have moved beyond your doctoral research.
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.
Mentors and local research environment
One of the questions that will be asked is what mentoring arrangements will be provided to Fellows within the host organisation. A mentor should be an experienced and trusted colleague who can offer you advice and guidance on, for example, your career aspirations, identifying gaps in your skills and knowledge, training opportunities, appropriate outlets for your work – be that articles, monographs, conferences etc, and how to deal with issues you will face in academic life. Someone who has a genuine interest in overseeing and supporting your career and/or development without necessarily directly inputting in the management and conduct of your research project. This doesn’t mean they can’t be a co-author but the responsibility for the project is yours and you should be much more independent than during your doctoral studies.
There could potentially be more than one mentor if you are seeking guidance on different issues relevant to the project and your career. It might be a good idea to name a primary mentor, and talk about the benefit of having the second etc. mentor in the question about mentoring arrangements, as opposed to saying that there are two mentors without naming one as the primary. It is good to show a bit more structure and that the roles are clear between the two potential mentors. But you could have a different arrangement, just take care to give a good explanation. If an additional mentor is based in a different School or institution, you should also talk about the second school in the host environment questions.
Your proposed host School will also be able to assist you when it comes to other aspects of why they are the best place for you to carry on the research. Talk to them about what other projects, facilities, resources and research groups or centres exist and make this the best environment for your project.
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.