Participants will be expected to work on their proposal for a minimum of usual office hours during their time at the Retreat. The precise timetable is decided before the Retreat by the staff in light of their review of the projects and participants coming to the Retreat. The consistent components of the curriculum are described below.
Although there is very little formal teaching, all the participants do come together at least once each day for a series of short sessions led by the adviser team. These cover the essential skills concerned with the craft of writing high quality research proposals. Depending on the needs of the projects / researchers attending, specific methodological issues may also be covered.
Working with the support of the adviser team
Teams work on the development of their projects while guided and assisted by members of the adviser team. Teams are encouraged to identify their needs for themselves and ‘book’ time with the relevant adviser but all of the teams will, at some time, work with each of the advisers. Working with the advisers establishes professional standards of work as well as influencing the developing research proposal directly. Being challenged - and expected - to work to the highest standards provides the core learning experience of the Retreat.
Working as a team
For some of the time during the Retreat, teams will work on their own. Teams are expected to ‘stand on their own two feet’ to complete the day’s objective, for example writing a re-draft of the proposal or preparing a presentation. Working together without intervention from the adviser or support team is useful both for team dynamics and because it provides an opportunity for the teams to assimilate the day’s learning.
The teams prepare and deliver at least two oral presentations. The first describes their research project and a second – on the last day of the Retreat – presents their work plan for the continued development of their proposal and obtaining funding after the Retreat. Presenting to the other participants is both a skill in its own right and helps in developing the research proposal.
Facing - and learning from - critical, generally frank review is an important skill for researchers to acquire and the Retreat is intended to give teams a taste of the experience. The adviser team, all of whom are experienced reviewers for major national research funders, will provide honest feedback as you develop your proposal and provide new draft sections. Advisers will provide constructive criticism and recommendations for further work. Discussions with other teams have also proved invaluable in previous retreats, and such interaction is encouraged.
Altogether, the Retreat is a sustained period of intense concentrated work - exhilarating, extending and exhausting. The rewards of success - for the participants, for their organisations and ultimately for the NHS and the population it serves - are considerable.