There is a need to provide aspiring African researchers the necessary tools for development in the form of structured mentorship support and stimulating research challenges. Such support can best be provided to early postdoctoral researchers by well-resourced and established institutions. Africa accounts for 15-20% of the world’s population and a disproportionately large share of disease burden, yet scientific publications by African researchers account for less than 2% of the total academic journal output*. As a result, it is imperative to enable African researchers to enhance their competitiveness for international funding opportunities early in their careers while retaining them in Africa, working on Africa’s health challenges and priorities.
The capacity strengthening needs for health research in sub-Saharan Africa predominantly centre on lack of funding and limited systematic career development for researchers. In general, health research capacity building programmes in Africa and other low-income regions are more tailored to PhD candidates than to early-career postdoctoral scientists. Furthermore, international fellowship programmes typically focus on people who are already well-trained and who show exceptional talent and promise. The experience of global health research funders is that African scientists are under-represented and less competitive in local and international funding schemes: their science may be promising but the framing of research questions; the research design; the proposed analyses and mentoring structure are often not well developed.
The Africa Research Excellence Fund (AREF) aims to bridge the critical gap early in the career path from research experience to research leadership. AREF is an independent charity established by the UK Medical Research Council and led from sub-Saharan Africa, with the support of the UK Medical Research Foundation.
The purpose of the AREF/EDCTP Preparatory Fellowship is to enhance the competitiveness of up and coming post-doctoral sub-Saharan African scientists and clinicians aspiring to receive international /regional /national fellowships or grant support, such as the EDCTP Career Development Fellowships.
The AREF/EDCTP Preparatory Fellowship targets outstanding early-career researchers residing in or wishing to relocate to sub-Saharan Africa who demonstrate independent scientific thinking and have potential to deliver locally relevant research with measurable impact and within the scope of the EDCTP2 programme.
The objectives of this call are to:
- Enable outstanding sub-Saharan African researchers (0 to 3-year post-PhD) to:
- further advance their research skills, through short-course(s) and hands-on training, especially using biological samples and data they or their home organisations have generated;
- strengthen their competencies in project and proposal design;
- enhance essential their generic/transferable researcher skills that will allow them to secure research partnerships, and make effective use of fellowships;
- contribute to creating a pool of researchers optimally equipped with the expertise and skills to address local research needs.
- Enable individuals to deploy their own resourcefulness and research relationships to best effect in competing for early/mid-career fellowships, such as (but not limited to) the EDCTP Career Development Fellowships
- Enhance career development and retention of postdoctoral researchers and postgraduate medical researchers in research in and for sub-Saharan Africa
- Provide a firm foundation and increase the quality, efficiency and impact of fellowship projects funded by organisations such as EDCTP.
The proposal for an AREF/EDCTP Fellowship Preparation Award must be submitted by the home organisation (‘the applicant legal entity’). The grants will be awarded to the home organisation with the explicit commitment that this organisation offers appropriate conditions for the fellow to direct and manage their funding for the duration of the fellowship.
Successful applicants will use the funding for a 3 to 9 months placement at a centre of research excellence in Europe and sub-Saharan Africa contracted to host the fellow before spending 3-months re-entry re-integration period to the fellow’s home (employing) institution, making a total training period of up to 12 months.
Projects funded under this Call for Proposals should:
- contribute towards the achievement of SDG3 ‘Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages’)
- enhance the ability of fellows to design, plan and execute clinical biomedical and/or social science/ethics research proposals, and manage research relationships, within the scope of the EDCTP2 programme; and to generate competitive proposals into effective projects
- promote and enhance competitiveness for the next tier of fellowships and grants, such as (but not limited to) the EDCTP Career Development Fellowships
- lead to high impact research outputs by junior sub-Saharan African scientists who have not been supported by major funders previously
- foster new collaborations and mentorship opportunities for newly trained fellows
- equip the next generation of African researchers to sustain excellent and relevant research in sub-Saharan Africa, and engage as African citizens with African leaders, policy-makers and industries to drive forward evidence-based health improvement.
A proposal will only be considered eligible if:
- its content corresponds, wholly or in part, to the topic/contest description for which it is submitted
- it complies with the eligibility conditions set out below, depending on the type of action:
- The applicant must be an organisation with an established legal entity in sub-Saharan Africa (the applicant legal entity)
- The fellow must be employed or have guaranteed employment by the applicant legal entity (the home organisation) where they intend to remain working for a minimum of two years after the expiration of the grant
- Fellows must:
- be a post-doctoral scientist;
- have been awarded their doctorate within 3 years before submission deadline of the AREF-EDCTP Preparatory Fellowship application;
- have been either a PhD student or MD, who have been active researchers for up to three years following award of their doctorate;
- be resident of or be willing to relocate to a sub-Saharan African country;
- not have been funded under this fellowship scheme before.
- The requested EDCTP contribution per action shall not exceed EUR 70,000
- Placements sought shall be for a period of at least 3 and up to 9 months, following which there will be a re-integration period of up to 3 months. The maximum fellowship duration shall be 12 months.