How to make the most of an Academic Clinical Fellowship (ACF)or alternative source of pre-doctoral protected research time
- Decide how you’ll take your research time. This will depend upon the nature of your project. Check with your Training Programme Director (TPD)/supervisors but it’s usually inadvisable to take too much research time prior to the Stage A exam (OSPE) because of the intensity of clinical training up until this point. However, it is a good idea to ‘lay the groundwork’ during this period (e.g. secure ethical approval for your project, apply for funding, source collaborators etc.) so that you can make immediate progress when the research period begins.
- Plan your time: aim to apply for a PhD Fellowship before your research block ends (e.g. towards the end of the second year/beginning of the third year of a three-year ACF). This will give you time to re-apply if your first application is unsuccessful (which is common). Work backwards from this point to ensure you have acquired the necessary skills and pilot data in time.
- Be aware of the academic and clinical requirements of the ARCP (Annual Review of Competence Progression). Keep your academic and clinical supervisors 'in the loop'.
- Meet regularly with your academic supervisor to ensure that the research block is going to plan and that you identify problems and ask for help early if needed. For most trainees, this is their first experience of semi-independent research – it is a steep learning curve, so do not be afraid to ask for help.
Build your CV and skillset:
- Attend the PathSoc National Academic Trainee Network Meetings: a source of peer support, networking and research skills training.
- Present at the PathSoc Summer and Winter meetings
- Apply for grants e.g. Pathsoc grants and awards
- Aim to publish primary research but also reviews, case reports and articles in the RCPath Bulletin or ACP News.
- Consider joining an academic pathology committee
- Carry out public engagement
- Undergo any relevant training: this may be provided as part of the ACF by your University or you may arrange it independently
- Prepare for a doctoral Fellowship application