The Africa Research Excellence Fund (AREF) works to strengthen the health research capacity of scientists in Sub-Saharan Africa who are engaged in tackling the sub-region’s significant health challenges. We recognise the need to support a diverse community of scientists across Africa, therefore, this call is specifically open for women biomedical/health researchers.

AREF is calling for applications from women who are emerging biomedical/health researchers in Sub-Saharan Africa to participate in its Essential Grant Writing Skills Workshop. To fully benefit from this workshop series, you will be at a stage in your research career where you are actively seeking independent funding but have yet to secure that big grant necessary to support your research independence. This fully on-line programme will be held over eight 3-hour sessions during the weeks of 13th September 2021 and 18th October 2021.

There will be a four-week break in between the two sessions, during which you will be expected to write a draft of a proposal. This is an intensive and interactive programme that is designed to produce tangible progress towards a grant proposal by the end of the workshop series. Your commitment to the entire series and to the additional work outside of sessions will be necessary to achieve these outcomes.

The Workshop series

Workshop aim

The Workshop aim is to enable talented women early-career health- and health-related researchers to build skills to develop their own research and fellowship proposals of the quality required to win competitive international, regional, and national funding.

What the Workshop will cover

  1. Developing and expressing your unique research niche
  2. Formulating your compelling research question
  3. Understanding funders’ requirements
  4. Writing in plain English
  5. Writing the different sections of a proposal
  6. Key parts of a typical Case for Support / Project Description
  7. Planning your proposal project plan and budget
  8. Principles of managing your collaboration and team
  9. Understanding and practicing peer review
  10. Preparing for a Fellowship interview

What the Workshop will not cover

The workshop will not cover the following: how to research ethics approval; how to complete individual funders’ application forms; the details of intellectual property management; practice in research communication.

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

Format of the Workshop series

The Workshop series will be held as:

  • Monday 13 to Friday 17 September 2021: daily 3.5-hour on-line sessions, 10:00-13:30 BST
  • Monday 18 October to Wednesday 20 October 2021: daily 3.5-hour on-line sessions, 10:00-13:30 BST

Participants will be provided with appropriate learning materials including preparatory exercises before the first session and between sessions. Each session will be delivered through Zoom or an equivalent platform. Participants will work in on-line groups and subgroups.


AREF does not provide funding for participants to access equipment or internet services with which to participate. Nor do we reimburse you or your institution for any other expenses associated with the programme or any form of per diem payment.

Our expectations of participants


You will need to:

  • commit to all online sessions for the full duration of each session. These sessions are interactive and will require your active participation.
  • commit approximately an additional hour each day to prepare for each session through reading and pre-work assignments/reflections.
  • dedicate significant time during the four-week period in between workshop sessions to write a draft of your own research proposal, which will then be utilised in the final three sessions.
  • have access to good bandwidth and a computer or laptop that is set up to use the Zoom platform (IT department may control your ability to use online platforms)
  • be able to use a smart phone simultaneously with the Zoom platform.


Through your application, you will need to demonstrate that you are highly likely to apply your learning to winning research funding and that you are at a stage of your research career where this intensive training will support your future success as a researcher.

You will also be expected to participate in AREF monitoring and evaluation surveys to track outcomes.


AREF welcomes applications for this Workshop from female researchers who are actively working on challenges to human health and are trained and experienced in one or more of the following disciplines: biomedicine; physiology and pharmacology; clinical sciences; epidemiology; mathematics and statistics; environmental health; “one health” (veterinary science); behavioural, social and economic sciences; and health policy and systems research.


To be eligible, you need to provide evidence that:

  • You are a woman and a citizen of a country in Sub-Saharan Africa.
  • EITHER you have been awarded a research doctorate (PhD/DPhil/MD) from a recognised academic institution within the previous 6 years, i.e. awarded on or after 1 January 2015); OR you have a medical/clinical qualification plus a research-relevant Master’s degree awarded within the previous 6 years.
  • AND you are currently employed in Sub-Saharan Africa by a recognised university and/or specialist research institution.
  • You have not participated already in equivalent proposal development / grant-writing training.
  • A significant part of your current employee role is to develop and conduct health research.
  • You do not already have a significant portfolio of international research grants (Combined value of $300,000 or more).

Criteria for selection

Capacity to benefit

Your application will be assessed in terms of your capacity to benefit from the training, using the following kinds of evidence:

  1. Your research experience, outputs and other achievements as an emerging researcher up to now.
  2. How you will use the training to achieve your personal vision for your development as a scientist who can address key health challenges important to Sub-Saharan Africa.
  3. How you will “cascade”, i.e. to pass on, the knowledge and skills you have gained from the workshop
  4. Practical support committed by your sponsor(s) or mentor(s).
  5. Adequate command of English.

Workshop participants will be shortlisted from the eligible applicants by the Workshop facilitators using these criteria. Only applicants who meet the capacity to benefit criteria will be on the shortlist, from which the final selection will be made.

Diversity and inclusivity

To ensure equity across research organisations, no more than two shortlisted participants will be finally selected from any one employing institution.

How to apply

To apply, please click on this link to download the Application Form. Send the Form and accompanying documents to [email protected]

Key dates

  • Deadline for your application 08 July 2021 16:00 hours BST
  • Date by which AREF informs applicants about the outcome of their application 4 August 2021


If you have any enquiries, contact AREF via [email protected]