MRC Board and Panel Observer Scheme

This scheme gives researchers at the career stage where they are transitioning to independence the opportunity to apply to observe a Medical Research Council (MRC) board or panel meeting.

As part of the MRC’s commitment to the development of people and skills, we are making changes to our existing board observer scheme. We have expanded the scheme into more of our boards and panels, broadened the eligibility beyond MRC award holders, and will prioritise places for underrepresented groups.

What the scheme offers

We hope the opportunity to observe a board or panel allows observers to better understand how complex elements (research questions, methodological approach, expected value or impact and cost effectiveness) come together to prioritise our awards. We hope this experience:

  • is informative for attendees to help in developing their own successful research applications
  • assists attendees in providing better quality reviews
  • enhances transparency and provides insight into the work our research boards and panels do to ensure we fund the best quality science
  • gives attendees the opportunity to provide their views on the assessment process and suggestions for improvements

All observers will receive a briefing on the MRC grant assessment process. We encourage observers to use this information for further dissemination and to share their experience with colleagues.

We will monitor the impact of the scheme over the next 12 months and make any necessary changes to ensure that it remains responsive to both our data and the needs of our research community.

Who can apply

We welcome applications from researchers who are potential applicants to one of the MRC funding opportunities (or equivalent schemes from other funders).

To be eligible to apply, you must be:

  • at the stage in your career where you are transitioning to independence
  • based at an eligible UK research organisation (see exception for the Applied Global Health Research Board below)

Eligible career roles

Applicants could include those in the following roles:

  • junior career fellowships
  • intermediate career fellowships
  • tenure track
  • lectureship
  • senior postdoc or staff scientists who are actively developing their independence (for example, researcher co-investigators)
  • senior career fellowships
  • equivalent roles in industry

See biomedical research roles and career pathways and the interactive career framework for further information.

Eligibility exception for Applied Global Health Research Board

If applying to observe the Applied Global Health Research Board, you need to be based at an eligible UK institution or an eligible organisation in a low or middle income country (LMIC). Applicants from LMIC organisations need to have worked on an MRC grant within the past five years. Refer to the relevant grant in your application.

Eligible organisations include:

  • a research organisation based in an LMIC with degree-awarding powers recognised by the government of the country where the organisation is based
  • a research-focused organisation based in an LMIC either funded by the government of the country where the organisation is based or by a not-for-profit organisation
  • a research-focused not-for-profit organisation based in an LMIC with dedicated research capacity

Developmental Pathways Funding Scheme (DPFS) applications

We recognise that DPFS applications can start and finish at any stage on the developmental pathway. This includes stages from early development, through pre-clinical refinement and testing to early-phase clinical studies and trials (up to phase 2a), including research that is highly multi- and interdisciplinary.

Therefore, under the observer scheme we welcome applications from all relevant scientific disciplines working in clinical or preclinical translation within the MRC remit.

Who can not apply

You are not eligible to apply if you:

  • have already achieved independence as an academic or researcher
  • have already established your own research group
  • already hold an MRC award as a project lead (previously principal investigator) or comparable award from any organisation
  • have previously observed an MRC board through the board observer scheme
  • have an application for review by the requested board or panel, for example, as project lead, project co-lead, researcher co-lead, staff or project partner

Meetings you can observe

You can apply to observe any of the following meetings taking place in 2024:

How to apply

Opening date: 4 March 2024

Closing date: 14 April 2024

The survey should take approximately 10 minutes and is largely made up of multiple-choice questions. To see the questions before applying view the MRC Board and Panel Observers form.

Please note: we do not accept submissions by email.

UK Research and Innovation is Disability Confident Committed. We will do our best to support any particular requirements to enable you to apply, and participate fully as a board or panel associate if you are successful. Contact us using the email below if you would like to discuss any accessibility needs.

Contact rfpd@mrc.ukri.org if you require support completing the survey.

Selection process

If we receive a large number of applications and applicants have met the eligibility criteria, we may lawfully prioritise those from underrepresented groups. This is to:

  • mitigate disadvantage linked to certain characteristics in the wider research and innovation sector
  • address disproportionate levels of participation and disparities in award rates identified in our data

It is widely recognised that individuals from certain groups are being lost across the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) academic pipeline. Interventions are needed to address this, and this is further outlined in the University of Oxford’s Equity and Inclusivity in Research Funding report. For example, this includes people identified in the government’s and our diversity data who are:

  • disabled or have a long-term condition as defined by the Equality Act 2010
  • from a disadvantaged socio-economic background
  • lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer, questioning or identify with another gender identity (LGBTQ+)
  • a woman
  • from certain minority ethnic backgrounds such as those listed below

Minority backgrounds include:

  • Bangladeshi, Indian, Pakistani, Chinese or any other Asian background
  • African, Caribbean or any other Black background
  • White and Asian, White and Black African, White and Black Caribbean or any other mixed ethnic background
  • Gypsy, Irish Traveller, Traveller or Roma
  • other ethnic backgrounds such as Arab or Arab British

We will also take into account geographical location and organisation type to ensure a wide mix of participants are able to benefit from the experience.

Demand management

We expect the demand to observe an MRC board or panel will far exceed the opportunities we are able to offer.

Therefore we will ask you to identify two board or panel meetings you would be happy to observe. Where possible we will try to assign your first choice, but due to popularity this may not always be possible.

Places will be allocated first to those who fall within our identified priority groups, then as a lottery selected at random.

Re-applying

If you’re not invited to be an observer, you can re-apply to the scheme the following year. However, no placement can be guaranteed.

Feedback

MRC will not provide feedback on why you were or were not selected due to anticipated high volume of applicants.

Ask a question about the observer scheme

Email: rfpd@mrc.ukri.org

Further information

Equality impact assessment

Last updated: 4 March 2024

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