AREF Essential Grant Writing Skills Workshop – May 2017: Open Call

December 2016

AREF Academy Workshops enhance key researcher skills


AREF is calling for researcher applications to participate in its 2nd Essential Grant Writing Skills Workshop, to be held in Dakar, Senegal, in May 2017.

The Africa Research Excellence Fund (AREF) works to strengthen health research capacity of scientists in Africa who are engaged in tackling the subregion’s significant health challenges.

Through our own work and that of the international funders with whom we work closely, we are acutely aware of the demand for equipping emerging African Health researchers with the specialised skill of writing research grants/proposals for global health research funders.  In response to that need, we held our first and highly valued Essential Grant Writing Skills workshop for 25 emerging social scientists and public health researchers in May 2016 in Dakar.

Building on that success, AREF announced a plan in September 2016 to train over 100 emerging African Health researchers from all disciplines relevant to human health in essential grant writing Skills by 2020.

AREF is therefore launching its 2nd Essential Grant Writing Skills Workshop callwe invite applications from active health- and health-related researchers to participate in the 3-day workshop, to be held in Dakar, Senegal, 22 – 24 May 2017.  The Call is now closed but we expect to run similar courses in the future.


1.  Workshop aim

The Workshop aim is to enable talented early-career health- and health-related researchers to build skills for grants/proposal/application writing and increase their competitiveness in securing international, regional and national funding.

2.  What the Workshop will cover

Drawing on the expertise of the AREF College of Experts and other internationally active researchers as facilitators, the Workshop will:

  • provide you with a comprehensive introduction to grants/proposal/application writing;
  • focus on your “case for support” parts of an application – the research; for both qualitative and quantitative approaches;
  • explore how to write a compelling research question, a robust design, and a persuasive plan for delivering a project;
  • tackle issues that give even seasoned proposal writers the most difficulty, such as how to present sample size calculations and analysis plans, or make the case for qualitative and quantitative research;
  • demonstrate how peer review works (how funders assess proposals), identifying what helps reviewers, what doesn’t and why;
  • guide you on how you can identify funders that are most likely to support your research
  • and on how you can create and sustain collaborations that lead to successful applications and research projects.

The generic skills learnt in this workshop will be utilisable for any funder.

3.  What the Workshop will not cover

The workshop will not cover the following in detail: research ethics, completing individual funders’ application forms, the details of costing a proposal or intellectual property management.

The facilitators will use examples of real funding applications.  However, they will not be assisting participants directly with the participants’ own specific proposals.

4.  Our expectations of participants

AREF expects Workshop participants to go on and apply for competitive research grant or fellowship funding from insitutional, national or international sources.

For instance, Workshop participants may go on to apply for AREF’s 3rd round of Research Development Fellowships, to be announced early in January 2017, with a deadline for receipt of applications of 28 June 2017. But be well aware that this Workshop and the Fellowships  are not linked: this means that Fellowship applicants will not need to have participated in the Workshop; and Workshop participants will compete on an equal footing with other applicants to win a Fellowship. The 3rd round of AREF Fellowships will be awarded in November 2017, to commence from January 2018.

5.  Other AREF Workshops

Before applying for the May 2017 Essential Grant Writing Skills Workshop, you are strongly advised to consider other, similar AREF opportunities.

Firstly, we anticipate running similar workshops in 2018 and 2019.

Secondly, AREF with another funder is likely to announce in July 2017 a joint programme of Preparatory Fellowships to be awarded in August 2018 and taken up at the end of 2018.  They will be modelled on AREF’s current Research Development Fellowships.  The joint programme will include  a grant writing workshop at the end of 2017 specific to that programme. Applicants will first compete in an open call for workshop places; the participants will then compete again in a closed competition for the Preparatory Fellowships.

Eligibility for AREF’s May 2017 workshop is broader than that for the joint programme (see 6, below) at the end of 2017, as the anticipated joint programme will focus more narrowly on clinical research, clinical trials and related activities in poverty-related and neglected infectious diseases.

You should take account of the joint programme in deciding whether to apply for the May 2017 AREF Workshop, announced now, or to wait for the joint programme to be announced in July 2017. Participation in both the workshops will not be possible.  

6. We seek applications now to participate in the AREF Workshop in May 2017

We seek applications from:

  • Post-doctoral scientist from all health-related disciplines (PhD awarded within 4 years by 1 July 2017) actively engaged in any field of health research;
  • Medical doctors with a relevant Master’s degree and at least 3-years and not more than 6-years of active research experience in clinical or other relevant fields;
  • Researchers who fall in the above categories and are not planning to compete in the AREF opportunity referred to in Section 3 above.

Applicants must be able to demonstrate that they are active researchers with a current employment contract with a university or research institution in a African country including, for the first time, South Africa.

Applicants must have authored or co-authored at least three publications in international, peer-reviewed journals in the past five years.

7.  Criteria for selection

Applicants must be able persuasively in 750 words only to:

  • articulate and justify a research project, specifically a challenging research question and outline a suitable research design for a project they would like to do in the future (after the Workshop). It must not be a current project on which they are working or which has already been approved by a funder;
  • demonstrate they have the research capability to undertake the research project, while identifying specific plans to address any training needs;
  • demonstrate a need to acquire, refresh or update their skills in grant writing, i.e. they have (i) a specific funding competition in mind; and (ii) have previously applied alone or with collaborators, even if unsuccessfully for a grant or fellowship from a funder that deploys high standards of peer review, and (iii) their employing university or research institution cannot provide the mentoring and support necessary to acquire grant writing skills in-house.
  • Applicants will need to declare that they have not participated in an equivalent workshop in the past 5-years.

The AREF workshop will have 30 places. 22 participants will be selected in relation only to the above three criteria. To enhance equity of access to the workshop (as well as quality), no more than two participants from the same university or research institution will be offered places, and priority for 8 places will be given to candidates who additionally fulfil one or more of the following criteria:

  • women applicants
  • applicants from Francophone and Lusophone countries

8.  Closing Date – 08 February 2017

The deadline for application to participate in the workshop is 16.00 hours GMT on 08 February 2017.

Please note that late submissions will not be considered.

9.  How to make an application

The Call is closed.

10.  Contact

If you need further advice, please email Dr Jane Kengeya-Kayondo via