The 10th of May 2022 marked the end of my NIHR School for Public Health Research (SPHR) Postdoctoral Launching Fellowship. For the duration of this award, I was based in the Centre for Health Inequalities Research at Lancaster University (one arm of the LiLaC collaboration), with Professor Jennie Popay acting as my mentor. In this blog post, I would like share some reflections on my experiences of the launching fellowship and introduce my next piece of research, which will be funded through a Wellcome Trust Research Fellowship in Humanities and Social Science.
Firstly, what is so great about an SPHR launching award is that you don’t need to have everything figured out before you start. Actually, the purpose of the two-year award is to give early postdoctoral researchers the time to reflect on their PhD research, to get publications out, to build up their networks and collaborations, and to develop their initial research idea into a fully-fledged fellowship application. The task then when applying for these kinds of bridging awards is to get better at ‘tooting your own horn’, and convincing funding panels that you do have the skills and attributes to make the most of them. I recently shared how I went about doing this in my presentation at the NIHR SPHR Annual Scientific Meeting, which you can find here (starts at 54.40).
In terms of how I spent my time over the two years, I focused on the three P’s (person, project, and place) which I am reliably informed are the cornerstone of any good fellowship application. To build up my CV, I prioritised getting three journal articles from my thesis published. I started work on the research proposal for the fellowship application early, and exploited every opportunity possible to get challenging and constructive feedback. For example, the SPHR capacity building team supported an ‘Ideas Incubator’ session where people from across the SPHR member organisations came together to thrash out with us our very early, half-baked ideas! I was also able to get involved with the Lancashire and Cumbria Health Equity Commission that was going on at the time, which again helped to sense-check my ideas and see how they reflected, and could feed into ‘real-world’ challenges. Finally, and in terms of ‘place’, Lancaster University turned out to be the perfect environment in which to do my fellowship research. A central focus of the research was about looking at approaches to framing health and wider inequalities, and luckily for me Professor Elena Semino, who is a leading expert in framing and metaphor from the Linguistics and English Language Department here, very kindly offered to act as a mentor for my fellowship. I’m delighted also to have Professors Jennie Popay and Kat Smith as part of my fellowship dream team!
Applying for an early career fellowship is a real test of stamina, and is an achievement in itself. Sometimes, the result even goes your way, and on the 11th of May this year, I officially started my Wellcome Trust Fellowship. The title of the study is “Framing inequalities through causal stories: a cross case comparison and critical reflection”. It builds on my PhD research and is underpinned by the very simple idea that inequalities in outcomes are not unique to the health sector, and that it could be useful to explore and understand how other, non-health sectors, go about framing inequalities, and arguing for action on the underlying social and economic causes. I’m going to be looking at stories told around inequalities in the areas of early years education, youth justice, and housing, and plan to bring together actors from across all of these sectors, and health, to discuss and critically reflect on the study findings. A more detailed post on the planned research can be found on my personal blog here. If you would like to be kept up-to-date or have any thoughts to share about the project, please do get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org.