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NIHR ARC OxTV funded DPhil student Lucy Goddard shares her experiences of the recent NIHR Residential Training Camp – just one of the many opportunities afforded by being a member of the ARC OxTV.

A photo of Lucy (left-most) and the team she worked with event

As I approached the end of the first year of my DPhil programme, I decided to attend the 3-day residential NIHR Academy Training Camp. Thinking about applying for grant applications at this point in my DPhil seemed a little premature but I got so much more out of the camp than I thought I would. I returned home feeling motivated, inspired, challenged and with a lot more knowledge about how to write a good grant application!

The camp was attended by delegates from a range of disciplines and it was great to meet other Academy members from different institutions and hear about their research. The theme this year was ‘Applying for further funding’ and upon arrival we were immersed into an afternoon of workshops. Led by expert speakers, the workshops focused on how to frame your research questions, what funding panels look for in applications and the importance of Patient and Public Involvement.

In the evening we were introduced to a fictitious call for funding from the “NIHR Making People Healthier Research Programme” and asked to write and submit a grant application by 5pm the following day…! We quickly set off in our teams to generate ideas for a research project that would meet the scope of this call which included a multi-disciplinary research project related to making people healthier in their day-to-day life. This is when I began to feel like I was on The Apprentice (although much less arguing!), and the intensity of the camp stepped up a gear.

Each group was guided by an expert mentor who provided advice throughout the process, keeping us on track but allowing us to explore and discuss ideas among ourselves. The collaboration between our group was amazing and after a year of limited in-person contact, I was reminded how much creativity and productivity can be generated when a group of people, with shared goals and enthusiasm, put their heads together!

Thinking about applying for grant applications at this point in my DPhil seemed a little premature but I got so much more out of the camp than I thought I would!

A day of intense thinking, discussing, problem-solving, writing and researching was interspersed with 10 minute appointments with experts in research design services, finance, the programme directors and importantly, patient and public representatives. The submission deadline was at 5pm and, although running down corridors was involved, our team managed to submit our completed grant application at 5pm. On the dot.

The relief of submitting our application was shared by all of the team and we all felt a huge sense of accomplishment that we had somehow brought together a programme of research that we were really proud of! The morning of the presentation to the funding panel arrived and a fellow team member presented our proposed research. After answering the panel questions, we were able to enjoy watching the other groups present their research. It was really inspiring to see what others had come up with and had produced in such a short space of time.

I learnt so much from this experience and had the opportunity to network with colleagues working in healthcare research. It was not only the process of writing a grant application that I took away from the training camp, I also learnt about other people stories, how they had got to where they were now in their careers, and it sparked a new excitement for my own research and my career ahead. If you are given the opportunity to attend this camp, I would highly recommend taking it up!

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