Fellowship Tips from Japan Society for the Promotion of Science Fellow Sarb Johal

Aug 29, 2012
Dr. Sarb Johal, 2009 Japan Society for the Promotion of Science Fellow

When I was applying for the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science short-term Scientist Exchange Fellowship, I discovered it was something of an indirect process. In New Zealand, the Health Research Council administered the program for my area of research interest. When your fellowship application process is administered with a local partner, there are several issues you should pay particular attention to.

Find out the deadline for applications for your local administration agency. When a local in-country partner does the administration, the closing date is often far earlier than the application deadline date set by the fellowship organization itself. Don’t get blind-sided by this. Establish the date you should be aiming for early on in the process by getting information from the in-country administration partner.

Approach your intended referees early. Feedback from many fellowship organizations is that late references are a major cause of application rejection. Find out if your planned referees are going to have time to be able to get the reference to the relevant receiving organization in time. If they are going to be working in the field without internet connection or printer access, or without the ability to fill in lengthy forms on line and you give them a late heads-up about the reference, you’re going to struggle.

Get to know your local contact. In my experience, this is critical. Not only can they tell you the facts about how many people applied for your intended programme in previous years, they can give you the background information of success hit rates, topics that have been successful in the past, and what they understand may be priority areas of interest for the funding organization in the current round. They might even read a draft of your application if you get it to them early enough and be able to offer a critique at various levels. Your mileage may vary, but my view is that this interaction was critical in enabling my submission of a successful application.

Be available.  Before the local partner submits your reviewed (and sometimes recommended) application, they may need to get back to you to clarify some details. Don’t submit and then disappear or go incommunicado on a big overseas trip with no way for them to get this information from you. Work with your local contact to understand the process from the time you give them your application and plan accordingly.

Dr. Sarb Johal is Associate Professor in Disaster Mental Health at the Joint Centre for Disaster Research at Massey University, in New Zealand, and was a JSPS Fellow in 2009 based at the National Institute for Mental Health in Tokyo, Japan. When not working, Sarb spends much of his time writing and running, though not at the same time. You can read more of his thoughts on health, wellbeing and mental fitness at Sarb’s Blog: Complete Coach