Narrative CVs

CVs are an important tool in assessing grant applications but conventional formats can be limiting. 

To address this, we’re introducing narrative CVs in our funding applications to give applicants the opportunity to evidence a wider range of skills and experience and showcase their broader contributions in research. This change will help ensure we’re drawing on a variety of backgrounds, perspectives, and experiences to help beat cancer.

What is a narrative CV?

A narrative CV encourages you to describe contributions and achievements that showcase a wide range of experiences and skills. It's set up flexibly so you can provide context to explain the broader relevance and impact of your contributions.

Our narrative CV is based on the Royal Society’s Résumé for Researchers and asks 3 core questions:

  • How have you contributed to the generation of knowledge?  
  • How have you contributed to the development of others? 
  • How have you contributed to the wider research community?

You’ll also be asked to include any further information relevant to your application such as career breaks, part-time working, time taken out of active research to pursue training or other relevant experience. These details will be used by our reviewers to make appropriate adjustments when assessing your track record, outputs and career progression.

Why introduce narrative CVs?

We've adopted narrative CVs to help us attract and retain the most promising cancer research talent. Traditional academic CVs often have a narrow focus and lack information beyond education history, publications and grant funding. 

A narrative CV gives you the opportunity to:

  • highlight essential skills (such as managing teams or collaborations) as well as outputs
  • put skills and experience into context to help expert reviewers who may be unfamiliar with the discipline or sector understand the full significance and impact of your contributions
  • demonstrate the holistic contributions you've made as an individual to the research and innovation community
  • focus on the quality and impact of your contributions
  • describe any varied career paths you may have taken

Narrative CVs also aim to use a structured, standardised template, reducing burden and bureaucracy with an aligned approach across funders.

If you’re the Lead Applicant or Joint Lead Applicant, you’ll each be asked to complete and upload a narrative CV word templatesee current template.

You can write up to two pages across the 3 questions. In the examples you provide, be specific about your contribution to each and provide enough detail to enable our reviewers to understand what you have discovered, developed and achieved. Also describe the impact of these actions and influence in your field.

We outline in the template the types of activities we expect against each question. The lists are non-exhaustive, so you can include other examples relevant to your application. You don’t need to provide an example for every activity. Our application guidelines also provide further information.

There are no specific guidelines on text formatting but we encourage you to make the content captivating and avoid making the responses too complicated.

We started rolling out the new narrative CV into non-fellowship funding schemes for assessment in our Autumn 2022 funding rounds.

Previously you may have been asked to complete our Key Research Achievements form with your 3-5 key research achievements under our commitment to the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA). This is now being replaced with the new CV.

Following feedback from our researchers and committee members, we’re retaining other aspects of a traditional CV such as list-based career history and educational history. We think this hybrid approach is a pragmatic way to enable researchers and reviewers to use narrative CVs most effectively.

For all fellowship applications, we’ll continue to use our Skills and Experience form which has more detailed questions relevant to fellowships that are aligned with the structure of our Competency Framework for Fellowships. Our framework provides a more extensive and detailed “guide” to the skills and experiences that are expected/considered at each different career stage.

As we roll out narrative CVs, we’ll review and evolve our approach in response to your feedback.

We’ll provide our expert reviewers guidance on how to assess grant applications which will include guidance on narrative CVs.

Reviewers will be asked to consider the narrative CV sections holistically, not in isolation, when making assessments on the applicant’s skills and experience.  

By providing better context in a narrative CV, we believe reviewers will be able to assess applications more effectively as there is a consistent approach to qualitative assessment.

We’ve joined a number of other research funders to form the Joint Funders Group and explore a shared approach towards narrative CVs (see our Funders Joint Statement).

This group is working to align approaches where possible, share learnings and best practice, help others engage and to discuss potential challenges of adopting narrative CVs. 

Contact us

As we roll out this new narrative CV over the coming months, we’ll continue to work with our applicants and reviewers to seek feedback, review and further develop our approach.

If you have any feedback, please get in touch at

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