Tips for a stand out Doctor in Training Research Scholarship application

29 April 2019 | Avant media

Research funding can be difficult to secure when you are starting out in your career, no matter how deserving your project is. Here are our best tips from previous scholarship recipients and our Avant Doctor in Training Research Scholarship judging panel to help you put together a winning application.

1. Make it clear

We receive a large number of applications each year, so make sure you present your application in a clear and concise manner to give yourself the best chance of securing funding.

“Every application is reviewed by several members of the judging panel who come from a variety of medical specialities,” Dr Gareth Crouch, a member of the 2019 judging panel, a Cardiothoracic Surgeon and former Chair, Avant Doctor in Training Advisory Council, says. “Therefore, it is incredibly important that your application is not only clear and concise, but also easily understood by doctors not working in your field of expertise.”

“It is also important to strike a balance between keeping your application readable and understandable, and demonstrating a well-designed and detailed research plan,” Dr Crouch says.

Previous scholarship recipient, Dr Rajat Mittal, adds, "Know your project inside-out. Prepare many drafts and keep summarising until it is the most condensed version you can create.”

2. Let your passion shine through

Don’t be afraid to let your passion for your project shine through in your application, as it can help you present a convincing argument.

Clearly explain why you are doing the research, the health issue or problem your research will address and the significance of the issue in the medical community.

"You have to show your passion. Imagine you are writing to your parents telling them about your fiancée who they haven't met. You have to tell the judges why you love what you do, where you see this project going, and how it's going to change the world. That's the passion you have to convey on paper,” previous scholarship recipient, Dr Lawrence Lau, says.

3. Tell us why your supervisor inspires you

Your supervisor can support your application by assisting you to write your submissions and providing guidance with career planning.

“It is important that you are well supported so as to justify the choice of your research environment,” Professor Jonathan Morris AM, Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, University of Sydney and one of this year’s judges, says.

4. Nothing beats having a plan based on evidence

Although it is great to have ideas and enthusiasm, nothing beats having a plan that showcases how you will use your funding and that you have carefully considered your research approach.

"I think it's important to have some evidence on the board so that you know you are going in the right direction; that what you propose will work,” shares previous scholarship recipient, Dr Peter Manders. “Don't just have a completely pie in the sky theory. It could be a great theory but the difference between an exciting theory and actual funding is having some evidence showing it will work.”

It also helps if your research is up and running before applying, as it further demonstrates your commitment and that your approach is solid.

5. Fit into the time constraints and check the evaluation criteria

“When planning your research, ensure that the project will be feasible within the time allowed and that a measurable outcome will be able to be defined at the end of the project's duration,” Professor Morris says. “Larger projects, although worthy in themselves, will not rank as highly.”

6. Pay attention to research design

A member of the 2019 judging panel, Professor Geoffrey Donnan AO, Mental Health Professor of Neurology, University of Melbourne, advises, “In terms of research protocol, ensure you have clearly stated aims and hypotheses and that you adequately address sample size estimates and statistical issues where appropriate. A strong methodology is crucial. Is it clear from your project outline exactly how the outcomes will be measured?”

"Planning out your project from start to finish is essential for success," 2018 scholarship recipient, Dr Emma Foster, says. "Adequate planning will help you to anticipate and troubleshoot potential obstacles, and allow you to redesign parts of the project as needed, well ahead of time."

"Ensuring you have calculated the necessary sample size, and the time it will take to recruit your patients, will help you gather the data you need in the time you have," Dr Foster says.

7. Gain ethics approval early on

Ideally you should discuss your project with the relevant ethics committee early on and gain ethics approval before applying for a scholarship, as this process can take time.

“You should discuss your project with your local ethics committee representatives as soon as you decide to go ahead with a research idea,” 2018 scholarship recipient, Dr Danielle Oh, states. “A complex multi-site ethics application may take months to be approved while a local ‘quality assurance’ project can be signed off by the local ethics officer within a few days.”

8. Don’t be afraid to sell yourself

There are two key components to the application to help put your best foot forward – applicants should demonstrate both their research skills and experience, and their personal attributes, achievements and experiences to support their application.

“Don’t be afraid to highlight both your previous research endeavours – small or large, successful or not. Just as important are your personal experiences and achievements, for example, any overseas electives or community endeavours or awards you have received, to demonstrate that you embody the attributes required to successfully complete your research project,” Dr Crouch says.

“Remember research inexperience is not a contraindication to applying or receiving an Avant Doctor in Training Research Scholarship,” he adds. “The program is specifically designed to allow inexperienced researchers to submit a good application and receive the opportunity to have their research funded.”

9. Start early and revise your application

Start preparing your application as soon as you can. Hurrying to put the application together at the last minute is not ideal and can be stressful.

Revise your application multiple times and get your supervisor to check it.

"Make sure that you get your application is read by somebody who is not involved in your project, but has experience in writing applications and research. A fresh eye can demonstrate significant issues you may not have thought about,” previous scholarship recipient, Dr Neil Glassford says.

Next steps

All the best with preparing your application – we look forward to receiving your applications before Friday 31 May 2019 at 5pm (AEST).

About the program

At Avant we understand your passion and dedication to your research and want to actively support endeavours to advance the practice of medicine. This is why we developed the Avant Doctor in Training Research Scholarship Program.

Since its inception in 2012, the program has enabled aspiring young doctors to bring their innovative research projects to the world, to not only further their career but revolutionise patient care. To date, the program has awarded 91 scholarships worth a total of $2.5 million.

The 2019 program will provide up to $450,000 in full-time and part-time research funding, together with grants for short-term projects. The award categories include new fellows, accredited trainees and pre-vocational doctors.

Applications for the 2019 Avant Doctor in Training Research Scholarship Program are now open. For information on how to apply, visit our website.

Photo: 2018 Avant Doctor in Training Research Scholarship recipients

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