MRC LID Studentship Handbook

(Last updated: 30 August 2019)

This document provides further information for students funded on an MRC LID Studentship. It should be read in conjunction with the current editions of

CONTENTS

  1. About the DTP (Doctoral Training Partnership)
    1.1 Structure
    1.2 Awards
    1.3 Themes
  1. Programme
    2.1 Training
    2.2 Conference Attendance
    2.3 Professional Placement
  1. Financial Support
    3.1 Fees
    3.2 Stipend
    3.3 Other costs (including RTSG, fieldwork, training, CPD/short courses, travel and conferences, institutional visits, and 3 month placement/internships)
    3.4 General Financial Information
  1. Studentship Requirements
    4.1 Award Dates
    4.2 Reporting Requirements (Je-S, researchfish, Gateway to Research)
    4.3 Satisfactory Academic Progress
    4.4 Changes
    4.5 Illness
    4.6 Maternity, Paternity, and Adoption Leave
    4.7 Interruption of Studies
    4.8 Other Funding
    4.9 Publications and Acknowledgement of Support
    4.10 Complaints
  1. Student Involvement
    5.1 Student Representation
    5.2 MRC Cohort
  1. Other Useful Information
    6.1 MRC LID Website
    6.2 Communications
    6.3 Key Contacts
    6.4 Acronyms used


1. About the DTP (Doctoral Training Partnership)
The MRC London Intercollegiate DTP (MRC LID) is a partnership between St George’s, University of London (SGUL) and London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM). The funding for these studentships is provided by the MRC (Medical Research Council) and the partnership institutions (SGUL and LSHTM).

1.1 Structure
The MRC LID board comprises academic and administrative staff from both institutions, and an MRC Student Representative from each institution. Members are

Academic DTP Leads
Dr Rachel Allen – Chair; Head of the Graduate School, SGUL
Professor Neil Pearce (LSHTM) – MRC LID Principal Investigator
Professor Suzanne Filteau – on behalf of the Pro-Director of Teaching & Learning (LSHTM)

Theme Leads
Professor John Edmunds (LSHTM) and Professor Julian Ma (SGUL) for Global Infectious Disease;
Professor David Strachan (SGUL) and Dr Elizabeth Williamson (LSHTM) for Quantitative Skills for Large Data Sets;
Professor Steve Cummins (LSHTM) and Professor Cally Roper (LSHTM) for Evaluating Complex Interventions

Industrial Engagement Leads
Dr Alexis Bailey (SGUL) and Dr Ian Douglas (LSHTM)

Student Representatives
At least one from each institution. If you aren’t sure who the reps are this year please contact mrclid@lshtm.ac.uk and we’ll put you in contact with one from your institution.

Administrative DTP Leads
Lara Crawford (LSHTM) and Derilyn Frusher (SGUL)

1.2 Awards
MRC LID will award 50 studentships in total over a 5 year period, beginning in 2016/17.

Studentships are offered on either of the following routes:
– 5 years (MPhil/PhD), or
– 1+3 (Masters and MPhil/PhD) to exceptional candidates.

1.3 Themes
All of the research training projects funded by MRC LID will address one or more of the MRC’s skill priorities:

– Quantitative skills
– Interdisciplinary skills
– Whole organ / organism physiology

and lie within one of three research themes:
– Global Infectious Disease
– Quantitative Skills for Large Data Sets
– Evaluating Complex Interventions
Further information can be found on the Themes and Skills section of the MRC LID website.

2. MRC DTP Programme

The purpose of the programme is to provide a cross-disciplinary grounding which incorporates MRC priorities to all students with MRC LID funding. To do this we require award recipients to take classes that will expand their education beyond their specific PhD research project, participate actively in institution centres and groups, and complete a 3-month placement in another institution or laboratory (placement requirement for 3.5 year awards only).

It is expected that students will be actively involved in the centres/groups their research covers (including participation in monthly seminars) at both institutions. In participating students will benefit from exposure to multi-disciplinary, themed, research networks, formal and informal meetings, seminars and networking opportunities.

MRC LID requires all students, whatever their discipline, to enhance their quantitative skills and to embrace multidisciplinary learning.

We encourage you to make the most of collaborations and net-working opportunities made available through both institutions.

2.1 Training
Each MRC LID student should meet with their supervisors and their MRC LID mentor (a member of the DTP board) for an initial training needs assessment and the creation of a comprehensive training plan. The training plan should be reviewed and updated on an annual basis, with your supervisors and your DTP mentor. This is to ensure that you get the most from your MRC funding and its enhanced training opportunities.

We encourage all students to take up as many specific and generic training opportunities (offered by both institutions) as possible. Course selection should be made in consultation with your supervisors, as part of your comprehensive training plan.

Consideration should be given for balancing the time commitment of attending the training courses with time spent directly on research. Time commitments will vary considerably between courses depending on the duration of the courses and the type of enrolment.

* Modules (not generic transferable skills)
Students on these MRC LID studentships are expected to undertake up to 4 MSc taught course modules (available at either institution) to widen and deepen their knowledge and understanding of their field. This may include modules outside their primary research field in order to build a rounder experience, in line with the strategic aims of the MRC LID programme. Module enrolment may be full (attending all taught sessions, submitting coursework, and sitting exams) or partial (attending some sessions, no coursework or exams) depending on your training needs, as agreed with your primary supervisor and also with permission from the relevant MSc Course Directors.

The cost of these modules (up to 4 per year at LSHTM) is included in your registration as an MPhil/PhD student. If required, payment for modules must come out of RTSG funds.

* Short Courses
Short courses available – will need to be paid out of your additional costs budget (see Financial Support section).

Suitable training, including short courses and CPD courses offered at either institution or externally – where these are required for your studies and not available through one of the ‘free’ modules at either institution. These funds should not be used to fund external training where very similar training is provided by SGUL or LSHTM, unless there are important additional benefits to the external training, such as establishing inter-institutional research collaborations.

In addition to the generic transferable training offered at each institution, which students should take advantage of, there will also be specific training offered by MRC LID (this will be communicated to the MRC Cohort as it is planned). This is likely to include quantitative skills training and interdisciplinary training as these are core MRC skills.

*Other Training
All MRC LID students are eligible to attend Bloomsbury Postgraduate Skills Network (BPSN) courses, because they are registered as research students at LSHTM. If asked for a Student ID/Code/Number please use your LSHTM Student Number (this includes SGUL students who will also have an LSHTM Student Number).

Students may also take advantage of specialist training outside of the two institutions (SGUL and LSHTM). Costs incurred should be paid for through the student’s RTSG and/or flexible funding allowance.

2.2 Conference Attendance
We envisage MRC LID students attending three conferences (two domestic and one international) over the duration of their award.

Some funding is available for students to attend conferences. The MRC allocates an annual travel/conference allowance of GBP 300.00 to each student. Additionally, your primary institution may have travel allowances which are available to all students. For any additional costs please see the flexible funding section under ‘Other Costs’ (3.3 below).

2.3 Professional Placement
Students with MRC LID 3.5 years awards are required to undertake a 3 month placement outside of SGUL and LSHTM. These attachments will provide the students with experience of the wider research environment, demonstrate how research feeds into the development of products or policy, expand the student’s network of contacts, facilitate their career development, and give access to expertise beyond their immediate research group.

Ideally, to broaden a student’s perspective of the field, the placement should be in a different research discipline and not directly the focus of the student’s PhD project. The details of the placement should be organised and agreed with your supervisors.

The timing of the placement is flexible and should be selected by each student and their supervisors to best accommodate project research. While students would not be expected to complete the placement before upgrading it is advisable to discuss options early on with supervisors to allow ample time to organise the placement and to anticipate costs in the budget (see Financial Support section). Also, students should consider the additional time pressures in their final year.

3. Financial Support

Each MRC LID award has been costed following the MRC’s financial details guidance.

Fees
Your Masters (for 1+3 awards) and MPhil/PhD tuition fees (for all award recipients) will be paid to the relevant institution’s Finance Office on your behalf for the duration of your award.

Fees will be pro-rated for any periods of registration shorter than a full academic year (for example, late start date; final 0.5 year of 3.5 year awards; periods of IoS).

Stipend
MRC LID will use at the UKRI indicative rate for each year’s stipends. The MRC pays an additional GBP 2,000.00/year to the UKRI rate for students in London (London weighting).

Stipends are tax-free payments. Students who earn additional sums (eg from teaching and demonstrating) should be aware that their stipend will be included in the aggregated amounts earned when assessing for income tax liability. If you have any queries about income tax during your registration please contact the Payroll Office at LSHTM, who will be able to provide advice.

No additional payments will be made for students’ National Insurance contributions. You may wish to pay contributions as ‘non-employed persons’. You should seek advice first as there are some implications for doing this.

Payment of your stipend will be made monthly in advance – beginning after you have registered in September. The first payment will be made as a cheque, which should be collected from the LSHTM Payroll Office after your enrolment. To collect your cheque you must have your LSHTM photo ID or your LSHTM temporary ID slip. The Payroll Office is open 9.30 am – 4.00 pm Monday to Friday. Subsequent payments will be made by bank transfer, providing we have received bank details from you.

Stipend payments will be made on the 24th of each month (or the nearest working day to it) for the coming month eg a stipend paid on 24th October is your stipend for the period 1 – 30 November.

Stipends will be pro-rated for any periods of registration shorter than a full academic year (for example, late start date; final 0.5 year of 3.5 year awards).

No stipend is paid out for periods of Interruption of Studies (excepting where this is for maternity leave or MRC sickness pay – see relevant sections in this handbook).

Other Costs (including RTSG, fieldwork, training, CPD/short courses, travel and conferences, institutional visits, and 3 month placement/internships)

     * RTSG (Research Training and Support Grant)
A full MRC studentship includes an individual annual RTSG allowance of GBP 5,000.00. This is a contribution towards consumable costs and reasonable expenses which directly support student research. Examples of reasonable expenses include travel for fieldwork and/or preparatory site visits; reimbursement of interpreters, guides, assistants during fieldwork; contribution towards laboratory consumables; books and other reading materials not available through the Senate House, LSHTM, or SGUL libraries; computer and software, where those provided by the institution are not suitable for PhD requirements (eg big data); suitable training, including short courses and CPD courses offered at either institution or externally. This list is not exhaustive; if you have any queries about whether an expense is allowed please contact us in the first instance.

If during the year, your status changes – for example, you take an Interruption of Studies – your RTSG will need to be retrospectively recalculated to reflect the changes. Please be aware that this may result in the RTSG amount available to you for the year being lower than it previously was. Your funding is student-specific; it can only be used for your expenses.

The MRC LID RTSG expenditure will be available from the start of your research degree.
* At LSHTM this will be administered by
– Research Degree Administrators (RDAs) where students are registered in EPH or PHP, and
– Departmental Managers (DMs) where students are registered in ITD.
If LSHTM is your primary institution please contact the administrators directly for details on how your RTSG should be accessed.
* At SGUL this will be administered with the JREO or the Finance Office. Please contact Rachel Allen, in the first instance, for details on how your RTSG should be accessed if SGUL is your primary institution.

You will be required to update and maintain an expenditure spreadsheet during the tenure of your award, and will be asked (by email from the MRC LID team) to update it at least quarterly. It is essential that you take the time to note all expenditure so that we have a full list of expenditure, if required, for reporting purposes.

MRC LID reserves the right to ask supervisors for confirmation that expenditure is in direct support of a student’s research.

Students on a 1+3 award will not be entitled to an RTSG allowance during their Masters course year. If there are exceptional circumstances that would require you to use RTSG funding please contact the DTP Administrative Lead by email detailing the reasons for this request and providing a budget for this. These requests will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

Please note that the MRC LID RTSG is different to, and in addition to, any standard RTSG allowance provided to all research students by their primary institution.

      * Travel/Conference Allowance
Please note that the MRC LID travel/conference allowance is different to, and in addition to, any conference and travel allowance made available to all research students by their primary institution.

MRC LID will cover expenses & travel up to the maximum MRC individual, annual allowance of GBP 300.00 for up to 3 conferences (two domestic and one international) over the duration of the studentship.

LSHTM provides a separate (non MRC LID) conference allowance per student through the Faculties. This allowance is available to all research degree students, provided they meet certain criteria, for up to two conferences (one UK and one overseas). Students based at LSHTM should refer to the Research Degrees Student Handbook or contact their Faculty Research Degree Manager or Administrator for details.

SGUL has a small fund available for current students, but it is on a first come first served basis. Students should contact Derilyn for further information.

As with RTSG expenditure you will be required to update and maintain an expenditure spreadsheet quarterly during the tenure of your award, the same form is used to monitor both RTSG and travel/conference allowance.

     * Flexible Supplement / Additional Support
As part of the Studentship grant the MRC provides us with a flexible supplement to cover costs other than fees, stipends, MRC standard annual RTSG and travel/conference allowances. This flexible funding is not allocated as an individual allowance per student; instead it is a pooled amount to support unique training opportunities for MRC-funded PhD students.

The MRC has highlighted the following as ‘unique training opportunities’:

      1. High cost training in recognised areas of strategic need, including support for extra training, such as Masters, for individuals changing discipline;
      2. Exceptional training opportunities, such as:
        – overseas fieldwork where this is an essential part of a student’s training
        – time ‘out of programme’ to complete a complementary and beneficial placement,
        – training in new advanced research skills;
      3. Opportunities to provide training with industry or at the interdisciplinary interface;
      4. Transitions from PhD to first post-doc positions to increase the competitiveness of outstanding candidates.

As it is a limited sum, which MRC LID will need to share most effectively across all themes and students, this will be allocated on a competitive basis.

MRC LID encourages students to undertake relevant institutional visits and placements.

Some of the pooled funding may be used for MRC cohort activities and training.

How to Apply for Flexible Supplement / Additional Support Funding
In order to request flexible funding you will need to submit a flexible funding application form, this can be found on the forms page of the MRC LID website. You will also need to submit a budget for the flexible funding detailing how you will spend the flexible funding, and provide a budget/explanation of how you have spent/allocated your RTSG and Travel/Conference allowance to date, and for the remainder of the award. We request these two budgets as we would normally expect that your RTSG funds were spent prior to applying for flexible funding. However, we are aware that some students will ‘ringfence’ RTSG funds for future lab consumables or necessary project expenditure, having an explanation of future expenditure will aid the board in making a decision on your flexible funding application.

All RTSG and Travel/Conference expenses, excluding those awarded from the flexible funding, will be processed through your Faculty. The total amount available to you will be treated as an advance, with the expectation that evidence of expenditure be submitted in the form of original receipts.

Once you have returned from your flexible funding trip please report all actual expenditure (actual costs incurred) to MRC LID administration team (using the MRC LID Expenses Form), you will also need to provide a copy of the receipts, and also completed a feedback form. Both forms should be sent to you when you receive the award, or can be found on the forms page of the MRC LID website.

The MRC LID administration team will use your receipts and expenditure spreadsheet to calculate a mini-reconciliation of the award. Please note, any payments made in a currency other than GBP should be recorded in the local currency and converted to Pounds (GBP) on the expenses form. Where receipts are not in English please note the English translation. We check all non-GBP expenses via OANDA currency converter (using historical rate as per date mentioned on respective receipts). Any unused funds (or expenditure not covered by a receipt) will need to be repaid, the MRC LID administration will contact you with details of how to return funds if needed once the mini-reconciliation is complete. 

3.4 General Funding Information
Part-time studentships will be paid out at exactly 50% of full-time studentship awards.

Should your circumstances or student status change during the period of MRC LID support you should be aware that this may have an impact on your funding. You should contact the administration team as soon as possible to discuss changes and calculations.

You should be aware that funds paid once your research training has been terminated, or that have been paid inappropriately, will be reclaimed.

Where more applications are received than funding available the DTP may choose to make partial funding awards.

4. MRC LID Studentship Requirements

4.1 Award Dates
Students should be aware that the MRC LID Studentship funding dates and MRC submission date may be different to the maximum registration and submission dates of your primary institution. It is your responsibility to keep a note of the date differences and to ensure that you do not exceed the regulatory requirements of both your primary institution and the MRC. You should ensure that the submission of your thesis meets the earliest required date. If you have any queries about dates please contact the administration team for clarification.

4.2 Reporting Requirements
The MRC uses a number of different systems to gather data about the funding they have awarded, and how it is being used. The 3 currently being used are: Je-S, researchfish, and Gateway to Research. MRC LID students must provide updated information for these, as and when requested to do so, as the institutions in the DTP are ranked by the quality of data provided and this may affect future funding awarded to us.

* Je-S (Joint Electronic Submission System)
The MRC LID administration team will use this system to keep the MRC up-to-date on details of your award (start and end dates, any periods of IoS etc). We are required to submit scholarship information within the first month of your initial registration; and an abstract of your research.

The administration team will be in touch by email (in Sept/Oct) with a request, deadline for the information, and more details of what is required. Every subsequent year we will ask you to update/refine this abstract, and provide us with additional award information – including details (dates, place, purpose) of fieldwork, institutional visits, placements, and/or research/external collaborations with private, public, or civic society sectors. Please provide details according to MRC requirements (use layman’s terms; focus on core skills areas etc). following discussion with your supervisors and – where applicable – with any external organisations you are working with for your research.

For more information on Je-S, and tips and hints for completing the abstract please use this guide

* researchfish
Researchfish is an online system that is used to gather information about research outcomes. It allows researchers to record all of their research outputs and outcomes in one place and attribute outcomes to grants from different funders. It helps researchers share outcomes with funders easily and efficiently.
All recipients of MRC funding are required to report emerging outputs, outcomes and impacts for the duration of their awards and for up to five years beyond. Failure to report via researchfish may result in any active funding being suspended.

There are a range of ‘Common Outcomes’ that can be reported on using researchfish; however, some may not be relevant to you as a student. The most likely sections of relevance include:
Publications
Collaborations
Engagement activities
Other outputs & knowledge/future steps
Secondments, placements & internships

You will also be asked a number of Mandatory Additional Questions which will appear below the Common Outcomes mentioned above. Unlike the Common Outcomes the Mandatory Additional Questions must be completed before you are able to make a submission.

You may record and attribute research outcomes to awards at any time during the year. However, early each calendar year researchfish will contact students at various stages of their studies (usually from Year 3 onwards) to ask that each student provide research outcomes over the researchfish submission window period. The researchfish submission period is normally February to March each year. It is essential that you take part in this data collection exercise when requested to do so.

Before final submission each year you should discuss your submission with your supervisor/s. Please be aware that the information provided via researchfish will be made public. If your project has an external/industrial partner please make sure that the partner is aware of your submission and has approved text included on researchfish (as appropriate).

At the end of your funding please update Researchfish with your personal email address so your research impacts and outputs can still be recorded.

For further information on MRC funding and researchfish please refer to the following website: https://mrc.ukri.org/funding/guidance-for-mrc-award-holders/researchfish/.

For frequently asked questions, please use the UKRI pdf document: https://www.ukri.org/funding/information-for-award-holders/research-outcomes/information-for-students-inc-student-supervisors/.

For technical queries please contact the researchfish support team at .

* Gateway to Research
The Research Councils will be using this to make public information of individual research projects they are funding. This will include posting your Je-S abstract. It is important that you are aware that the information put in each student abstract could be made public. Therefore any students involved in any controversial research should be word their abstracts with care.

Amendments have been made to the Je-S system help text surrounding data protection issues in the RCUK Training Grant Terms and Conditions so please read the revised Je-S help text for studentship details.

4.3 Satisfactory Academic Progress
Students in receipt of MRC LID funding should maintain satisfactory academic progress to ensure continuation of their funding.

Students must meet the upgrading times and regulations of their primary institution. The MRC LID administration team will contact you when you are approaching upgrading if we have not already received notification of your upgrade.

4.4 Changes
Any changes to personal circumstances which might result in changes to your student status should be reported to the administration team (in addition to any institution requirements) to allow for discussions of how these changes may affect your funding.

We wish to stress the importance of timeliness in submitting documentation – for example, for for IoS (Interruption of Studies) requests to your relevant institution’s administration team – and reporting early if there are problems or a likelihood of delays with your studies.

4.5 Illness
Students should make sure they follow their primary institution’s regulations regarding illness.

The DTP will follow MRC/RCUK DTP guidance found here:
https://www.mrc.ac.uk/skills-careers/studentships/studentship-guidance/
https://www.ukri.org/funding/information-for-award-holders/grant-terms-and-conditions/ (see Training Grant guidance)

4.6 Maternity, Paternity and Adoption Leave
The DTP will follow MRC/RCUK DTP guidance found here:

https://www.mrc.ac.uk/skills-careers/studentships/studentship-guidance/
https://www.ukri.org/funding/information-for-award-holders/grant-terms-and-conditions/ (see Training Grant guidance)

4.7 Interruption of Studies
Research Councils expect students to complete their training in a single continuous period and do not encourage suspension of awards. However, they are aware that suspensions may be required for personal or family reasons.

Interruptions of Studies should not exceed 12 months in total over the duration of a studentship

4.8 Other Funding
A full MRC Studentship award cannot be held concurrently with any other award which provide maintenance and fees for postgraduate training.

4.9 Publications and Acknowledgement of Support
Please see the MRC information regarding this (pages 22-23 of the RCUK T&Cs of Training Grants). The MRC LID grant reference is MR/N013638/1. (Students on NPIF Studentships shoudl contact the Admin team directly for their grant reference.)

You should acknowledge the funding body providing the funds for their research in all publications (including posters). Information on what information to include on publications can be found on the main funding bodies website. At the very minimum you should include the below text:

‘This work was supported by the Medical Research Council [grant number xxxx].’

Multiple grant numbers should be separated by comma and space. Where the research was supported by more than one agency, the different agencies should be separated by a semicolon, with “and” before the final funder.

We encourage students to engage with the media following full discussions with their supervisors, and training through the transferable skills programme.

4.10 Complaints
In the first instance, students should contact the DTP Administrative Lead to discuss complaints. These will be addressed via the relevant institution’s standard complaints procedure.

5. Student Involvement

5.1 Student Representation
Student Representatives are elected each year for Board meeting representation. The current student representatives will be in touch with the cohort periodically, to organise activities and training (and to arrange discussions and voting for their replacements once a year).

5.2 MRC Cohort
MRC LID students are expected to be active members of the student-led MRC cohort. The aim of the cohort is to provide training and workshop opportunities (and the occasional social event) to all MRC–funded students at both institutions.


6. Other Useful Information

6.1 Website
The MRC LID website has a Current Students section. This section will hold the most up-to-date Studentship Handbook and any MRC LID forms you may need to use over the duration of your studentship.

6.2 Communications
The administration team will arrange award letters, and payments for fees, stipends, and other costs. We can also provide proof of funding letters (eg for rent or mortgage purposes). Please contact us for any other general administrative support regarding your studentship.

You will receive email reminders at key stages of your studentship from and . Please support the administration team by providing them with the information they request or by following the instructions to complete necessary tasks.

6.3 Key Contacts
At London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine

ADMIN
* Lara Crawford, DTP Admin Lead (with support from the Scholarships team in Registry)
Email: or Tel.: 020 7299 4781 or 4646

ACADEMIC
* Neil Pearce, DTP Principal Investigator
Email: * Suzanne Filteau, on behalf of the Pro-Director of Teaching and Learning; DTP RDD
Email:

At St George’s, University of London
ADMIN
* Derilyn Frusher
Email: Tel.: 020 8725 0191

ACADEMIC
* Rachel Allen, Head of the Graduate School
Email:

6.4 Acronyms Used
DM = Departmental Manager (LSHTM) – administers allowances for students in ITD

DTP = Doctoral Training Partnership
EPH = Faculty of Epidemiology & Population Health at LSHTM
IoS = Interruption of Studies (LSHTM)
ITD = Faculty of Infectious & Tropical Diseases at LSHTM
LSHTM = London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine
MRC = Medical Research Council
MRC LID = MRC London Intercollegiate Doctoral Training Programme
PHP = Faculty of Public Health & Policy at LSHTM
RCUK = Research Councils UK
RDA = Research Degree Administrator (LSHTM; one per Faculty) – administers allowances for students in EPH and PHP
(F)RDD = (Faculty) Research Degree Director (LSHTM; two per Faculty)
SGUL = St George’s, University of London

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