PhD Training

ACCE  Compulsory Whole Cohort Training

The ACCE DTP will deliver series of events targeted at addressing key skills gaps, promoting the ACCE community and building a strong ACCE identity. These training activities are compulsory for all ACCE students to attend. ACCE will hold these events in a different month each year, so a student missing one of these organized for their own cohort (e.g. due to fieldwork commitment) should be able to attend the following year.

Fourth ACCE cohort, 2017 – 2018

Additional ACCE DTP training events


Fifth ACCE cohort, 2018 – 2019

Additional ACCE DTP training events

ACCE Careers and Communication Portfolio

Apart from the whole cohort compulsory training activities, ACCE students will be required to undertake:

  • Advanced course on statistical analysis (available at all ACCE hosts);
  • Quantitative course (programming, modelling, GIS and bioinformatics courses available across ACCE);
  • Training Needs Analysis (as required by their host organisation);

ACCE students will be required as well to develop a ‘Careers and Communication Portfolio’ to which they will be expected to devote a minimum of 6 weeks during their PhD.

Activities must fall into the following groups:

1. Careers development

Students will make their own selection from the choice of on-line resources and career events offered in all host institutions or external provider to meet their own needs and to develop their portfolio:

2. Media and communications

Students will make their selection of on-line resources and training courses e.g., events management, media photography, music industries, social media, blogging, public relations, television production, radio, etc.

Each ACCE student will be required to keep a record of all the activities undertaken during their  ACCE studentship. We have developed The ACCE Activities Record Form which is an on-line form that allows you to maintain a log of all the training and other professional activities undertaken during your ACCE PhD studentship.

This on-line tool should be used to record all activities students undertake within ACCE but will NOT be a substitute for the formal recording systems at the host institute.

Student-led activities

 ACCE PhD Student Away Day

  • Students will organise ‘an away day’ each year and plan their activities for that day. ACCE will facilitate the organisation and planning of these days.

Away day at the Chester Zoo

Away day at the Another world adventure centre, Halifax

Residential away days YHA Hathersage 15 – 17 April 2018

ACCE Career Cafe and seminars

  • ACCE will be organizing ACCE Seminar series. Students from Sheffield, York, Liverpool and CEH will select and invite an interesting speaker(s), and the talk will be ‘live streamed’ to the other ACCE partners and recorded live. ACCE seminars will be available to watch on the ACCE website.

Take an active part in the ACCE management and life

Representation at ACCE Student Committee and Management Board You can get involved by sitting on the ACCE Student Committee (SC). SC will meet at least twice per year, and 4 student reps (one from each partner institutions) will sit on the ACCE Management board.

ACCE Placement support

How does it work

The ACCE DTP placements’ support scheme provides an opportunity and financial help to undertake 1 to 3 months placement. It aims to provide work experience with organisations that may otherwise be unable to take on an intern. Such experience is important both to help early career researchers understand the context of their research and to expose them to the range of opportunities available to them after they graduate.  ‘ACCE Placements Support’ is available and will be awarded competitively to ACCE DTP students who can demonstrate that the experience will benefit them professionally. Placement should be training or experiential learning opportunity which offers significant added value to your doctoral programme (it should not be a continuation of your research project which could be achieved within your home institution instead).


The ACCE DTP Manager, based at the University of Sheffield will support ACCE DTP students through the process of applying for, securing and completing a placement. Students should keep their supervisors informed throughout the process of arranging and undertaking a placement. Supervisors are encouraged to maintain contact with their students while on placement and where possible visit the student on the placement.

What financial support ACCE can provide

1. Additional stipend (max of 3 months); 2. Travel support – covers travel to/from the location of the placement; 3. Accommodation – covers accommodation if you undertake relocation to the location of the placement; 4. Other occasional expenses, limited to lolcal travel and travel insurance.

Students will continue to receive their stipend payment from the DTP during the placements as normal, without suspension. When they return to their studies after completing the period of the placement, they will receive an additional stipend for the time they were on placement. Students should identify travel/accommodation costs associated with the placement. Wherever possible, an agreement should be made that the placement provider will make a reasonable contribution to any travel & accommodation expenses. The agreement must be arranged between the student and the placement provider before the commencement of the placement.

Note, that the maximum claimable budget for travel, accommodation, and other costs are £1500 for placements in the UK and £3500 for Overseas Placements. 


Students are eligible to undertake placements up to 3 months full time. We recommend that students spend this time in a single block with a single host. Research shows that this is the optimal format for this type of placement. Students should discuss the timing of the placement with their supervisors. There is flexibility in the timings of the placement; this is to accommodate the requirements of the host organisation but also to avoid disruption to the students PhD project. We recommend that placements are undertaken between 12 and 36 months of their PhD.

Please, note that going on a placement does not change your submission date and you still need to submit your PhD within 4 years. 

Who can I do a placement with

You can do a placement with a range of public research organisations (non-academic), NGOs, small-medium enterprises and other private organisations, charities, trusts, local councils, etc.When you think about which organisations to approach, you should consider:

  • Your career aspirations;
  • The skills you want to develop;
  • Opportunities to translate the learning from your studies into the wider world;
  • Practicalities such as the location of the organisation and the feasibility of completing the work within the time requested

Ideas for placements

The placement should be a well-justified enhancement to the PhD training. It should provide relevant training on subject-specific or generic transferable skills identified in your training need analysis or the UK Researcher development framework ( At the same time, ACCE wishes to incentivise genuine engagement with non-academic end users of research with this scheme.

Placements are intended to help students understand how their research and professional skills can be used in a broad but relevant context. Research roles in academia or research institutes are not appropriate. Placements should ideally be discrete projects, and they must be well planned and managed. They should provide experience at a level appropriate for a postgraduate student. Examples of different types of placements include

  • Conducting surveys, analysing data and producing reports.
  • Investigating efficiency and cost-saving activity.
  • Managing, delivering a particular service for a period of time.
  • Joining specific teams to assist in the delivery of their activities and projects.

Non-research roles such as

  •  Teaching – in schools, using the Researchers in Residence scheme, or through other mechanisms
  •  Policy – developing policy or working in a related setting, such as a government department, local authority, non-departmental public body, professional association, charity, research funder or medical organisation;
  • Media – a wide variety of roles are possible here that help students understand the wider societal context of their research. Such placements could include working in science communication roles or other roles in a press office, science publishing company, zoo, museum or botanic gardens, etc.

Contacting potential Placement Host

The best way for students to secure a placement they want at the time they want it is to take responsibility for securing the placement themselves. This provides the student with the benefit of choosing the organisation, the experience of making the first contact and negotiating the placement project. You need to identify a suitable placement host organisation depending on your interests and career aspirations. You need to contact the potential organisations directly and ask them if they might be interested in hosting you or you can respond to already advertised placement at a selected organisation. If you are approaching the potential placement provider yourself, please follow these guidelines:

  • Remember that any time you communicate with another organisation, you are a representative of the University you study at so please be polite and respectful;
  • The people that you contact are unlikely to know anything about ACCE DTP and the placement support, so you will need to explain it to them. You can send them a copy of the document entitled ‘Guidance for hosting a student through ACCE DTP placement support’ and the ‘ACCE Placement support application form’;
  • Do not focus just on how the placement will benefit you – instead, be prepared to explain why you would wish to work for that organisation regarding the skills and experiences that you might bring to them? Show your enthusiasm by explaining how the placement relates to your career plans and your subject of study;
  • Remember that you can complete the time of your placement in a way that suits you and fits in with your studies. You are eligible for ACCE placement support if you are between 12 and 36 months of you PhD studentship. Please negotiate your time at the placement provider to satisfy these criteria;
  • You need to contact the potential placement provider organisations well in advance before the time you find suitable to do the placement. Sometimes it might take months before suitable placement starting date is identified

ACCE DTP placements application procedure and deadlines

Once your potential placement provider agrees to host the placement, you need to develop a placement project proposal and must complete the ACCE Placement support application form. Students should liaise with the Placement provider to complete the form. Students are responsible for negotiating the Placement project proposal, timeline, and submission of the application form.

Application deadlines: 

1 March 2019

14 June 2019

2 Sep 2019

Complete and submit ACCE DTP placement support application form

ACCE Placement support application form

Please email an electronic copy to Veni Koleva (ACCE DTP manager). ACCE Placement support form must be signed by the student, student’s lead supervisor, Placement provider representative before the application submission.


The ACCE Placement support application will be evaluated by the ACCE Management Board Placements steering committee by agreed criteria, and a reply will be sent to the student and Placement provider within 2-3 weeks after the deadline.

Contracting and Agreement

Once approved students need to inform their hosting University and Department and at this stage, the student’s host institution will issue a ‘Tripartite Agreement’ (this document will be signed by you, your placement provider, and by a University authorised signatory).

Health and Safety

ACCE DTP will check the details about the Placement provider given in the application form and will send to them to fill in a Health and Safety Employer vetting form. Each Placement provider is responsible for: Undertaking the necessary risk assessments, Health and safety checks, providing the necessary insurance cover or arranging for the students concerned to do so.


ACCE DTP will make sure that you are provided with Placement induction feedback form, which you need to return within 2 weeks of the start of your placement. By the end of your placement, you need to provide a detailed Placement Report about the project and achievements during your placement within 3 months of completing the placement. You are free to write the report as you see fit but it should address the topics included below:

  • Project(s) that you worked on;
  • Your roles and responsibilities;
  • What you have gained from the experience (e.g., skills);
  • Things that you were pleased with, and things that you could improve;
  • What impact this experience is likely to have on your professional development etc.

Along with your Placement report, you will be required to write a compulsory blog for the ACCE website about your experience and submit it together with your report

Placement provider will be asked to complete a Host Feedback Report following the placement.

List of documents required

  • ACCE Placement Support application form;
  • A signed Tripartite Agreement (this document will be signed by you, Placement provider, and by a representative at the University hosting your PhD and it will be provided by the ACCE DTP manager after placement is approved);
  • Health and Safety Employer vetting form (will be sent to and completed by the Placement Provider);
  • Placement induction feedback form (filled by the student in the first two weeks of the placement);
  • Placement report (free text; report is due 3 months after the placement has been completed);
  • Writing a compulsory blog for the website about their Placement experience
  • Post-placement evaluation (will be sent to the Placement provider and the student)

Placement shop

NERC and the cross-party think tank Policy Connect are partnering on a project on ‘Zero Plastic Waste’, which will see the delivery of four Parliamentary events over the course of 2018 and 2019, and the publication of a final output that will set out a framework for, and recommendations towards achieving zero plastic waste and the establishment of the UK as the leader on the issue.

As part of the project, NERC will second a funded PhD student to Policy Connect.

For more details please see the Secondment ad as well as a funding and permissions form.


POST  fellowships

NERC – the Natural Environment Research Council – is the leading funder of independent research, training and innovation in environmental science in the UK.

The council supports NERC funded PhD students to work for three months at POST. There are also opportunities to work in the libraries in the House of Commons or House of Lords, or with a parliamentary select committee.

The NERC policy placements are now closed for application. For more information about the fellowship visit the RCUK website.


Cheshire Wildlife Trust

Cheshire Wildlife Trust is keen to support one or more ACCE students in placements. They have outlined 3 ideas below, which could be developed according to students particular interests before putting together an application for ACCE placement support. If this idea interests you either for the near future or as an option later on in your Ph.D., please email Martin Varley, Director of Conservation (

The ideas are:

  1.  Payment for ecosystems services schemes for the upper river Dane. There are a couple of projects running in the upper Dane relating to land management, one with United Utilities on compliance with the water framework directive working with landowners to improve water quality and one with the Environment Agency to slow the flow and reduce the impact of flooding through an implementation of natural flood measures. With the imminent demise of the common agricultural policy, I would be very interesting to work with someone on how a payment for ecosystems service scheme might operate to replace the existing subsidy system which could be integrated into this work. This would involve a programme of consultation with a load of stakeholders and some cost-benefit analysis work on markets and products, buyers and sellers. We will be working in the catchment for the next 5 years and it would be good during that time to see whether such a scheme could be piloted (depending on how things go nationally with the post-Brexit world).
  2.  A natural capital/ecosystems services map of Cheshire. I would be interested in assessing Cheshire’s natural capital. At the moment there is a quite low baseline for wildlife information in the area. For example, there is no phase 1 data for the whole area. There is a possibility to convert from remotely sensed data to habitat type. This can then be converted to ecosystem services for which a cost can be attached. So this is a GIS exercise that would require someone who is pretty good at mapping but also has a decent ecological head on them and if possible, knows a bit about economics.
  3.  The State of Nature report for Cheshire. There are a few iterations of this type of report floating about. There was a UK State of Nature report done in 2013. In September a new variation of the report focusing on individual countries (UK, Scotland, Wales) will be launched. CWT would be interested in zooming this type of analysis in at a county level. Again the source data is pretty random. We have a good biological records office here, and some local wildlife organisations are focusing on single species. So it would require collating all that information and see whether it is possible to develop any time series for species from which conclusions can be drawn. The methodology is pretty fluid at the moment, but the two versions of the state of nature reporting could act as a guide for anyone taking this on.

Extension of PhD duration

Award for publication

Rationale and criteria for the award

This award scheme will support ACCE DTP students to prepare and submit a potentially high impact manuscript. It is recognised that 3.5 years of PhD studies provides very little time to publish research findings. The goal of the scheme is to reward successful students by providing them with the opportunity to disseminate their best work in the scientific literature. The scheme is not intended to support further research or data collection. Students can apply for a maximum of 3 months stipend extension beyond the standard 3.5 years supported by ACCE. Applicants should be aware that the ACCE DTP does not have sufficient resources to support every ACCE-funded student with this scheme. Extensions will be awarded by the ACCE DTP management board on a competitive basis, where scientific excellence is the guiding principle in the decision process. The award offer will be determined by the following pieces of evidence:

  1. Evidence that their PhD thesis will be submitted on time with a detailed progress report on the type of data, analyses, and results included in each chapter;
  2. Clear plans with milestones and timeline for writing a publication and a key figure;
  3. Proposed abstract of the paper;
  4. Outline of contents (scientific excellence must be evident to technical non-specialist);
  5. Targeted journal likely to produce ‘high impact’ (evaluated on a discipline-specific basis);
  6. Evidence of research success, e.g. previously published paper(s) or awards.


To be eligible, students should be at the end of their third year, have completed data collection and analysis and have their thesis in near completion stage. Students should aim to apply before the end of their third year, once they have a thesis submission date in mind.


1 Sep 2019


Please submit your application by email to Veni Koleva the ACCE DTP manager. (

Publication Award Application Form

Extensions for extenuating circumstances

Students will be able to apply for an extension of their funding period (beyond 3.5 years) based on severe unforeseen circumstances which have disrupted their work with serious implications affecting the submission of their PhD thesis.  These cases will be evaluated on an individual basis by the ACCE Management board. Students will need to formally apply by writing a detailed description of their circumstances in plain text and submitting it to Veni Koleva (ACCE DTP Manager).

Advanced Training Short Courses (ATSC)

Advanced Training Short Courses support postgraduate training aimed at providing individuals with particular, specialist skills and training within the NERC science remit.

2014-15 Advanced Training Short Courses list

2015-16 Advanced Training Short Courses list

2016-17 Advanced Training Short Courses list

2017-18 Advanced Training Short Courses list

2018-19 Advanced Training Short Courses list


ACCE Seminar Series

ACCE Seminar Series #1

Invited Speaker: Dr Tim Newbold from University College London.

Understanding and predicting the response of ecological communities to land-use change.

Abstract: Human activities are reshaping the structure of ecological communities. Many ecological field studies have been conducted around the world to compare ecological communities in different land-use types. I will describe my work with the PREDICTS Project, bringing together such studies from around the world to infer general patterns in the effects of land use, including variation in effects on different functional groups of species, and to use this information to predict possible future effects of land use on biodiversity under different scenarios.

ACCE Careers Cafe #1 

ACCE DTP is liaising with Science in Policy to organise a Career Café for PhD and ECR. ‘Careers Café’ will be a one-hour session with an informal discussion about career possibilities inside and outside academia which aims to broaden career path options to the students. Our presenters will share their personal experience and career story.

ACCE Careers Cafe #2 Liverpool

A career in Public Health

Dr Andrew Turner

Andy studied at Liverpool for his PhD in evolutionary genetics, which he gained in 2010. Following this, he worked in clinical microbiology in the NHS, before returning to Liverpool to work on research which built on his PhD. During this time he realised he wanted to move away from biology into public health and so completed the UoL’s distance-learning Master of Public Health alongside his postdoc. This enabled him to gain a further postdoc as a cancer epidemiologist in York before (eventually) getting a place on the public health speciality training scheme and working towards becoming a Consultant in Public Health.

ACCE Careers Café #3

A Career in Public research, NGOs and trusts

Dr Natalie Cooper,  Researcher at the Natural History Museum

Dr Alison Holt, Director of Natural Capital Solutions

Dr Nicky Rivers,  Living Landscape Development Manager at The Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust

ACCE Career Cafe #4 Liverpool

A career as a Teacher

Dr Roly Parkes

Roly graduated from the University of Liverpool with BSc Zoology in 1996. In 2001 he was awarded a doctorate from University of Birmingham after studying optimal time allocation modelling of diving birds. In 2000 he joined the RSPCA as the Cheshire Deputy Chief Inspector. This involved a very wide range of activities in the UK and abroad. In 2008 he changed career and is now a secondary school Science teacher. This seminar is an opportunity for insight into Animal welfare careers and Teaching, both of which are career paths requiring professional as well as scientific skills.

ACCE Seminar and Careers Cafe #5 Sheffield

Career in Academia 

Dr Amanda Bretman, an evolutionary ecologist specialising in sexual selection and social behaviours.

Amanda will also be taking part in an ACCE Careers Café about possible career paths after a PhD. Amanda will share her career journey, what key decisions she made, what are the most valuable skills gained during PhD that help to find that desired academic position. PhD students are invited to attend the Careers Café at 3pm in the APS Common Room. Coffee and cake will be provided.

No fly is an island: How Drosophila respond to socio-sexual environments

We all modify our behaviour in different social situations to adapt, fit in or to become more competitive. Fruit flies also have complex social lives, aggregating independently of any resources, engaging in social learning, forming social networks and having a genetic propensity for different types of social environments. Using Drosophila melanogaster fruit flies as a model, we can investigate both the fitness consequences of changes of social environment and the mechanisms by which individuals can respond to such changes.

One aspect of the social environment that has a particular impact on males is how much mating competition (both before and after mating) they encounter. Theory predicts that if males can mate more than once they need to trade-off current and future mating opportunities, hence they should modify their mating effort at a particular mating depending on the amount of competition they face. Males of many species use plastic strategies to cope with this uncertainty, taking cues from the presence of other males or the mating status of females, and making adjustments to behaviour and ejaculate content accordingly. In D. melanogaster, after being exposed to a potential competitor, males mate for longer and transfer a higher quality ejaculate. This has fitness benefits, at least in the short term, but is costly, a strong selective pressure for mechanisms that allow males to make the right decisions. By combining behavioural and life history data with transgenics, transcriptomics and epigenetics, we can investigate how such responses are coordinated and regulated, an important step in understanding how sophisticated, flexible social behaviours evolve.


ACCE Activities record form

All ACCE DTP students will be required to fill in the Activities Record form