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NIHR SPHR pre-doctoral Fellowships in Public Health Research 2019

Public health research is entering a phase of transformation following the publication of the Academy of Medical Sciences report ‘Health of the Public 2040’. There is a drive to build on existing strengths to make the UK the world leader in public health prevention research, and to meet the substantial public health challenges we face. We want to see more research that is useful, timely and accessible to those responsible for delivering policies and services that ultimately protect and improve the health of the population. We need research that helps answer the most important questions facing policy makers, Local Authorities and service providers. To do this we need to inspire the next generation of academics into public health research with the option to combine academic research with practice as a career pathway.

Applications are invited from individuals with a Master’s degree and with a strong academic record who wish to develop a career in public health research that is closely connected with public health practice. The ‘NIHR School for Public Health Research (SPHR) pre-doctoral Fellowships in Public Health Research’ will be available for up to 24 months offering those appointed the opportunity to consolidate and build their CV and to prepare an application to undertake a PhD in public health. We are also keen to encourage applicants who may also have worked or be working within public health practice but wish to pursue an academic or practice academic career. Potential applicants are encouraged to get in touch to discuss eligibility.

The NIHR SPHR is a partnership between the Universities of Sheffield, Bristol, Cambridge, Imperial and University College London; The London School for Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM); the LiLaC collaboration between the Universities of Liverpool and Lancaster and Fuse; The Centre for Translational Research in Public Health, a collaboration between Newcastle, Durham, Northumbria, Sunderland and Teesside Universities.

The fellowships may be based at any of the member institutions and will normally be taken up between January and March 2020.

Research in the NIHR School for Public Health is focussed on three research programmes alongside three cross-cutting themes.

Research programmes;
Children, young people & families
Public mental health
Places & communities
Cross-cutting themes;
Health inequalities
Changing behaviour at population level
Equitable and efficient public health systems

Details of the specific research training opportunities available at each member are described below.

Applicants must have a Master’s degree in public health or a related field. Individuals who expect to be awarded a Master’s degree before November 2019 are also eligible to apply. We are also keen to encourage applicants with a Master’s degree who may have worked or be working within public health practice but wish to pursue an academic or practice academic career. Potential applicants are encouraged to get in touch to discuss eligibility.

All applicants must ensure that their proposed research project is compatible with the NIHR remit.

The fellowship award will not usually be based around a specified single project but will involve attachment to a research group involved in a programme of research. The awards are open to all disciplines relevant to public health research.

Remuneration for fellowships will depend on previous experience but most appointees will receive a salary of £25,000 – £35,000 per annum. The fellowship covers salary and some research and training costs. The host university is awarded a fixed sum for the fellowship.

Fellowships are available on a part-time basis (minimum 0.6fte) but must end by 31st March 2022.

Application information and details of the projects on offer at member institutions follow in this document.

Applications must be received by 4pm on Friday 20th September 2019.

The NIHR School for Public Health Research brings together academics from eight leading academic centres with excellence in applied public health research in England. Applicants are encouraged to contact potential advisors for more information on specific topics of interest.

Development and support opportunities
In addition to activities and training opportunities within NIHR SPHR and the host institution, fellows will also have access to development and support opportunities provided by the NIHR Academy.

Publication & wider dissemination
It is expected that fellows will publish research in quality, peer-reviewed academic journals and communicate findings at conferences. In addition, we expect the research to generate outputs that are tailored to applied health research, public health practitioner, and policy making audiences.

Eligibility criteria
• UK/EU citizen or confirmed right to work in UK
• You must have a Master’s degree in public health or a related subject or expect to be awarded a Master’s degree before November 2019

Application shortlisting criteria
Your application will be assessed using the following criteria as part of the shortlisting process:• A first or upper second class UK honours degree, or the equivalent qualifications gained outside the UK, in an appropriate subject
• A Master’s degree in an appropriate subject
• Demonstrable academic excellence (e.g. academic prizes or commendations, first class honours degree, excellent module or dissertation marks or grades)
• Knowledge of public health priorities in the UK
• Evidence of commitment to a research career in public health
• Commitment to a research career in academia or in combination with practice role.
• Excellent written and verbal communication skills
• Able to plan and manage own work
• Able to work both independently and as part as part of a team
• Excellent organisational skills and attention to detail
• Good time management skills and ability to work to deadlines
• Some previous research experience or formal training is essential
• Experience of literature review methodology
• Some knowledge of basic qualitative and quantitative research methods, basic epidemiology and statistics is essential
• Experience of presenting at seminars, workshops, conferences or other similar forums
• Competence with MS Office and using the internet for research purposes

Please note: NIHR SPHR brings together multidisciplinary teams to conduct high quality research to increase the evidence base for public health practice. This requires a wide range of knowledge and skills. Applicants are not expected to meet all of the criteria outlined above but should demonstrate an excellent academic trajectory and a commitment to a career in academic public health.

How to make an application
Potential applicants are strongly encouraged to contact the SPHR member they would like to host the award to discuss their application. Contact details for each member are given below.

The application process consists of three stages.

Stage 1
Please complete and submit an application form, you can find this here.

You are asked to complete a number of application questions and then upload a covering letter (maximum 1 page) and a CV (maximum 2 pages). You should ensure your CV includes detail of your career history (current/most recent post first, including start and end dates, your position and the name of the organisation); and details of your education and training to date (relevant professional qualifications, degrees, diplomas, including dates, qualification, subject and name of the awarding organisation).

Please name your CV and covering letter using the following naming convention:


We also ask that you identify two academic referees or other suitable referees.

Applications must be received by 4pm on Friday 20th September 2019.

Equal Opportunities and Diversity
NIHR and DHSC have a duty as a public body to promote equality of opportunity. All applicants will be contacted shortly after the closure date by NIHR Equality Monitoring.
Monitoring ensures that all applications to NIHR Programmes are treated equally in terms of gender, ethnicity and/or disability.
The information you share with the monitoring system:
• will be stored separately from your application
• only be used for the purpose of monitoring equal opportunities
• be kept securely and in confidence

Stage 2
Applications will be shortlisted and candidates selected for interview will be contacted and invited to attend an interview in November 2019. Candidates may also be invited to attend a pre-interview assessment prior to interview. At least one of the referees identified by shortlisted candidates will be contacted ahead of interview and asked to provide a statement of support. You should make your referees aware of this in advance.

Unsuccessful applicants will be informed.

Stage 3
Successful candidates may need to meet additional requirements depending on the requirements of the host institution. Detailed guidance will be provided to successful candidates.

Please direct questions to Dr Susan Bowett, School Manager,


  • Competition launch: 29th July 2019
  • Applicants to submit application form: 4pm Friday 20th September 2019
  • Shortlisted candidates invited to interview: Monday 14th October 2019
  • Interviews: 6-8th November 2019
  • Announcement of Awards: By the end of November 2019
  • Start of fellowships: From January 2020 (no later than 1st April 2020 for 24 month fellowship)

University of Bristol

Bristol has an international reputation for research excellence in applied Public Health Research through its Centre for Public Health Research in Bristol Medical School: Population Health Sciences. There are strong collaborations with the Centre for Exercise, Nutrition and Health Sciences in the School for Policy Studies, as well as relationships with Experimental Psychology and Social Work and Care. The University is, uniquely, a member of all three NIHR Research Schools – Public Health, Primary Care and Social Care Research – providing excellent opportunities for cross-NIHR school collaboration.

Our applied Public Health research programme is also supported by DECIPHer – a UKCRC Public Health Research Centre of Excellence for the Development and Evaluation of Complex Interventions for Public Health Improvement. This strategic collaboration between Bristol, Cardiff and Swansea Universities was established in 2009. The Centre for Public Health also includes the NIHR Health Protection Research Unit in Evaluation of Interventions and will include the new NIHR Applied Research Collaboration West.

A multidisciplinary team of researchers, five of whom are NIHR Senior Investigators, lead our public health research. We have major strengths in conducting school-based RCTs of public health interventions, evaluating natural experiments to strengthen the evidence base for public health policy, evidence synthesis and applied public health studies including research on obesity, physical activity, nutrition, smoking, alcohol and other drug misuse, sexual health, infectious diseases and mental health.

The 2014 Research Excellence Framework rated 86% of Bristol’s research within the unit of assessment including Public Health as world leading or internationally excellent (4* or 3*) and in the latest Shanghai Rankings of academic subjects public health in Bristol is  ranked 2nd in the UK, 3rd in Europe and 8th globally.  Our research is highly inter-disciplinary and collaborative, involving public health specialists, social scientists, economists, psychologists, statisticians, modellers, epidemiologists, geographers and clinicians.

We initiated and have hosted six such pre-doctoral fellowships in the Centre for Public Health (CPH) in Bristol over the last five years, so we have substantial experience of supporting those with a Master’s degree who want to gain varied public health research experience before committing to a doctorate. If appointed, you will join a thriving community of multi-disciplinary public health fellows and researchers. You will work with public health academics on a variety of research projects enabling you to develop multi method research skills and knowledge, to have authorship of papers and to be supported to apply for a doctoral studentship or fellowship. You will have a named member of staff responsible for assisting your development and access to a mentor.

All of our fellows benefit from the first-class facilities available including free access to PHS’s internationally renowned programme of 35 short courses on all aspects of population health science methodology. PHS has a weekly seminar programme in which national and international researcher leaders present on a range of Public Health topics as well as a series of more specialist seminars and special interest group meetings (e.g. evidence synthesis, mental health, addiction, health economics, medical anthropology). PHS/EHNS training opportunities are complemented by the University of Bristol’s rich range of staff development courses including courses targeted specifically at early career researchers and has a large Doctoral College offering many postgraduate training opportunities.

The Centre for Public Health (CPH) has a strongly collaborative and multi-disciplinary ethos encouraging the participation of all. CPH holds regular meetings for all research staff, fellows and doctoral students, including a monthly public health reading group, to provide opportunities to share knowledge and experience, discuss issues in public health research and policy and hone research ideas. In CPS we have excellent links with local public health policy and practice including public health staff who are co-located in PHS and local authorities. We also provide academic support to those undertaking specialist training in public health who are local authority based. We are therefore well positioned to ensure that you have the opportunity for an inspiring practice placement and to attend and present your research at local conferences and meetings.

SPHR research areas:

Bristol is engaged across all SPHR research programmes and themes. Examples of the SPHR research projects we are leading or contributing to include:

Children, young people & families programme:

  • Mapping the child health system at a local level to reduce health inequalities. Dr Ruth Kipping, Dr Jo Williams and Tricia Jessiman
  • Generation of a novel school-based digital intervention to prevent harmful alcohol use among young people 14-15 years. Prof Rona Campbell, Dr Georgie MacArthur and Prof Matt Hickman
  • Implementing evidence-based best practice criteria in Sex and Relationships Education. Prof Rona Campbell and Dr Gemma Morgan.
  • Engaging with school academies to enable evidenced-based health promotion in schools. Prof Rona Campbell and Prof Russ Jago.

Places & communities:

  • Methodological research to improve the analysis of natural experiments in public health. Dr Frank De Vocht and Prof Russ Jago.
  • Collaboration with other programmes to analyse natural experiments. Dr Frank De Vocht.
  • Individual and environmental approaches to promote alternatives to the car. Prof Russ Jago

Public mental health: 

  • Development of a public mental health conceptual framework. Dr Judi Kidger.
  • Identifying and validating a core public mental health outcome set. Dr Judi Kidger.
  • Improving the mental health of children and young people in educational settings. Dr Judi Kidger.

We also contribute to work in cross-cutting research themes:

  • Changing behaviour at population level. Dr Gemma Morgan and Prof Russ Jago.
  • Equitable and efficient public health systems. Prof Joanna Coast.
  • Health inequalities: Inequitable access to preventive and therapeutic health interventions for older people and consequences of Intervention-Generated Inequalities Prof Yoav Ben-Shlomo.

Potential SPHR research advisors:

Professor Russ Jago                    Professor Rona Campbell              Professor Matt Hickman

Professor Yoav Ben-Shlomo        Professor Jo Coast                         Dr Frank de Vocht

Dr Ruth Kipping                            Dr Judi Kidger                                Dr Laura Johnson

Dr Gemma Morgan                      Dr Georgie MacArthur                    Dr Jo Williams

Contact details:


University of Cambridge

The Cambridge Institute of Public Health (CIPH, Director: Professor Carol Brayne) was established in the School of Clinical Medicine at the University of Cambridge in 1992. CIPH’s goals for public health research are to create a scientifically excellent evidence base that can support the prevention of premature death and disability, promote health and well-being, reduce health inequalities, and inform evidence-based health and healthcare policy.

CIPH members include the Department of Public Health and Primary Care, MRC Epidemiology Unit, MRC Biostatistics Unit, Public Health of Ageing Research Unit, Public Health England, and the PHG Foundation. They are brought together by PublicHealth@Cambridge, a formally co-ordinated University-wide Strategic Research Network.

Our distinctive approach is the deep integration of quantitative, clinical, social, and life sciences to address important public health problems and ensure timely input into practice and policy. We focus on the study of common chronic conditions, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer and obesity; the ageing process and dementia; and the interrelationships between their major modifiable determinants (i.e. smoking, alcohol, diet, physical activity), and wider determinants of health inequalities. Our research activities range from social, behavioural and disease epidemiology; methodological developments in statistics and evaluation design; the use of technologies to influence and measure health behaviours; and evidence reviews; to the development and evaluation of individual and population-level interventions.

We are committed to co-producing studies with patients and the public, which we embrace as essential to good research governance. We use multiple techniques to ensure that patients, carers and the public can contribute to all stages of the research process, from prioritising and optimising research questions through to communicating findings and ensuring impact. Our research groups continue to generate impact on public health policy and practice across many fields, leveraging our deep connections with local, regional and national public health, clinical, policy and political networks.

The successful fellow will be embedded in a richly stimulating and mentored environment which integrates training with high-quality research. Depending on the research project and personal training needs, he/she will have the opportunity to gain practical skills in a range of research methods and approaches, including systematic reviewing; mixed methods and specific qualitative and quantitative data collection and analytical tools; engagement with external stakeholders; patient and public involvement; dissemination and media engagement.

We promote a culture of research by holding seminar series that cut across disciplines, and which students and fellows are strongly encouraged to attend. They include the flagship Bradford Hill lecture series, and regular masterclass series, complemented by thematic seminar series within individual research groups plus associated journal club meetings within each centre and/or unit.

We develop early career academics through fellowships by providing access to scientific resources and mentorship and transferable skills training, and by promoting career opportunities awareness. The University Graduate School of Life Sciences provides support and oversight for training graduate students, ensuring induction, pastoral care, regular supervision, transferable skills training, and career development. At a broader level, the University actively supports broad skills training and good research practice through its Researcher Development Programme, Guidelines on Good Research Practice, and the Good Research Practice Checklist available to students and their supervisors.

SPHR research areas:

At Cambridge, the SPHR fellowship offers the opportunity for students to explore and develop their own research training programme, within the context of the research strategies of SPHR and local CIPH research programmes. These include:

Places & communities:

  • Stakeholder perspectives on place-centred approaches to improving population health in resource-constrained circumstances. Dr Stefanie Buckner
  • Asset-Based Community Development as a place-centred approach to improving population health in resource-constrained circumstances. Dr Caroline Lee & Dr Stefanie Buckner
  • Evaluation of the removal of HFSS ‘junk-food’ advertising in public transport networks on junk-food awareness and purchasing in London: natural experiment study. Prof Martin White, Dr Jean Adams & Dr Tom Burgoine
  • Local government interactions with harmful commodity industries: an assessment of the nature, extent and need for guidance. Prof Martin White
  • Improved use of routine data to assess and evaluate food environments. Dr Tom Burgoine
  • Individual and environmental approaches to promote alternatives to the car. Dr Jenna Panter

Children, young people & families programme:

  • Mapping the child health system at a local level to reduce health inequalities. Dr Esther van Sluijs

Public mental health: 

  • Development of a public mental health conceptual framework. Prof Carol Brayne
  • Improving the mental health of children and young people in educational settings. Dr Emma Howarth
  • Improving public mental health in adults experiencing key psychosocial stresses and life transitions. Evidence synthesis and mapping of promising interventions. Dr Caroline Lee

We also contribute to work in cross-cutting research themes:

  • Changing behaviour at population level. Prof Martin White
  • Equitable and efficient public health systems. Dr Louise Lafortune
  • Health inequalities. Dr Louise Lafortune & Dr Stefanie Buckner

Potential SPHR research advisors:

Dr Jean Adams                                Dr Stefanie Buckner                     Dr Tom Burgoine

Dr Emma Howarth                           Professor Peter Jones                  Dr Louise Lafortune

Dr Caroline Lee                               Dr Jenna Panter                            Dr Esther van Sluijs

Professor Martin White

Contact details:

Candidates should contact one or more potential supervisors before completing their application to discuss their research ideas and ensure that they fit within both SPHR and CIPH research strategies.

For any other research related inquiries, please contact:

Dr Louise Lafortune:

Dr Stefanie Buckner:

For further information, please visit the CIPH website:


Fuse – The Centre for Translational Research in Public Health

Fuse is a Centre of Excellence for Translational Research in Public Health which offers SPHR a portfolio of high-quality applied public health research spanning the five North East universities (Durham, Newcastle, Northumbria, Sunderland and Teesside). Fuse was funded between 2008-2018 by UKCRC to build capacity in applied public health research with the particular remit of translating research evidence into policy and practice. Fuse brings together a unique partnership of public health researchers and practice and policy makers from across the North East to co-create evidence that is relevant, useful and timely for local and national needs. Now in the 11th year of our collaboration we are supported by each of the five member universities; we have been a member of the NIHR SPHR since 2012. We work in an area of the country with historically high levels of deprivation, social inequality and concomitantly poor health outcomes. Thus, Fuse’s mission is to transform health and wellbeing and reduce health inequalities through the conduct of world-class public health research and its translation into policy and practice. Fuse hosts the Equal North Network, a community of academics, researchers and practitioners across the north of England who share a common interest in addressing health and social inequalities and AskFuse, an innovative responsive research and evaluation service, which develops collaborative research projects with our policy and practice partners in the region.

Pre-doctoral fellows in Fuse will contribute to one of our primary goals of capacity building, as well as helping to promote research excellence by through the generation and translation of public health research.

Our well-established networks with public practice and policy across the north-east will ensure we can offer a wide range of opportunities for engagement with practice including practice placements. While being based at one of the Fuse Universities, fellows will have opportunity to be part of SPHR research across all Fuse members according to their own research interests and to work with senior researchers including those working as embedded researchers across our region.

Fuse offers a critical mass of researchers with the ability to support, mentor and train fellows. All of the Fuse partner universities offer training courses which will be open to pre-doctoral fellows. Fuse Quarterly Research Meetings and other events bring all levels of Fuse together to enhance learning and build meaningful collaborations. Fellows will also gain transferable skills including learning from the process of application writing, planning, managing to time and budget management and working as part of multi-disciplinary teams in collaboration with practice and policy partners.

SPHR research areas:

Fuse is engaged across all SPHR research programmes and themes. Examples of the SPHR research programme projects we are leading or contributing to include:

Children, young people & families programme:

  • Examining the policy context for Children and Young People.  Prof Carolyn Summerbell and Dr Jonathan Wistow (Durham)

Places & communities

  • What is known? Expert views and research synthesis.  Professor Clare Bambra (Newcastle)
  • Quantifying and evaluating the impact of contrasting investment strategies at the local level.  Professor Clare Bambra and Dr Heather Brown (Newcastle)
  • A comparative case study of place-centred strategies to counter health inequalities in times of austerity.  Dr Monique Lhussier (Northumbria)
  • Places & communities Knowledge Translation: Translating learning points into action and impact with stakeholders.  Dr Monique Lhussier, Professor Susan Carr (Northumbria) and Professor Clare Bambra (Newcastle)
  • Improved use of routine data to assess and evaluate food environments.  Dr Heather Brown (Newcastle)
  • Understanding barriers to implementing existing regulatory mechanisms to restrict fast-food takeaway outlets.  Dr Amelia Lake (Teesside)
  • Individual and environmental approaches to promote alternatives to the car: feasibility, pilot and process evaluation studies in the North-East and the East of England.  Professor Carolyn Summerbell and Dr Tessa Pollard (Durham)

 Public mental health 

  • Development of a public mental health conceptual framework.  Professor Eileen Kaner (Newcastle) and Dr Emily Oliver (Durham)
  • Identifying and Validating a Core Public Mental Health Outcome Set.  Professor Eileen Kaner and Dr Sheena Ramsay (Newcastle)
  • Improving the mental health of children and young people in educational settings.  Professor Eileen Kaner (Newcastle)
  • Identifying the best-evidence regarding PMH interventions for adults and mapping preventative PMH interventions in key SPHR localities.  Dr Emily Oliver (Durham) and Professor Eileen Kaner (Newcastle)

 Cross-cutting research themes led by Fuse include:

  • Behaviour change at population level: Professor Falko Sniehotta (Newcastle) and Dr Milica Vasiljevic (Durham)
  • Health inequalities: Professor Clare Bambra (Newcastle)

We also contribute to work in Equitable and efficient public health systems through Professor Luke Vale and others (Newcastle and Northumbria).

Potential SPHR research advisors:

We would be pleased to consider applicants with genuine interest and future career aspirations aligned broadly with any of our SPHR research as outlined above.

 Contact details:

Laura Fenwick:


Imperial College London

Consistently rated amongst the world’s best universities, Imperial College London is a science-based institution with a reputation for excellence in public health teaching and research. The Imperial College School of Public Health (IC SPH) mission is to achieve better health in the population through strengthening the public health science base, training the next generation of public health leaders and influencing  health  policies  and  programmes  in  England  and  around  the  world. It combines world-class research at the local, national and international level, translating evidence into health policy, health education and primary care. Together with its research, teaching and evidence-led policy work, the School of Public Health aims to address the major public health challenges of the 21st century. The School was rated joint top nationally in the 2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF), in the “Public Health, Health Services & Primary Care” Unit of Assessment, with 57% of public health research activity being rated as world-leading and internationally excellent.

Further information is available at

Imperial College London offers training that will be tailored to the specific training needs of the Fellow. ICL offers short courses in a range of areas including statistics, epidemiology, meta-research, qualitative research, GIS for Public Health and specialist short courses for public health and medical professionals, and amongst others. Training is also available for the Fellow through the Postdoc and Fellows Development Centre (PFDC) with a focus on academic skills development including applications and interviews, curriculum vitae, enterprise and entrepreneurship, influence and impact, teaching and supervision, professional development, personal development and wellbeing, and writing for publication and grant applications. Besides the ICL courses, there are regular seminars, lectures, group meetings, and other educational opportunities within the College, ICL School of Public Health, the Department that the Fellow will be able to attend. There will be an emphasis on improving the Fellow’s skills to successfully apply for a fellowship or grant. The ICL School of Public Health has close links with Westminster City Council and the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea with members of ICL SPH working across local authority and academia. The Fellow will have the opportunity for a public health placement in Westminster and Kensington & Chelsea and contribute to ongoing joint working in the area of obesity prevention, and improvements in local transport and food systems.

SPHR research areas:

The fellowship at Imperial will align closely with both the Children, young people & families (CYP&F) as well as the Places & communities Programmes (P&C).  The Fellow will have the opportunity to work on a range of potential projects in various research areas.

These areas of research include but are not limited to:

  • Transport systems
  • Food systems and nutritional epidemiology
  • Child health
  • Prevention of childhood obesity

The research undertaken by the Fellow will link with ongoing SPHR research at ICL. Research within the CYP&F programme led at Imperial by Professor Sonia Saxena, will focus on harnessing data to evaluate systems-based approaches for improving health outcomes and better understand and reduce inequalities in children and young people. The focus of this proposed programme is on developing a data platform, methods and hard outcome measures to evaluate the effectiveness and equity of local public health systems for CYP&F.

Within the P&C programme led at Imperial by Professor Christopher Millett, Dr Eszter Vamos, and Dr Anthony Laverty, research focuses on identifying effective interventions to improve health and reduce inequalities by making changes to our transport and food systems. Local authorities operate under increasing financial constraints and the future is likely to bring further financial uncertainty, and there is a specific focus on interventions that can be delivered in the context of scarce and changing local resources. Specifically, the P&C programme at Imperial is looking at road user charging (RUC) and its impacts on travel behaviours, health outcomes and health inequalities in local areas.  Industries that produce harmful commodities such as high fat, salt or sugar foods and beverages, tobacco and alcohol have been identified as major vectors of behavioural risk factors for non-communicable diseases. Such corporations regularly engage in public discourse through lobbying, marketing, social responsibility strategies and other activities. In research under the Food Sub-programme, we will assess the nature and extent of such interactions in local government, explore stakeholder views on this issue and the need for guidance, and if justified, develop a set of principles to guide local commercial strategies.

All research programmes at Imperial also align with, and were developed with a key focus on, the SPHR identified themes of Health inequalities, Changing behaviour at a population level and Efficient & equitable public health systems.

Potential SPHR research advisors:

Professor Christopher Millett

Professor Sonia Saxena

Professor Azeem Majeed

Dr Eszter Vamos

Dr Anthony Laverty

Dr Felix Greaves

Contact details:

For general queries, please contact Jennifer Landmann (


Liverpool and Lancaster Universities Collaboration for Public Health LiLaC

LiLaC – The Liverpool and Lancaster Universities Collaboration for Public Health Research – combines the complementary strengths of these two Universities, creating the critical mass of internationally recognised researchers needed to deliver the SPHR’s objectives. Established in 2011 when it became a member of SPHR, LiLaC consolidated a decade of cooperation directed at building public health research infrastructure in the North West (NW) region. We now constitute the largest group in the region providing high quality research evidence aimed at improving the social determinants of population health and reducing health inequalities. Our inter-disciplinary expertise spans public/community involvement, public health economics, modelling and statistics, social and clinical epidemiology, anthropology, sociology, social marketing, policy analysis, health protection and health promotion, primary care and the history of health and social policy.

The two universities have world-leading reputations for policy-relevant health inequalities research. We link into policy and practice locally and regionally through civic engagement and NIHR initiatives such as the North West Coast Applied Research Collaboration; nationally through Public Health England and the DHSC’s Policy Research Units, and globally through our WHO Collaborating Centre for Policy Research on the Determinants of Health Equity.  We support a novel network of residents of neighbourhoods bearing the brunt of social inequalities, whose involvement brings invaluable practical wisdom and lived experience to our research.

LiLaC’s methodological strategy is to combine qualitative with quantitative approaches creatively and to exploit the potential of evidence-synthesis and comparative analysis across countries, regions and neighbourhoods to address major policy-relevant research questions. Members of LiLaC have particular methodological strengths in: mixed-method intervention research and evaluation of the equity impact of natural policy experiments; engagement with policy and practice to ensure policy-relevance; and active involvement of the public.

The SPHR pre-doctoral fellow will be hosted by either Lancaster or Liverpool University, depending on the research area and their interests. There will be opportunities to collaborate across the two universities and with the other SPHR members.  They will join a community of public health researchers working on SPHR programmes, of which the following are examples:

  • Evaluating community empowerment approaches and place-based interventions to tackle socio-economic inequalities in health;
  • Evaluating the equity impact of natural policy experiments at local authority level (e.g. comparing different LA investment strategies) and national policies implemented locally (e.g. welfare reforms, income and employment);
  • Designing better systems to improve child health and reduce inequalities at a local level;
  • Examining the drivers of inequalities in mental health and life experiences for young people and exploring the implications for preventive interventions to improve their life chances;
  • Economic and epidemiological modelling of the effects of structural policies, such as food taxes and regulations, on the behaviour of the food industry and the public;
  • Co-production with residents of disadvantaged areas of the evidence/learning generated in LiLaC’s research to support policy and practice approaches aiming to increase the control that communities have over decisions that affect them.

While attached to one or more SPHR projects led by LiLaC, the pre-doctoral fellow will be given the opportunity to learn new research methods and co-production of research with the public, policy-makers and practitioners.  This could involve shadowing and working with those in public health practice.  The fellow will be supported to prepare an application for competitive national fellowships to undertake a PhD in applied public health research.

SPHR research areas:

All three SPHR programmes: Children, young people & families; Places & communities; Public mental health, as well as three cross-cutting themes: Health inequalities, Equitable and efficient public health systems; and Behaviour change at population level.

Potential SPHR research advisors:

Examples of advisors include,

In Lancaster:

Professor Bruce Hollingsworth (health economics)

Professor Chris Hatton & Dr Siobhan Reilly (place-based interventions)

Dr Mark Limmer & Dr Liz McDermott (young People)

Dr Paula Holland (employment)

In Liverpool:

Dr Ciara Kierans (ethnography place-based interventions)

Dr Chris Kypridemos (modelling)

Professor Sarah Rodgers & Dr Ben Barr (natural policy experiments)

Dr Kate Fleming & Dr Sophie Wickham (child health inequalities)

Contact details:

For Lancaster: Professor Jennie Popay on

For Liverpool: Professor Margaret Whitehead on


London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM)

LSHTM is renowned for its research, postgraduate studies and continuing education in public and global health. We have an annual research income of more than £124 million. The School performs well in various UK and global university league tables. In the US News Best Global Universities Ranking 2018, we are ranked sixth in the world in the fields of social sciences and public health. The School is ranked 25th for medicine in the 2017 QS World University Rankings. The inaugural Center for World University Rankings by Subject in 2017 placed the School first in the world for tropical medicine research, second for parasitology and seventh for infectious diseases, public, environment and occupational health, and social sciences and biomedical. The School was named University of the Year 2016 by Times Higher Education and awarded a Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education in 2017 in recognition of our response to the Ebola epidemic. The School for Public Health Research at LSHTM includes an exciting and supportive team of widely recognised senior researchers and early-mid career researchers (; as well as access to a much wider network of research leaders and practitioners within and beyond LSHTM. Candidates appointed to LSHTM through this scheme would sit within LSHTM’s Faculty of Public Health and Policy. We are looking for excellent candidates with knowledge of, and interest in, applied public health research.

Successful pre-doctoral fellows would become part of our friendly and supportive SPHR team that includes world leading public health researchers. Fellows are invited to develop a research plan that fits their interest, in collaboration with supervisors as well as our public and practice partners. The plan should link into the research areas listed below and could build on existing work being conducted at LSHTM as part of SPHR. Much of our work is conducted as part of the SPHR Places & communities Programme and the Health inequalities Theme. Fellows will be encouraged to widen their skill base through access to training provided by LSHTM, SPHR and other sources. Fellows will also be supported to develop a PhD proposal to form the basis of future funding applications.

SPHR research areas:

We focus on local-level public health (outside the health sector) affecting social determinants of population health and health inequalities. We work with practitioners and public to generate evidence to inform local and national level decision-making. Specific research areas we would consider include food, alcohol, transport, housing, commercial determinants of health, and local strategies to reduce health inequalities. Methodological areas of interests include incorporating systems thinking and complexity science into public health evaluation. We would be interested in applicants with either (or both) qualitative or quantitative skills. We would consider applicants from non-public health disciplines, or people working in practice, or people already working or studying within a public health research field.

Potential SPHR research advisors:

Professor Mark Petticrew                    Professor Steven Cummins

Professor Karen Lock                          Dr Laura Cornelsen

Dr Matt Egan

Contact details:

Mirela Andreeva –


University of Sheffield

The University of Sheffield was established with the aim of improving the wellbeing of our local population. Our School of Health and Related Research (ScHARR) – a vibrant, multidisciplinary department of over 300 staff and over 100 postgraduate research students – leads the University’s applied public health portfolio, working closely with colleagues across numerous departments, particularly Sociological Studies, Psychology and Urban Studies.

We work collaboratively to conduct world-class research, training and knowledge translation across a range of public health and related issues. Our core mission is to work with policy-makers and practitioners to deliver research which improves the health of the population and tackles inequality. ScHARR is renowned for its wealth of methodological and topic expertise, with a track record of major research programmes in health inequalities, evidence synthesis and knowledge mobilisation, economic modelling and evaluation, alcohol, diet and physical activity, and mental health.

We bring a unique perspective from working in a city with diverse communities and stark health inequalities. Regionally, our work extends across both the Yorkshire and Humber and the East Midlands, covering a wide spectrum of urban and rural populations, from the affluent to the very deprived. As a diverse and friendly department, we also offer an excellent training environment, with access to a wide range of both generic and individualised research skills training and career development opportunities, depending on the needs and career aspirations of our staff.

Much of our research is undertaken in collaboration with practitioner and community partners. We have well established collaborations with public health practice colleagues across local government, the NHS, third sector and Public Health England. Professor Liddy Goyder is both the Sheffield lead for SPHR and academic lead for the Yorkshire & Humber Practice & Research Collaborative (PaRC) which supports collaborative research programmes and knowledge mobilisation across the region.

These fellowships offer a unique opportunity for a pre-doctoral researcher to develop their own proposal for a doctoral fellowship award, whilst undertaking a range of training and research that can be tailored to their individual training needs and interests. Training and support will be available from SPHR partners and the NIHR Academy, as well as through access to the training and support provided for Early Career Researchers at the University of Sheffield.

Fellows will be supported to undertake the preparatory and pilot work needed for a doctoral fellowship application, including access to support and training specifically for public involvement and knowledge mobilisation and advice from the NIHR Research Design Service (RDS). In particular, they will also be encouraged to apply for RDS support to undertake relevant public involvement in the development of their fellowship proposal

Fellows will have access to a wide range of Masters level modules and other relevant courses:

Training and experience also will be provided in coproduction of research with practitioners and communities. Fellows will be able to shadow colleagues in relevant settings to support their doctoral fellowship plans and career development more generally. We have experience from a wide range of successful and productive placements in diverse settings which could range from local authorities and community organisations to other organisations with a public health role (e.g. providers of leisure facilities, transport or housing, police and fire and rescue services).

SPHR research areas:

We are able to offer potential fellowship projects related to all SPHR programme and themes and the selection of projects will be dependent on the fellow’s interests and training needs.

Projects will be closely linked to our on-going research across the SPHR School-wide programmes and cross-cutting themes.

Example of project areas and topics related to relevant research programmes include:

Children, young people & families: Exploring children and young people’s understanding of social and health inequalities

Public mental health: Use of a range of outcome measures to evaluate interventions to prevent mental illness or to reduce its impact at the population level,

Places & communities: Developing community engagement and participatory research in partnership with diverse local communities with which we have ongoing collaborative research partnerships.

Health inequalities: Investigating inequalities through an intersectionality lens – particularly in relation to gender, ethnicity and class, involving mixed methods and participatory approaches.

Equitable & efficient public health systems: Modelling the system wide impact of financial interventions aiming to change health-related behaviours

It is expected that project work will involve co-supervision from other SPHR partner institution researchers and from our public health practitioner, commissioner and policy maker collaborators, depending on the nature of the project.

Potential SPHR research advisors:

If you are interested in working with our SPHR research teams, please do feel free to make informal enquiries with theme lead(s) in your areas of interest:

SPHR-wide programmes

Children, young people & families: Professor Sarah Salway & Dr Katie Powell

Public mental health: Professor Scott Weich

Places & communities: Dr Susan Baxter & Dr Amy Barnes

Cross-cutting themes:

Health inequalities: Professor Sarah Salway

Changing behaviour at population level: Professor Liddy Goyder & Professor Petra Meier

Equitable & efficient public health systems: Professor Alan Brennan

Contact details:

For general enquiries about pre-doctoral fellowships and advice on developing a doctoral fellowship application, please contact the Sheffield lead for SPHR: Prof Liddy Goyder:


University College London (UCL)

Within UCL, NIHR SPHR brings together world leading public health researchers including leaders in applied public health research across the life course. Our team, led by Professor Susan Michie, is drawn from across UCL including those from within the Faculties of Population Health Sciences, Life Sciences, Brain Sciences, the Bartlett Faculty of the Built Environment, UCL Institute of Child Health and the UCL Institute of Education. It includes clinicians and scientists in public health, epidemiology, psychology, psychiatry, health economics, health services, statistics, social science and informatics with skills in evaluating complex behavioural and public health interventions and evidence synthesis.

The resources available at UCL through NIHR SPHR and our links with, amongst others, the London hub of Health Data Research-UK, NIHR Policy Research Units (Mental Health, Children and Families, Obesity), Cancer Research UK Health Behaviour Unit, UCL Collaborative Centre for Inclusion Health, UKRI national networks in loneliness and culture and well-being (MARCH), the CLOSER cohorts and a range of other bespoke cohorts across the life course, the NIHR School for Primary Care Research and the NIHR CLAHRC/ARC North Thames, allow us to define ‘what might work’, to conduct studies to ‘show what works’ and analyse datasets to evaluate local and national intervention impacts to improve health through the life course.

Fellowships will offer unparalleled access to leading applied and public health experts and supervisors who are leaders in their field.

The SPHR Public mental health research programme aims to address the broad determinants of mental health and to improve outcomes across England. This innovative programme is co-led by UCL Professors Kate Walters and David Osborn with Dr Judi Kidger (University of Bristol). The research team has a proven track record of leading innovative research in epidemiology and population health.   The post holder will work within the UCL Department of Primary Care and Population Health and the UCL Division of Psychiatry, with access to the strong research programmes in both.

The SPHR Children, young people & families research programme aims to inform policy and practice to improve child health and reduce inequalities by addressing the over-arching question of “What should cost- effective, equity-focused policies, practices and interventions for child health look like?” UCL contributes to the ‘Data for Children’ theme within the research programme together with LiLaC and Imperial College.  The post holder would work within the Child Health Informatics Group (CHIG) at UCL Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health, a world-leading research group using large administrative databases for child health research. CHIG is led by Professor Ruth Gilbert, Dr Pia Hardelid and Dr Katie Harron. Our aim is to capitalise on the opportunities for research offered by administrative datasets routinely collected by government departments and other statutory bodies to create rich resources for policy-relevant research.  UCL has a long-standing track record of facilitating practice based placements, for example recent placements in Haringey, Islington and Redbridge Local Authorities through CLAHRC/ARC North Thames.

SPHR research areas:

This is an exciting opportunity join a multi-disciplinary team of researchers and PhD students in applied public health research. UCL has the capacity to host projects across a range of priority areas and themes for SPHR, including Public mental health; Children, young people & families; Health inequalities; Efficient and equitable public health systems and Changing behaviour at population level. We have particular interests in Public mental health and analysing administrative databases for child public health research.  Examples of potential projects are listed below, and a range of further opportunities are available which can be tailored to the interests and learning needs of the individual appointed.

Public mental health

We have a central role in the Public mental health programme and there is capacity for placements across a range of workstreams within this programme. We are evaluating promising interventions, using robust quasi-experimental designs and economic modelling, and assessing how existing services address inequalities and meet the needs of communities. The post holder will have the opportunity to explore how interventions have been deployed related to the social determinants of health using quantitative methods. Further, our research team is exploring a range of quantitative studies using big data to quantify the state of population mental health and to generate evidence for policy. This might include using techniques from spatial epidemiology and data modelling and simulation.

Health inequalities

UCL has internationally recognised expertise in health inequalities, and there is potential for placements across a range of areas e.g. vulnerable populations and sexual and blood-borne infections and/or mental health in sexual minorities working with the NIHR Health Protection Research Unit (HPRU); understanding the North-South divide in health outcomes, including analysis of cohort data; preventing digital inequalities in the roll-out of a digital diabetes prevention programme; supporting management of excluded groups (e.g. homeless) working with the UCL Collaborative Centre for Inclusion Health.

Children, young people & families

The aim of this workstream is to provide data platforms for understanding child health systems, and for evaluation of policies and interventions. At UCL, our work focuses on using whole country administrative data cohorts of children and young people for informing public health policies and interventions at local and national level and in particular, the association between multiple indicators disadvantage and child health outcomes. This is an excellent opportunity for a quantitative analyst with statistical programming skills to contribute to our work analysing large NHS databases.

The post holder will have the opportunity to develop research projects and contribute to ongoing research. The fellow will be encouraged to participate in training courses and workshops to enhance his/her research skills and to present his/her research at conferences. The fellow will also gain experience in public health practice through placements at PHE or other partner organisations. The post would particularly suit someone with a quantitative background keen on developing advanced quantitative skills.

Potential SPHR research advisors:

Professor Kate Walters                    Professor David Osborn                Professor Elizabeth Murray

Professor Greta Rait                        Dr Sophie Park                              Professor Andrew Hayward

Professor Goya Wannamethee       Dr Jen Dykxhoorn                          Dr James Kirkbride

Dr Alexandra Pitman                       Dr Pia Hardelid                              Jude Stansfield (PHE)

Contact details:

Holly Elphinstone, SPHR Manager (UCL),

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