Feedback on nominations to the 2023/24 Dunhill Medical Trust Academy Excellence Awards

Thank you to everybody who submitted a nomination to our recent round of the DMT Academy Excellence Awards. This was the first time we’d run the awards and we were delighted to see so many examples of real excellence and leadership in ageing-related research. We recently let nominees know whether they had been invited to interview and the overall success rate at this stage was 30%.

Nominations were assessed on a range of criteria which were set out in the award guidelines and our general feedback is outlined below:

  • In general, the strongest nominations had a cohesive thread running throughout, which gave a real sense of the nominee’s commitment to ageing-related research and our key research principles. Some nominations included an extensive list of achievements / activities, but lacked the detail to bring these all together. Getting the balance right is always difficult, but it often helps to focus on a smaller number of activities in real detail / specificity.
  • Most nominations were strong when it came to describing the focus of the nominee’s research. However, it was sometimes more challenging to understand what the impacts of this research had been and whether / how the nominee had influenced ageing-related policy and/or practice.
  • Relatedly, the extent of nominees’ track record in ageing-related research was sometimes hard to determine. We are very supportive of people moving into ageing-related research from other disciplines, but if this is the case then acknowledging this and explaining the motivation behind that move is really helpful. The strongest nominations not only articulated the nominee’s previous achievements in ageing-related research and current work, but also their future aspirations.
  • On occasion, the Panel highlighted examples of nominations not fully aligning with the information / guidance provided in the award guidelines and nomination form. For example, in some cases the uploaded letter seemed to repeat information that had already been provided regarding the nominee’s research achievements / influence, whereas the focus of the letter was supposed to be on their commitment to our key principles for research. In other instances, uploaded letters exceeded the stated word count and/or two supporter / seconder letters had been uploaded when only one was requested.
  • Some specific points of feedback were raised with regards to our key principles for ageing-related research:
    • Regarding Patient, carer and/or Public Involvement and Engagement (PPIE), some nominations focused almost solely on engagement (i.e. the sharing of research findings beyond academic audiences). Whilst this is certainly important, the strongest nominations were also able to provide specific detail on how the nominee had meaningfully involved the public in various stages of their research. The National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) provides some helpful definitions of involvement, engagement and participation on their website.
    • Regarding Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI), nominations sometimes lacked focus / specificity on how nominees had really considered and embedded EDI in their research activities. For example, in some cases a focus was placed on the diversity of the nominee’s lab / group, with a lack of detail on how this had been achieved / the nominee’s contribution to this and/or how the nominee had considered EDI in the context of their research more widely.
    • Often, nominations were less good at articulating the difference the nominee’s contribution to our research principles had made (e.g. to their research / that of other researchers, the wider field etc.). Whilst this was probably the most difficult aspect of this particular section, nominations that did it well really stood out.
  • As a general point, it was sometimes hard to determine whether the nominee had truly led on a particular activity / initiative etc., or instead had been involved as part of a wider group. Either was acceptable, but overall we were looking for clarity on the nominee’s specific contribution. Relatedly, where the nominee had truly led on a particular activity / initiative we were looking for this to be made explicit – the awards are designed to celebrate success and ambition in ageing-related research, and the strongest nominations really let the nominee’s achievements shine.

We appreciate the amount of time and effort that goes into making a nomination, and we hope this feedback is helpful to those who were unsuccessful on this occasion. We are intending to run the awards annually, so do look out for other opportunities in the future.