just do it – getting a research fellowship

fsa_logo.pngRemember my Fellowship Ahoy! research project? Well it’s now been published. The summary of the project outcomes below is the press release from the Leadership Foundation.

The research paper itself is here on the LFHE website and has a lot of data in the fellows own words about how they got their fellowship funding.

You can find links, two online virtual workshops on ‘Network Building for Research Success’ and ‘Having Creative Research Ideas’, and a batch of videos of the Fellows talking about their experiences all branching from the FSA home page here.

“Forging an academic career is testing at the best of times, especially as global competition intensifies in higher education. In a new study, funded by the Leadership Foundation, Kay Guccione from the University of Sheffield examines the important elements in forging an academic career pathway and securing a research fellowship award. In particular, this highlights the crucial role of social support and the importance of a proactive approach to building these networks. Contrary to popular myth – luck is not the main component of fellowship award success.

Twenty five ‘fellowship stories’ are gathered from research fellows across eight Russell Group universities as part of the study. The report highlights five key steps that are a common theme to achieving success: developing an awareness of career opportunities and constraints, developing the confidence to apply and do the project, developing and negotiating ownership of research ideas, developing application skills, and developing resilience and maintaining momentum.

The study echoes existing research of the importance of self-awareness, critical evaluation and shifting priorities in building a professional profile as a successful researcher. Crucially however, it builds on these existing arguments by highlighting the importance of active input – or the ability to ‘make it happen’ – as central to achieving success.

By highlighting how researchers developed their ideas and CVs with guidance from professional networks, the study highlights the importance of strong social support in achieving success, both from an emotional and intellectual perspective. It puts candidates in a better position to seek help from others and build confidence from hearing different experiences – both positive and negative – as well as offering more opportunities to receive professional advice on career opportunities.

As well as highlighting the importance of personal agency and attitude in building social and professional networks, the report also makes recommendations for action by the wider academic community to help facilitate these opportunities. These include the allocation of time and space for aspiring fellows to reflect and plan their career moves, as well as highlighting the diversity within the research fellow pool so early career researchers feel more confident about ‘fitting the profile’. The study considers how a clear appraisal and reward process for researchers would support tailored career reflection.

Providing independent career support and helping aspiring fellows to broaden their networks beyond their institution were also key recommendations: for example, establishing partner universities for early career research support. Fostering early career researcher ‘cohorts’ to navigate funding and finance and the application process is also suggested, with helpful activities including the provision of tailored workshops on application writing, budget management and internal peer review systems.

This study considers how, with self-belief and the foundations provided by a wide professional support network, luck need no longer be the main perceived success factor for a stellar research career. The right confidence to widen professional and social networks – as well as greater institutional support to do this – can help propel aspiring fellows to career success.”

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