Four members of staff in ScHARR were successful in the most recent round of the NIHR Fellowship Programme and have been offered a prestigious NIHR Doctoral Research Fellowship:

  • Alexis Foster (Design, Trials and Statistics)
  • Kelly Mackenzie (Public Health)
  • Rachid Rafia (Health Economics and Decision Science)
  • Benjamin Kearns (Health Economics and Decision Science)

L-R: Alexis, Kelly, Rachid, Benjamin

Alexis Foster is exploring how to improve the evidence base of health and wellbeing activities run by charities and other not for profit organisations. This is because whilst people attending community activities report they find them useful, we know little about whether their health and wellbeing actually improves. The specific focus of the fellowship is looking at the facilitators and barriers to using outcome measures routinely in third sector organisations. Throughout the fellowship, a community based participatory approach will be taken, where the research will be conducted collaboratively with stakeholders.

Undertaking an NIHR fellowship is an amazing opportunity to develop and conduct your own research project whilst receiving a training package and getting to develop collaborations to help develop future research ideas


Kelly Mackenzie aims to develop, implement and evaluate the feasibility of a low-cost, co-produced complex intervention to reduce sitting time in different workplace settings. Sitting for long periods is linked to higher risks of health problems e.g. heart disease, diabetes, obesity, depression, neck/back problems, and early death. Sitting in the workplace can be a particular issue due to the increasing number of desk-based jobs where staff can sit for an average of six hours a day. Replacing some sitting time with light activities, such as standing and walking, could be an important way to improve the public’s health. Therefore, there is a need to develop, test and review the feasibility of interventions aimed at reducing workplace sitting time.

This is a fantastic opportunity for me to undertake my own research project in an area that I feel passionate about, which will hopefully positively impact the health and wellbeing of desk-based employees across a range of different organisations. Through conducting this research and via the training opportunities that will be available to me, this fellowship will allow me to develop the skills and experiences that I need in order to progress towards my long-term career goal within academic public health.


Rachid Rafia’s fellowship aims to develop a methodological framework to inform the choice of analytic approaches for modelling cancer therapies subject to the nature of data available and to guide decision-making based on these models. Mathematical models are commonly used to predict patients’ quality of life, how long they are likely to live, and the cost to the NHS if they receive a new treatment. These models are needed because clinical trials do not always provide enough information about all of these outcomes. However, different approaches are used inconsistently which may result in different predictions. This could lead to inconsistent decision-making and have a significant impact on patients and the NHS. Therefore there is a need for more consistency in the way economic evaluations are conducted.

Benjamin Kearns’ fellowship will look at producing guidance on good practice methods for predicting future outcomes in health technology assessment (HTA). HTAs can be a key evidence source for decision makers when deciding if they should be paying for health technologies. Key outcomes in HTA are the costs to the healthcare system and the benefits to patients. Typically, decision makers need to know what these outcomes will be over a patient’s lifetime, but only have evidence for a limited time period. Hence methods for predicting future outcomes are required. Ben’s fellowship shall build on previous and on-going work to produce good-practice guidance to assist with producing and communicating predictions of the future.

Congratulations to Alexis, Kelly, Rachid and Ben on their amazing achievements!