What is a fellowship?

David Sainsbury fellowships support exceptional, 3Rs-minded, early-career scientists (with up to five year’s postdoctoral experience) with the transition to an independent career. Applications from any area of medical, biological or veterinary research are within remit; those that integrate a range of disciplines or include an industrial partner are particularly encouraged.

There is one competition per year with awards of £65k per annum for three years available. The budget for the 2015/16 call is £780k.

Panel meeting outcome reports and award rates for previous calls can be found here.

Applicants should read the NC3Rs Applicant and Grant Holder Handbook, which provides more detailed information about the application process. In addition to reading this Handbook, all prospective fellowship applicants should also familiarise themselves with the NC3Rs Skills and Experience Framework before applying.

Key dates | Who can apply | How to apply | Assessment procedure | Related documents

Key dates

18 March 2015 Application form available on Je-S
15 May 2015, 4pm Deadline for submitting informal outline and CV to NC3Rs Office
17 June 2015, 4pm Full application deadline on Je-S
November 2015 Fellowship Assessment Panel Shortlisting meeting
Mid-November 2015 Applicants informed of outcome
2 December 2015* Candidate group interview
Mid-December 2015 Shortlisted applicants informed of outcome
Any time after award letter issued Expected Fellowship start date
Within 12 months of award Last date for commencing projects

*All applicants should ensure that they are available for interview on this date prior to submitting an application.

Please sign up to the NC3Rs Newsletter for updates on funding schemes.

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Who can apply?

Establishment eligibility

Individual eligibility*

Any UK research establishment including:

  • UK Higher Education Institutions (HEIs)
  • Independent Research Organisations (IROs)
  • Research Council (RC) Institutes

Industrial organisations may act as collaborators but are not eligible to be primary host Research Organisations.  It is the responsibility of the applicant to find a host Research Organisation that will act as their employer.

  • Applicants should be early career researchers with a maximum of five years postdoctoral experience at the time of application.
  • Final year PhD students may apply, but must be awarded their PhD before the fellowship commences.
  • There are no residency requirements and international applicants are eligible to apply.
  • Applicants should have a strong track record relative to their career stage, as evidenced by publication history and support from Sponsors and Head of Department.
  • Applicants must identify a Sponsor at the host Research Organisation. If time will be spent outside the host Research Organisation, a Sponsor must be identified at the collaborating institute.

Individual eligibility update*

If an NC3Rs grant holder has more than 12 months remaining on their NC3Rs grant, at the time of application, they are not permitted to apply as a Primary Investigator for further NC3Rs funding (excluding CRACK IT and Strategic Awards – please contact the Office to discuss).

Additional considerations

Applicants are not eligible to apply if they already hold a permanent contract of employment at the host institution.

International applicants are eligible, however, the host Research Organisation must ensure that all necessary work permits are in place prior to the fellowship starting.

Applicants with more than five years postdoctoral experience but have had a career break due to personal reasons or due to work outside of active research, should contact fellowships@nc3rs.org.uk to check their eligibility.


The NC3Rs does not allow resubmission of previously unsuccessful proposals, unless explicitly invited by the Panel. Proposals previously declined by the NC3Rs will not be considered by another Research Council or funder within 12 months (from the date of submission to the original Research Council) unless substantially revised. More information can be found in the NC3Rs Applicant and Grant Holder Handbook.

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How to apply

Applicants are advised to read and refer to the NC3Rs Applicant and Grant Holder Handbook, which contains more detailed information on submitting both an outline and full application.

Additionally, prospective applicants should also read the NC3Rs Skills and Experience Framework. This framework is intended to provide general guidance and clarity on the types of skills and competencies that potential applicants should seek to demonstrate at each career stage, taking into account career breaks, part-time working, and changes in discipline.

Outlines and full applications received after 4pm on the deadline date will not be considered, without exception.

Outline stage

Before submitting a full application applicants are required to complete an outline of the research proposal.

A CV is also required and should include:

  • Date of award of PhD (date on degree certificate)
  • Employment history
  • Full list of publications (including those submitted or in press)

Please email completed outlines and CVs to fellowships@nc3rs.org.uk

Submitting a full application

We use the Research Councils' joint electronic submission system (Je-S) and applications are processed by the RCUK Shared Business Services. Completed proposals should be submitted through Je-S.

If you experience difficulties using Je-S or have questions regarding its use, contact the Je-S helpdesk.

Email: JeSHelp@rcuk.ac.uk      Phone: +44 (0) 1793 44 4164

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Assessment procedure

Proposals are assessed in a two stage process by the David Sainsbury Fellowship Assessment Panel.

Stage one:

Applications are evaluated by international peer review and assessed by the Panel which shortlists applicants for interview.

Applicants are notified of the shortlisting meeting outcomes three weeks before the interview date. Referees' comments are provided to unsuccessful applicants at this stage.

Stage two:

This stage consists of three parts:

  1. Presentation: outlining the research and  3Rs impact proposed in your application.
  2. Group activity: undertaken in small groups and assessed by a subset of the Panel.
  3. Individual interviews: conducted by a subset of the Panel.

During both stages of the assessment, the following criteria are taken into consideration by the Panel:

  • Competitiveness and potential of applicant
  • 3Rs acumen of applicant
  • Potential impact on the 3Rs
  • Scientific quality of the proposed project
  • Expertise and track record of sponsors
  • The research environment

Short-listed applicants receive referees' comments along with their decision letter after the second assessment stage.

In order to maintain transparency and integrity of the peer review process we have adopted the MRC policy on peer review. Please note the Referee and Panel assessment guidance and scoring criteria below.

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Related documents

Application process

Assessment criteria

NC3Rs blogs

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