Nurturing the next generation of medical researchers

Strategic aims

The Academy is an authoritative voice on the development of sustainable training and career pathways, and a source of inspiration, information and personal support for medical researchers. We provide direct financial support to early career researchers through our funding schemes. Our aims under this objective include networking researchers across boundaries, fostering research independence and remaining connected. Key to the success of these aims is the support and work of the Fellowship. Academy Fellows act as mentors and speakers at events, as well as serving as reviewers and panel members for our grants schemes.

Significant activities

  • Maintaining our innovative support schemes. Our funding schemes target key points in the academic training pathway to encourage career development. Schemes are run in partnership with other funders,  leveraging considerable financial resource and allowing us to reach across the breadth of the medical research community. In 2013-4, the Medical Research Council joined the consortium supporting the Starter Grants for Clinical Lecturers scheme, providing £415,000 in annual funding and the five existing funders all renewed their commitment for the next 2-4 years. The Panel made 46 awards in 2013-14, totalling £1,282,869. Our current cohort of clinical academics supported through the Clinician Scientist Fellowship programme, run in conjunction with The Health Foundation, finished their research projects in summer 2013 and funding for a new cohort was approved and awards made in late 2013 and early 2014. This re-phasing of the scheme is reflected in a decrease in the amount of grant funding received and awarded in the year, as shown in the Accounts.
  • Inspiring medical students with research. The INSPIRE scheme moved into its second year. As planned, no further awards were made in the year, but we continued to monitor the activities of the UK medical schools that were funded by the small grants dispensed in 2012, ready to launch the second round of grants in 2014/5.
  • Increasing our mentoring reach. In 2013-4 we were delighted to extend our mentoring provision to include postdoctoral non-clinical fellows, through a two-year pilot scheme, supported by the Medical Research Council, and we initiated a new partnership with GlaxoSmithKline to provide mentors for a small number of clinical trainees seconded to industry.
  • Delivering a range of career development events across the UK. Events in Cambridge, Manchester, Sheffield, Southampton and London allowed clinical academic trainees to network with peers and senior colleagues, to develop a better understanding of career pathways and to access information from both local and national funders and other stakeholders. Additional workshops provided training in some of the ‘soft’ skills needed to excel in a research career, for example ‘pitching ideas’, presentation skills and writing grant proposals.
  • Delivering a range of career development events across the UK. Events in Cambridge, Manchester, Sheffield, Southampton and London allowed clinical academic trainees to network with peers and senior colleagues, to develop a better understanding of career pathways and to access information from both local and national funders and other stakeholders. Additional workshops provided training in some of the ‘soft’ skills needed to excel in a research career, for example ‘pitching ideas’, presentation skills and writing grant proposals.
  • Re-establishing our Academic Careers Committee, comprising Academy Fellows and researchers at a range of career stages, to enable us to respond proactively and reactively to opportunities and challenges in career pathways, as well as ongoing changes in the NHS. In follow up to a 2012 roundtable meeting, the committee has established a working group to consider the impacts of ‘Team Science’, in particular on the career progression of early career researchers. Work was also undertaken to follow up our 2010 report on the status and valuation of teaching, in order to assess implementation of the recommendations in biomedical science departments in the UK – a report will be released in summer 2014.

Future plans

  • Pilot a programme of support for women in research, through partnership with other organisations. Our events will continue to support individuals embarking on a research career and encourage flexible career paths.
  • Scope the development of a small grants scheme for non-clinical early biomedical researchers, an emerging niche in the funding landscape that the Academy could be well-placed to address.
  • Make use of our new online grant holders’ reporting system to keep us informed of successes and connected with our researchers beyond their awards.
  • INSPIRE will provide a second round of small grant funding to medical schools, and a small number of grants will be made available for particularly innovative projects; a sharing conference will allow medical schools to share ideas and best practice around engaging medical students with research.
  • Catalyse the development of mentoring schemes in other organisations, for example, through supporting training leads in the NIHR Infrastructure.
  • Conduct a full external evaluation of our Starter Grant scheme to monitor its success and inform its future design.
  • Monitor implementation of the Shape of Medical Training review and continue our project on ‘Team Science’

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