Career Development Fellowship for sub-Saharan African scientists

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Career Development Fellowship for sub-Saharan African scientists

There is a need to provide aspiring African researchers with 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.*

Therefore, 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 center 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 fellowship 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 the potential to deliver locally relevant research with measurable impact and within the scope of the EDCTP2 programme.

The objectives of this call are:

  1. 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 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.
  2. 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;
  3. Enhance career development and retention of postdoctoral researchers and postgraduate medical researchers in research in and for sub-Saharan Africa;
  4. To provide a firm foundation and increase the quality, efficiency, and impact of fellowship projects funded by organisations such as the EDCTP Association.

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.

AREF will fund fellows employed by a research institution based in sub-Saharan Africa (the fellow’s home organisation and applicant legal entity), whereas the EDCTP2 programme will fund fellows employed by a sub-Saharan African legal entity (the fellow’s home organisation and applicant legal entity).

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 a 3-months re-entry re-integration period at the fellow’s home (employing) institution, making a total training period of up to 12 months.

The re-integration project will be developed by the fellow with approval of the home institution so that it is aligned with its institutional research and human resources development plan.

Expected impact
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 and 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/application will only be considered eligible if:

  1. its content corresponds, wholly or in part, to the topic/contest description for which it is submitted;
  2. it complies with the eligibility conditions for participation set out below, depending on the type of action:
    • The applicant must be a legal entity established in sub-Saharan Africa (the applicant legal entity)*;
    • The fellow must be employed or have guaranteed employment by the applicant legal entity (the host organization) where they intend to remain working for a minimum of two years after the expiration of the grant.
    • The applying fellow must:
      • be a post-doctoral scientist;
      • have been awarded their doctorate within 3 years before the submission deadline of the AREF-EDCTP Preparatory Fellowship application;
      • have been either a Ph.D. student or MD, who have been active researchers for up to three years following award of their doctorate;
      • be a resident of or be willing to relocate to a sub-Saharan African country;
      • not have been funded under this fellowship scheme before**.
    • The requested EDCTP2 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.

      Procedure and application process

      Submission and evaluation procedure
      This is a single-stage application procedure. Proposals must be submitted by 27 November 2019, 17:00 CET via EDCTPgrants. Evaluation results are expected to be made available by 19 April 2020.

      The host organization (applicant) must provide a support letter confirming that the organization is supportive of the proposed action and willing through its financial and administrative systems to enable the fellow to direct independently the proposed action and manage its funding for the duration of the fellowship.

      Evaluation, scoring, and thresholds
      Following an admissibility and eligibility check, full proposals are evaluated by external, independent experts. Proposals are evaluated according to the criteria Excellence, Impact and Implementation (see Article 15 of the Horizon 2020 Rules for Participation Regulation No 1290/2013). Each criterion will be scored out of 5.

    • The threshold for individual criteria will be 3. The overall threshold, applying to the sum of the three individual scores, will be 10.

      For all proposals involving human participants, and/or human tissues, cells or personal data, the evaluation process will include an assessment of ethical issues.

      The following aspects are considered under the evaluation criteria:

      1. Excellence
      • Fit with the scope and objectives of the EDCTP2 programme, the EDCTP Association strategic research agenda and the call topic description.
      • Importance, relevance/pertinence, and clarity of the objectives.
      • The soundness of the concept and credibility of the proposed approach/methodology.
      • Suitability of the candidate, considering their track record, degree of independence and/or potential, and how the fellowship will further the individual’s career.
      • Quality of the project and its fit with the fellow’s expertise and career development plan, including acquired competencies and skills to be developed further.
      • Quality of the mentorship and/or training plan
      1. Impact
      • Call specific aspects as listed under ‘expected impact’ in each individual call.
      • The extent to which the outputs of the proposed work would contribute, at the European, African and/or International level, to each of the expected impacts listed in the work plan under the relevant topic.
      • Likelihood to result in major advances in the field with potential benefit of the research to the affected populations.
      • Advancing the fellow’s clinical research skills and career development.
      • Contribution to development of research independence and/or scientific leadership.
      • Contribution to strengthening clinical research capacity at the home or host organisation.
      • Effectiveness of the proposed measures to exploit and disseminate results generated during the fellowship (including management of IPR), to communicate the fellowship activities, and, where relevant, to manage clinical data.
      • Sustainability and retention of capacity beyond the end of the grant.
      1. Quality and efficiency of the implementation
      • Quality and effectiveness of the work plan, including extent to which the resources assigned to work packages are in line with their objectives and deliverables;
      • Appropriateness of the management structures and procedures, including risk and innovation management, and how responsibilities for research data quality and sharing, and security will be met.
      • Complementarity of the participants within the consortium, and the extent to which the consortium as whole brings together the necessary expertise.
      • Appropriateness of the allocation of tasks and resources, ensuring that all participants have a valid role and adequate resources in the project to fulfil that role.
      • Feasibility and appropriateness of the methods and project management to achieve the objectives within the timeframe of the grant.
      • Compliance with national and international standards of research, Good Clinical Practice, ethics and safety related issues.
      • Participants have the operational capacity, to carry out the proposed work, based on the competence and experience of the individual participant(s).
      • Suitability of the fellow’s home and/or host organisation to support the fellowship project.
      • Intention of the fellow’s home organisation to develop and commit to a career post-fellowship or re-integration plan.

        Financial provisions
        The call budget is EUR 3.25 million.

        The requested EDCTP contribution per project should not exceed EUR 150,000. The funding level is 100% of eligible costs.

        Grant agreement

        The legal entity employing the successful fellow (‘host organization’) will be required to sign a General EDCTP2 mono-beneficiary grant agreement.

        Applicant legal entities (host organisations) selected for funding from this Call for Proposals will be required to conclude an employment agreement with the fellows prior to the conclusion of the EDCTP2 grant agreement.

        Application process and guidance

        • The application must be submitted online via EDCTPgrants
        • Only registered users of EDCTPgrants system can apply for grants and therefore you are advised to register on the system as soon as possible
        • For questions related to this call for proposals, please access the call-specific FAQ (PDF) or contact: Dr. Montserrat Blázquez-Domingo at
        • For questions and issues about EDCTPgrants and the online application submission please contact EDCTP via
        • For proposal templates and guidance documents, see the Guidance and FAQs pages.

        Link to the official scholarship page


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