Your application will be required to meet the four key elements of the scheme, namely a:
- talented ‘rising star’ African research leader candidate
- high quality research programme proposal
- research conducive academic African environment or institution
- firm partnership with a UK partner institution.
‘Rising star’ candidate
We’re looking for ‘rising star’ African research leaders. Candidates will be high-calibre, early-to-mid career researchers, who show a clear ability to cultivate a dynamic and innovative research group, likely to attract increasing international recognition and external funding by the end of the award.
The African candidate will hold (or make arrangements for obtaining) a tenured academic position at an eligible African research institution.
As a ‘rising star’, the African candidate will:
- be developing a research team and undertaking original research
- be building a track record of independence in their selected field and demonstrating promise as a future research leader
- be well-qualified for academic research having spent at least the last three years in active research. This may be evidenced:
- through a growing track record of staff and student supervision
- through an expanding portfolio of lead author publications
- by securing local or national funding
- by attracting recognition through prizes and awards.
In addition to supporting scientific collaboration with the partner UK institution, the scheme offers the African research leader an opportunity to spend time (up to three months) for further career development activities, training or skills development in either country.
- research management
- publication writing
- industry internship.
Proposed research programme
We’re looking for talented and enthusiastic investigators working in all biomedical and health research areas. Priority will be given to applications that address key health problems relevant to national and regional health needs, hence best conducted in SSA.
We welcome high quality applications from investigators across a broad range of research activities within the MRC and Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office’s (FCDO’s) global health remits. Please refer to MRC’s and FCDO’s strategic priority pages.
Activities can be focused on any major health priority in SSA, including:
- research focused on the prevention and management of non-communicable diseases including cardiovascular disease, metabolic disease, cancer, respiratory disease and mental health
- prevention and control of infectious diseases (major diseases such as malaria, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and tuberculosis), neglected tropical diseases (including snakebite), zoonotic and emerging diseases, co-infections and issues associated with emerging resistance to current drugs
- multimorbidity (the co-existence of two or more chronic conditions, including long-term infectious and non-communicable diseases and mental health conditions)
- basic, discovery health research approaches, experimental medicine providing mechanistic insight to human diseases, epidemiological (social, genetic and immunological) research, and prevention research
- applied research approaches, including public health, health systems, health policy and implementation research
- research targeting vulnerable or disadvantaged groups including refugees, people living in informal settlements, those living with disability, neonates, children, adolescents or the elderly.
This scheme will not support clinical or health related trials including ‘phase 1’ safety, proof of principle, efficacy or effectiveness trials of any new medicinal product, device, vaccine or other clinical intervention.
However, it will support observational programmes of epidemiological, laboratory, field and clinical research and early stage developmental or formative research which may be associated with or lead to future health intervention evaluation. If this is the case, the outcomes of the research and how these will be anticipated to inform future work should be made clear.
In recognition of the COVID-19 pandemic, proposals contributing to the understanding, prevention or management of the COVID-19 outbreak are welcomed. We do not expect to only receive proposals in COVID-19 related research, however we do require an honest assessment of how the pandemic might affect your research plans. Please note, COVID-19 related proposals will be assessed according to the scheme specific assessment criteria in a competitive manner with wider non-COVID-19 research proposals.
The majority of the proposed research is expected to take place in the African environment. The African research leader should be supported by a robust research environment in their own local institution and by a strong linkage with a UK partner. The resources requested should be specific, justified and relevant to the research proposed.
This scheme is not primarily intended to support PhD studentships in obtaining their degree. PhD fees, allowances and stipends will not be supported. However, if the candidate does propose to involve PhD students to deliver elements of the work within their research programme, it will be necessary to explain how the supervision and input of those students will be managed to ensure their training is protected.
The African research institution
The scheme is offered to candidates employed by eligible institutions based in SSA, that provide a strong research environment.
The host African institution must offer a clear research and career development environment with appropriate laboratory, field or clinical facilities to enable the research activities proposed as well as supportive administrative functions. The candidate should be able to draw on mentoring from senior individuals, and their career development be nurtured. Where appropriate, fostering of scientific links across sub-Saharan African institutions is encouraged.
The African institution will be expected to provide a strong commitment to the continuity of appointment of the researcher beyond the term of the award, such as a tenured position or equivalent. There is also an expectation that over time, the African institution would increase its level of financial support of the individual (if not 100% from the outset).
The African institution may build into the application a funding contribution for institutional development to support a set of institutional strategic objectives, the outputs of which should be verifiable and be able to be monitored. This could include capacity strengthening such as improved finance, data or research management, and professional training. Tools and good practice documents on capacity strengthening in low and middle-income countries are available on the Tropical Diseases, Special Programme for Research and Training (ESSENCE) website.
Partnership between the African and UK institutions
This scheme aims to encourage a research supportive environment for the developing African research leader, both in the host African institution and importantly involving strong support from, and access to, expertise in UK academia.
The African research leadership proposal should, therefore, be submitted in partnership with a UK co-investigator (mentor) offering relevant opportunities, such as:
- senior or complementary scientific expertise
- skill strengthening
- discipline widening
- technology sharing
The individual scientific partnership between the candidate and the UK mentor must be underpinned either by an established track record of partnership at the institutional level or a clear plan for developing and sustaining long-term cross-institutional collaboration.
Previous partnering need not be in exactly the same area of research proposed in the application, however, the relevant strengths that each institution brings to the research proposed should be indicated.