Some information about Junior Research Fellowships (at Oxford and presumably Cambridge)

Last revised: October 27th 2007. Judging from the hits this page is getting, this is obviously helpful to people.

Junior Research Fellowships (JRFs) are usually 3-year research positions. Each is affiliated with a specific college, and you have no direct financial tie with your department. This means that your colleagues will be coming from "all walks of academia" rather than just your scientific discipline. It is usually well-paid and can include benefits such as in-College housing and dining (sometimes, the JRF might only be those benefits, given that the Fellow gets a stipend from another source. It is then meant to "provide a College experience" to a Fellow that wouldn't experience it otherwise). As far as I can tell, there is no catch.

The process to apply for a JRF is markedly different from post-docs in the US. For instance, when applying for a post-doc in math at an American university, you will send in a Research Statement that is (hopefully) readable by any mathematician (at least the first page/chapter). For a JRF, your hiring committee (and competitors!) will consist mostly of non-scientists, a few mathematicians and maybe one person from your discipline. While you should still include some "real math" and describe your theorems in detail, you should thus also include a substantial introduction for scholars from other disciplines (English, Law, etc), however hard and awkward this can feel. Remember that you will almost certainly be compared to someone whose field of research is "more easily described in plain English", so make some effort!

A second important aspect is that the College (at least some of them) is quite social, and it wouldn't hurt if you are able to share your passion with other Fellows or guests, again not necessarily experts in even mathematics. This is certainly rarely looked at in the mathematical academic world.

Oxford University tries to maintain a list (link dead as of May '07, replaced by this?) of JRFs that are available. So does the Maths Institute. Unfortunately, those are not always up-to-date, so I also advise you to consult the Oxford University Gazette (look for Vacancies in every single weekly issue) as well. For Cambridge, look at the Cambridge University Reporter. You can (and should) also go through each College's website just to make sure you didn't miss an ad. For this, tabbed browsing combined with lists available at Wikipedia ( Oxford, the Other Place) are quite useful. The only foolproof way to do things for Oxford is to use both the Gazette and the College websites.

The announcement dates, the deadlines, and times needed for the application process vary a lot from College to College, so be careful...

Finally, the most definite source for all information is Tim Körner's guide "Applying for Cambridge Research Fellowships" available on his webpage. It is equally relevant to Oxford. I wish it to be as helpful to you as it was to me!

I would be happy to answer any questions, assuming you can figure out how to find my email address (not listed here as spam protection).