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ICAT Programme Prospectus

The ICAT programme arises from the collaboration of established structures for clinical specialty and academic training in Ireland, which provides a strong platform for integrated clinician scientist training.

This programme now provides a linked structure between:

The 17 postgraduate training bodies across the island of Ireland, structured around basic specialist training (BST) and higher specialist training (HST) coordinated through the Irish Forum for Postgraduate Medical Training and the Northern Ireland Medical and Dental Training Agency (NIMDTA).

The HSE and HSC which work with the training bodies to provide accredited training positions.

The six participating Irish academic institutions, with strong established international reputations, to oversee research and academic training.

In establishing these links and collaborations, the ICAT programme shifts the paradigm for academic, clinician scientist training from a parallel “out of programme” approach, to one that is truly integrated across the training experiences of the participating individual.

Clinical and academic mentoring will be put in place to span the entire duration of higher medical and postgraduate academic training. Trainees will complete this programme with both PhD and CCST. Moreover, training emphasis will shift as the programme proceeds from how to begin a research career as a PhD candidate, followed by successful completion of the PhD, to establishing independence, through novel thought and independent research funding. Peer-interaction, collaboration and knowledge transfer from our affiliated panel of international advisors lie at the centre of the programme and how it achieves these complete training goals.

Candidates embarking on this programme will be offered the following:

  • Choice of research opportunities with internationally renowned investigators
  • An innovative national curriculum with taught modules in both discipline-specific and transferable skills
  • Annual Scientific Meetings
  • An annual salary based on level of training; laboratory expenses; travel allowance and PhD fees (EU/local rate)

Supervisor Research Fields

Research projects in this structured PhD programme will focus on the strengths of our participating institutions and will be in the general area of:

    • cancer/oncology28%
    • neuroscience and mental health27%
    • bioengineering/medical devices11%
    • epidemiology/population health research15%
    • genetics, genomics and molecular biology32%
    • infectious disease and the immune system21%
    • cell and developmental biology/regenerative medicine14%
    • physiology and non-communicable disease14%

Please refer to our supervisors page for a list of supervisors, together with details of their research interests, and description of indicative projects.

Structure of the ICAT Programme

Year 1

Clinical (70%)
Academic (30%)

During the first year, ICAT Fellows are appointed at Clinical Lecturer grade or equivalent within their chosen university/institution.

They also carry out normal clinical duties within their chosen specialty at the grade of specialist registrar. This year is fully accredited for clinical training. Fellows are provided with a clinical mentor and trainer by the relevant postgraduate training body; an academic mentor is assigned by the ICAT Executive Team and the institutional ICAT Director is a local point of contact.

ICAT Fellows begin year 1 with a collegial induction event during which Fellows, trainers and ICAT Directors and Programme Manager become acquainted. At this event, the core principles of the programme are imparted and the ICAT Fellows get their first opportunity to interact as a group and with the larger research community in RoI/NI. The ICAT Fellows are encouraged at this point to begin focussing their research interests, designing mini-projects, communicating with potential PhD supervisors and writing their PhD proposal.

During year 1 ICAT Fellows can experience academic environments through dedicated, protected research time and by taking educational modules offered by the partner institutions and further afield (a selection of available modules can be viewed via the CRDI online curriculum portal). ICAT Fellows are supported throughout this year to make their final choice of PhD supervisor and with his or her assistance, submit a well-written, thoroughly planned research proposal, including a research budget that outlines their three-year PhD studies. Submitted research proposals each undergo rigorous external and internal peer-review and the ICAT fellow will be required to defend the proposal at interview prior to approval of the PhD project and funding release for years 2-4 of the ICAT Programme.

Year 2- 4

Joint Clinical (10%)
Academic (90%)

From years 2 – 4, ICAT Fellows are fully immersed in their research activity and pursue a PhD under the guidance of their chosen supervisor.

An additional but minimal clinical training component is incorporated into these three years, and, with prospective approval of the relevant training body, part of the three years of the PhD can be accredited towards clinical training. Additional support and advice is available from clinical and academic mentors when deciding upon clinical training and accreditation during these years. Importantly, clinical training should not disrupt research activity and academic training during years 2-4 of the ICAT programme. ICAT Fellows retain the title of Clinical Lecturer or equivalent during their PhD. Fellows undertake training modules focused on their chosen research area to meet any structured training requirements for PhD studies within their chosen institution. Fellows are also expected during this period to present their research findings locally, nationally and internationally and are expected to publish in peer-reviewed international journals. Throughout these years the ICAT Fellows maintain the collegial and supportive atmosphere of the programme through monthly meetings and annual scientific meetings.

Year 5-7

Joint Clinical (80%)
Academic (20%)

ICAT Fellows will return to clinical training positions in hospitals aligned with their training bodies under the guidance of their clinical and academic mentors.

Fellows must complete clinical training requirements during this time to be CCST (RoI) or CCT (NI) eligible. Support is given to candidates during this phase of the programme in taking steps that re-integrate them into a predominantly clinical environment, while importantly continuing their participation in research. In order to facilitate this transitional phase of the programme, ICAT Fellows have 20% of their overall time protected for academic activity. Early in this stage the PhD is written up and each ICAT Fellow will take their viva voce examination. Additional training is provided to ICAT Fellows during their final years in the programme, with a focus on attaining research funding, grant writing, establishing independence and the varied career paths leading to a successful academic career. ICAT Fellows are expected to continue publishing the research findings from their PhD and to work towards postdoctoral fellowships and sub-specialty training. This period of training is critical for the success of ICAT Fellows as future clinician scientist leaders, and guidance and mentorship is offered throughout this phase of the ICAT Programme.