RSTMH Early Career Grants programme: Advice from previous awardees

23 Feb 2024

We asked some of our former RSTMH Early Career Grant awardees what advice they would give to anyone thinking of applying for a grant this year. We have compiled their responses below.  

Maria Eugenia Castellanos Reysona

  • Engage early on with your local partners and collaborators; they are the “Experts” in the field.  Please don’t wait to have a complete proposal before talking with them.  
  • Be realistic on the scope of your project, based on the funding and availability, and also check the timeline to get an Ethics approval (if needed) 
  • What is the value of your project? What is the intended outcome? Review what has already been done in your topic of interest. Your project should provide new knowledge that hopefully will lead to something else (for example, change of public heath policy or implementation,  new research questions, etc) 

RSTMH NIHR Early Career Grant Awardee 2021, Clinical characteristics and outcomes of HIV patients coinfected with tuberculosis and histoplasmosis in an urban Latin American setting 

Kedir Geda

  • Read carefully, many times  
  • Highlight key information and continuously compare your developing proposal to the instructions 
  • Read between the lines 
  • Apply what you read on the grant instructions 
  • Make the title informative  
  • Understand the mission of- RSTMH  
  • Align your proposal to the RSTMH guidelines 
  • Perform literature search  and Identify key literature  
  • Take notes and begin to organize the foundation  
  • Identify gaps in knowledge/shortcomings of prior research  
  • Know your audience –write for the reviewer 
  • Use an active voice 
  • Be concise, clear, and logical 
  • Check grammatical errors and any styling issues 
  • Persuade the reader why your problem is important and you are the best one to solve it 
  • If Not Funded, Try Again!  

RSTMH NIHR Early Career Grant Awardee 2022, Assessment of the Barriers to Human Rabies Post Exposure Prophylaxis Availability and Accessibility in the Oromia Region, Ethiopia 

Sultan Hussen

My advice is two-fold, focusing on program priorities and an innovative approach: 

  • Deep Dive into Prioritized Areas: 

Before crafting their proposal, thoroughly research the program's current priorities and areas of emphasis. Align their research question and methodology directly with these priorities to demonstrate a strong understanding and relevance. Don't simply choose a "safe" topic; embrace areas where their innovative approach can truly contribute fresh perspectives and potential breakthroughs 

  • Innovate Within the Focus: 

While aligning with priorities is crucial, don't be afraid to be bold and innovative in your approach. Showcase an original research question, propose unconventional methodologies, or suggest exciting applications of your findings. Remember, groundbreaking discoveries often emerge from venturing beyond the well-trodden path. 

By combining a targeted focus on program priorities with a distinctive and innovative approach, early career researchers can create stand-out proposals that demonstrate both relevance and potential for significant impact. 

RSTMH NIHR Early Career Grant Awardee 2021, The role of gender and other social determinants in access to preventive chemotherapy for Trachoma in Arba Minch District, Ethiopia 

Tatiana Marrufo

First of all, write a proposal that is feasible to implement within a year. And, If your topic is on your area of expertise, and it is something that you are currently working on with a limited budget, and you think that your engagement will be impactful, you should apply for Early Career Grants programme. You will feel motivated and energized to pursue this matter with the commitment that will lead to a positive outcome for your career. 

RSTMH NIHR Early Career Grant Awardee 2022, Assessing health inequalities due to climate change in Mozambique: a secondary analysis

Rossanie Daudi Malolo

You can get this grant, it is doable. Just make sure your research question is a solution to a Global health challenge. Identify your supervisor in good time, engage him/her right from the day you decide to put in the grant application.

RSTMH NIHR Early Career Grant Awardee 2022, Assessing post-COVID-19 conditions in Malawi’s adult population 

Charles Ndawula

My simple advice to the applicants is to request one or two colleagues who are not in their field of research to read through their write-up. Often such colleagues ask good questions especially where the project write-up is not clear to them. So, if your colleague(s) do not understand what you have written, it implies that the reviewers could also struggle to understand 

Note that a budget is a translation of your methodology, therefore, take time to reflect on your planned experiments and be realistic to yourself. Do not be over ambitious. 

Add collaborators to your project who could support for instance by donating some reagents or services like sequencing and offer some technical advice 

RSTMH NIHR Early Career Grant Awardee 2022, Demystifying the aetiological role of livestock and blood-sucking-vectors in nodding syndrome: an onchocerciasis-associated epidemic affecting children in northern Uganda 


Vincent Pam Gyang

These are small grants early in their careers, do not be "too ambitious". They can identify a small gap in knowledge and work towards answering some questions. The grant should be looked upon as a seed grant, after which more indepth studies can be done from funding from bigger grants. 

I strongly advise that applicants link up with an awardee, who will be able to answer their questions and also guide them.  

RSTMH NIHR Early Career Grant Awardee 2021, Female Genital Schistosomiasis: Association with cervical cancer in Nigeria 

Khyathi Reddy

To write a good proposal, it's important and relevant to conduct a thorough literature review and take notes on various aspects of the published studies. This includes the study design, objectives, study population, sample size, measurable outcomes, results, conclusion and scope for further studies (if any). 

Additionally, a helpful tip from one of my advisors is to write the background/problem statement in the form of a story. This can have a greater impact on the reviewers and help to better convey the importance of the proposed research study. 

RSTMH NIHR Early Career Grant Awardee 2021, Assessment of oral health status of people affected by leprosy attending LEPRA referral centres in Hyderabad

Luciano Fusco

  • Write clear proposals with concrete and feasible ideas. 
  • Ensure that the proposed idea aligns with the academic background of the applicant. 
  • Maintain consistency throughout all parts of the project, from the title to the budget; every section is important. 
  • Put yourself in the assessors’ shoes and consider that they may assess multiple applications. 

If the proposal is not successful in the first presentation, it is essential to maintain a perseverant attitude, learn from the experience, and work on improving it to try again. 

RSTMH Wellcome Early Career Grant Awardee 2022, New adjuvant formulation for antivenom production. Adjuvant activity of CpG-ODN formulated as a liquid crystal of ascorbyl palmitate 

Luria Leslie Founou

Simplicity and clarity are key: If you cannot explain your project in simple words (as if you are explaining it to a 9-12 years old kid) and present your project in a clear and sound way then you do not understand it yourself. 

RSTMH CIFF Early Career Grant Awardee 2021, Molecular Epidemiology and Population Genomics of Streptococcus agalactiae Isolates from the Microbiome of Pregnant Women and Neonates

Remy Hoek Spanns

You really want to communicate what added value your project has. Another way to think about this is to ask yourself what would be lost if your project did not get funded. Are there any resources you already have that would go unused, progress lost, questions unanswered, people that depend on this etc. Why is this such a great opportunity that cannot be missed?  - and why are you so well positioned to make this happen.  

RSTMH Early Career Grant Awardee 2021, The impact of flooding on the spatial epidemiology of malaria: the case of Cyclone Idai in southern Malawi 

Chinenye Bembir

 ...start early, do not delay at any time with your plans/milestones, and do not think you have all the time! 

RSTMH NIHR Early Career Grant Awardee 2020, Towards universal health coverage: Can Neglected Tropical Disease programs be integrated into Primary health care in Nigeria and Ghana? 

Precious Azubuike

I would like that you, as an applicant, take note that the grant supports original ideas that are clear and feasible. Your ideas do not need to be all perfect because RSTMH and other partners know that you are in your early career as a researcher. However, keep the ideas brief and clear, the word is succinct! Make sure your research/project questions are Specific, Measurable, Realistic, Achievable and Time-bound (SMART). Send your proposals to other colleagues to get reviews and inputs, use your network! Reach out to former awardees to get a guide! Also, use the FAQs section on the RSTMH website, there are sample project proposals to guide you as an applicant. Best wishes from me! 

RSTMH NIHR Early Career Grant Awardee 2022, Mental Health Impacts and Lived Experiences of Buruli Ulcer on Adult Patients and Convalescents in Nigeria 

Maxine Atuheirwe

The proposed research should be feasible, objectives specific, realistic, and achievable in one year given the limited funds. The research topic should be innovative and should address the urgent needs in society while sticking to the £5000 budget. 

RSTMH NIHR Early Career Grant Awardee 2021, A survey to identify the knowledge, attitudes and acceptance of COVID-19 vaccine among health workers versus general public in Uganda

Lucy Banda

I always tell people who ask me for tips that one should always have a supportive supervisor/s and or mentors; they play a very crucial role throughout the journey.  

RSTMH NIHR Early Career Grant Awardee 2021, Assessing the determinants of and strategies for postpartum HIV-retesting among women who tested HIV negative antenatally in Thyolo district, Malawi  

Mwiza Rebecca Nyasa

Be passionate about the work you want to write a grant for, and you will enjoy the process from application writing to implementation. 

RSTMH NIHR Early Career Grant Awardee 2020, Informational and structural barriers to uptake of preventive behaviours among Healthcare workers working in both isolation and non-isolation sitesduring COVID 19 in Zambia 

Helen Nabwera

  • Please start drafting the application early, as there several components to it that need time to develop, especially linking in with your mentors.  
  • As this is a small grant, please think carefully how/if this can be embedded into a larger project for sustainability and continuity. 
  • This was not my first grant application. I had many failed attempts and used the feedback that I received to get this one right. 

RSTMH NIHR Early Career Grant Awardee 2020, Developing a novel approach to improving postnatal breastfeeding support for mothers of low birth weight infants in rural Kenyan hospitals 

Khánh Phan

  • Get to know the platform:  

I gave it a few tries on the Submittable form to see how the platform works and what questions were being asked. Then I tried to make a plan about what I should do in the next few weeks. I used a normal Microsoft Word file when I made my draft and only copied and pasted my final version into the platform.  

  • Reach out to your mentor(s) soon. 

They will have valuable advice for you and may give you comments/suggestions on your proposal.  

  • Be persistent.  

It is a long proposal with many difficult questions, and you will probably need to revise it multiple times before submitting, so be persistent.  

  • Grammar/spelling checker 

If English is not your mother tongue, a grammar/spelling checker can help you greatly. I personally use the free version of Grammarly and Quillbot but there are other useful apps you can try as well. 

RSTMH NIHR Early Career Grant Awardee 2022, Clinical characteristics and outcome of sepsis in adult tetanus patients in Southern Vietnam.