Frequently Asked Questions GW4-CAT HP

Updated 25/01/22

Q: When are the application deadlines?

See our ‘Selection Process’ page.

Q: How many offers do you make each year?

We are funded to make 5 appointments each year (2022-2027 start dates).

Q. Wellcome do not traditionally fund some aspects of health research, has this changed?

Wellcome Trust have funded us to deliver PhD projects focused on biomedical-related fields. While this can be broad, including epidemiology, lab sciences, bioinformatics and clinical phenotyping, we do not generally fund social sciences or clinical trials. It should be noted however, that Wellcome don’t expect all projects to fall under their strategic priority areas (https://wellcome.org/who-we-are/strategy). The expertise available in the form of methodological and technical excellence will add value to your research question by bringing experts into your supervisory team.

Please refer to the ‘Our Fellows’ page of the website for details of the types of bio-medical related projects that the programme has funded previously.

Q. Will there be specific areas of research that are prioritised for funding?

No, we will not prioritise on specific areas of research, but focus on excellence and the quality of the applicant. Expectations of the funder are:

Wellcome’s intended short-term outcomes:

• To fund bold and creative high-quality research

• To support capacity building of academic health professionals

• To create and support positive and enabling research ecosystems

Wellcome’s intended medium- and long-term outcomes:

• To build and empower a diverse and creative clinical academic workforce that can solve urgent health challenges and bring new insights into how life works

• To positively transform the culture that health research is embedded within

Q: What health professionals are accepted onto the Programme?

All health professionals and vets who are fully registered with a regulatory body in the UK or Republic of Ireland will be eligible to apply for a place on the Programme.

Fellows recruited to a Programme must be practicing healthcare professionals and be registered with a national professional regulatory body (e.g., the General Medical Council, Health and Care Professions Council) in the UK/Republic of Ireland.

Medical graduates must be registered on a UK/Republic of Ireland specialist training programme or must be a registered GP.

Q: What kind of research experience do I need?

Applicants are likely to have previously undertaken research, such as an Academic Clinical Fellowship or clinical primer or equivalent (medical and dental graduates), an internship, residency, clinical primer or equivalent (veterinary) or via an alternative route such as the NIHR ICA/T fellowship, or a research master’s degree with relevant modules.

We would typically like to see that you have been involved in research from the starting point, through to dissemination of findings.

If you are unsure if your research experience is appropriate for an application to GW4-CAT HP, please contact the programme team on GW4-CAT@bristol.ac.uk who will advise further.

Q. Do I need to have publications from my previous research?

Ideally you will be able to demonstrate some output from your research, which may not be in the form of a publication, as we appreciate that not all professions have the opportunity or support for high impact publications.

Q: Do I need to have intercalated during my degree to be eligible?

No, intercalation is not a requirement for the GW4-CAT HP.

Q: Do I need to have taken an academic medical or dental foundation training path to apply?

No, not all dental or medic GW4-CATs will have followed the academic foundation programme path. As long as you have evidence of research experience, a clinical foundation path will not put you at a disadvantage.

Q. As a non-medic health professional, how can I be competitive for a place on the GW4-CAT HP programme?

We appreciate that not all health professionals have access to a period of funded research during their training. To take this into consideration, all applications will be taken on their individual merit so that the strongest candidates will be shortlisted for interview by an appropriate panel. Click here to view the criteria by which applications are assessed.

Q. Can I apply to GW4-CAT HP to part-fund an existing research project?

No. The scheme does not part-fund existing research.

Q. Do I need to include a project proposal with my application?

We do not want a completely finalised project, but we do need to know in detail what area of research you want to pursue. In assessing your application, we would like to understand this to see that you have considered your area of research and the potential supervisors / skills that are available within the GW4-CAT HP Programme.

This is useful for working with the directors and supervisory team to design a project and write a PhD project during the first year. The GW4-CAT HP introductory week will enable successful applicants to find out more about facilities on offer and meet several supervisors to design a suitable project.

Q. Can I (and/or my supervisor) propose a research project?

Ideally candidates will not have identified specific research projects prior to applying. An important aspect of the GW4-CAT HP scheme is the matching of successful applicants to the most appropriate supervisory team and research project. The GW4-CAT HP Fellow will design their project with their supervisors and be supported by the programme directors; the fellow will take ownership of the PhD research project.

Q. What sort of research does GW4-CAT HP fund?

The list of named supervisors across GW4-CAT HP specialise in biomedical-related areas, which incorporate epidemiology, lab sciences, bioinformatics and clinical research. The expertise available in the form of methodological and technical excellence will add value to your research question by bringing experts into your supervisory team.

An important part of evaluation of applications is ensuring that the core strengths of the supervisor pool make GW4-CAT-HP the best scheme for you as an applicant. Applications that appear completely out of scope for our supervisor pool are not likely to be successful. Where you are uncertain of your fit with the scheme, we encourage informal enquiry.

Q: When is the best time during your medical or dental training to complete a PhD?

Candidates from medical and dental specialities on an uncoupled training pathway are eligible for enrolment at any point after securing a higher specialist training post. Applicants on this pathway may apply during their CT2 or CT3 years as long as they secure a higher specialist training place before the commencement of their PhD.

Q. Can I apply for a PhD on this Programme if I am finalising my undergraduate degree?

Undergraduate students are not eligible to apply for this Programme, but those undertaking an appropriate master’s degree may be considered

Q: What funding does GW4-CAT HP offer?

See our ‘Funding’ page.

Q: How long does the funding last for?

The standard duration of a GW4-CAT HP fellowship funding award is three years (or part-time equivalent) from the date of registration at your host institution. If taking the fellowship on a less than full-time basis, we expect this to be for duties other than working in a second job, e.g., a caring role.

Q: Where will I be registered for my PhD?

You will be primarily registered at the university at which your Senior Supervisor is employed (Bath, Bristol, Cardiff or Exeter) but we can arrange for you to be an honorary student at the other GW4-CAT institutions, especially as you will have supervisors at more than one institution. This will give you access to training across the GW4 institutions.

Q: How much clinical work am I allowed to do while studying for my PhD?

Wellcome Trust and GW4-CAT HP will allow you to undertake up to one day per week of clinical work if appropriate to your training or helpful for your research question (up to 8 hours), but the emphasis will be on an excellent PhD experience and Fellows will only be encouraged to take a clinical role if it adds clear value.

Q.  Will there be any funding made available to fund the period of time required to prepare my PhD outline prior to starting a GW4-CAT HP fellowship? The Wellcome GW4-CAT HP Programme will not fund the time between you being offered a place on the Programme and starting your PhD. Identification of a supervisory team and project will be undertaken in your own time, with close support from the Programme team and a Director Mentor who will be assigned to work with you during this time. Previous applicants have managed to do this by using annual leave, study days, etc.

Q. Do I need to have a master’s degree that is research based?

A research-based master’s would demonstrate that you have some of the relevant skills and training to carry out a period of PhD research. However, this is not a mandatory requirement, and some applicants will have gained research experience through other avenues.

Q. Do I need to be working clinically in the NHS to be eligible?

We anticipate that the vast majority, but not all applicants will currently be working clinically in the NHS. Some though may be working in a private setting such as vets and some pharmacists.

Fellows recruited to the Programme must be practicing professionals and be registered with a national professional regulatory body (e.g., the General Medical Council, Health and Care Professions Council) in the UK/Republic of Ireland.

Q. How many years of clinical experience do I need to be eligible?

Different health professionals have different clinical training pathways, so we do not set out years of clinical experience as eligibility criteria.

Q. Can I retain my NHS employment?

You will be employed by the university where your PhD is registered and be a member of staff and a registered postgraduate student. To carry out your clinical work if required, you will be asked to obtain an honorary contract with your NHS employer if appropriate and you will be able to maintain your NHS pension.

Q. Do I need support from my employer?

This will depend on your health profession; for example, medics need to apply for OOPR from their Deanery and TPD in order to take time out of training. However, this may not be the case for other health professionals. We see it as an advantage to be supported by your employer to conduct a period of research, especially if the transition back to a split role of research and clinical work can be negotiated for the post-doctoral period.

As a programme we are keen to ensure that all GW4-CAT Health Professionals who are offered a PhD Fellowship, are appropriately supported by their NHS Trust (or equivalent employer), if they wish to return to their clinical post after the 3-year PhD.  

If this is the case, we are asking all shortlisted health professional candidates to provide a letter of support from their NHS Clinical Director or Chief Executive by the interview date. 

The letter needs to provide: 

  • Confirmation that you will be released for the total amount of the research time funded (3 years FTE) including details of the specific arrangements that would be put in place to backfill the relevant commitments should you be offered a fellowship and the start date of these arrangements. 
  • Where required, you will be given the opportunity to work a maximum of 8 hours per week of clinical work to retain key/essential skills relevant to your clinical role. 
  • A guarantee that you can return to your previous role and job plan at the end of your PhD period if required. 
  • Protection of your employment and pension rights during the period of your PhD studies that will therefore count towards your continuous service. 

The letter should be signed by both you and your Clinical Director/Chief Executive. 

NB This is not a requirement for medical doctors who will seek approval for out of programme from their Deanery and training programme director. 

Q. Can I apply via an HEI and be employed via the HEI during the PhD?

You will be appointed to the Wellcome GW4-CAT HP Programme prior to being employed by the HEI of your senior supervisor. Your HEI employment and GW4-CAT HP funding will start when your PhD starts. For the period prior to starting your PhD, you will be employed in your current role.

Q. Can I do the PhD on a part-time basis?

Yes, you can do your PhD on a part-time basis, but only to balance this with caring responsibilities, not at the same time as carrying out other salaried employment.

Q. Can I retain some clinical sessions during the PhD and would Wellcome pay for this time?

Wellcome Trust and GW4-CAT HP will allow you to undertake up to one day per week of clinical work if appropriate (up to 8 hours) as part of your funded fellowship

Q. I am employed at consultant level, will Wellcome cover my salary during the PhD?

See above regarding training levels for medics. The scheme is designed for those in training or at a comparatively early stage of an established post who wish to develop an academic career. A consultant (or equivalent) salary will not be covered.

Q. What options are there for post-doctoral funding?

As part of the Wellcome GW4-CAT HP Award, we work closely with the local NHS Trusts, HEIW, vet school and other funders to identify funding opportunities for a post-doctoral award and will support applicants to prepare applications for prestigious post-doctoral fellowships.

Q. Can I have supervisors from a range of institutions including international?

The supervisory team will be made up of several individuals. Your senior supervisor will be the lead academic at your home institution. However, other co-supervisors who add value to the project are also welcome. See our web page for definitions and roles within the supervisory team. International collaborators can be included if they add significant value to your PhD project.

This list of FAQs will be reviewed and updated regularly as the GW4-CAT HP Programme evolves.

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