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Clinician Scientist Careers

Funding opportunities for clinicians pursuing a career in research
There is a need for dedicated clinicians to advance the translation of research into the clinic. The ICAT Programme addresses the need for training clinicians to PhD level in Ireland, and provides support to ICAT Fellows as they become independent researchers.

For all clinicians at different stages in their careers, from those who recently graduated from medical school, to those trying to gain research independence, there are opportunities to gain funding for research; a small selection are highlighted here.

Pre-ICAT opportunities

For any medical students interested in research, summer studentships are a fantastic opportunity to gain hands-on experience in a laboratory and serve as an introduction to research concept and design. These skills are invaluable when embarking upon a PhD.
The Wellcome Biomedical Vacation Scholarships fund undergraduate medical students in the UK and Ireland to undertake a self-contained research project over a 6-8 week period. The scheme gives preference to students with no research experience and aims to encourage undergraduates to consider a career in research.

The Health Research Board offer Summer Student Scholarships to undergraduates in health or social care-related disciplines. These scholarships encourage students to develop their interest in research and provide an opportunity to gain practical experience. The HRB will fund students to undertake projects that align with HRB strategy (such as patient-oriented research or population health research) for up to 8 weeks.
For recent medical graduates wishing to develop their research concept and to gain some practical experience, clinical primer schemes and academic fellowships can provide protected time for research and provide a solid foundation for a PhD.
The Academic Track for Internships enables medical interns in RoI to undertake a project in Medical Education, Clinical Research, or Leadership and Healthcare Management. The track provides interns with a 'taster' of academic research and provides a good foundation for later applications to PhD programmes such as ICAT.

Similarly, the Academic Foundation Programme supports foundation doctors in the UK to develop research skills, teaching skills and leadership and management skills, coordinated by a local university such as Queen's University Belfast.

The Wellcome Trust ISSF Academic Development Fellowship offered by QUB offers trainees the opportunity to pursue a 4-6 month research project in opthalomology or respiratory medicine. The fellowships are coordinated by QUB but the projects are partly embedded in the Moorfields Eye Hospital and the Royal Brompton Hospital. Fellows will be supported by two mentors, one from QUB and one from Imperial or University College London; this scheme introduces trainees to cross-institutional clinical research.

UCD offer the Wellcome Trust ISSF Clinical Primer Scheme, to support the early careers of individuals within the allied health services. The Clinical Primer Scheme provides an opportunity to work in a research environment, generating significant research outcomes that can be leveraged to pursue extramural funding. Successful candidates undertake an interdisciplinary research project (up to 12 months) and can avail of dedicated project management and grant writing support.

Academic Clinical Fellowships offered by QUB enable clinical trainees to develop academic skills while they are undertaking their specialty clinical training. Fellows have 25% of their time protected for research during the 2-year fellowship and are supported and mentored through the Clinical Academic Training Programme (QUB). These fellowships provide a solid foundation for trainees who wish to undertake higher research degrees.

Wellcome Research Fellowships for Health Professionals offer practising health professionals, with little or no research experience, the opportunity to carry out humanities or social science research in any area of health. The research can address a real-life issue in a professional practice, or be conceptual and/or historical in scope, and the award can be used to fund a short period of research, to enrol on a PhD or Master's, or to undertake postdoctoral research.

ICAT and the clinician scientist career path

Post-ICAT opportunities

ICAT funds Fellows during Year 1 where they have protected time to develop PhD proposals. If their PhD proposal is approved, ICAT Fellows then receive funding for a 3-year PhD in one of the six partner academic institutions. ICAT Fellows return to clinical training post-PhD but can still avail of mentoring from the ICAT Executive Team. A primary goal of the ICAT Programme is to provide continuous mentoring to ICAT Fellows throughout their academic and clinical training to CSCST/CCT and to support them as they navigate the pathway to careers in academic medicine.
Through the Clinical Academic Training Programme at QUB, clinical trainees can apply for an Academic Clinical Lectureship that will enable them to complete their clinical training while protecting 50% of their time for postdoctoral research. Successful applicants will receive mentorship and support and will be expected during this period to apply for independent research funding.

The Health Research Board Clinician Scientist Postdoctoral Fellowships support and further develop health and care practitioners as clinician scientists from any professional background through a period of mentored postdoctoral research. It particularly emphasises an ability to apply research evidence to improve healthcare and health policy and reduce the gap between research findings and clinical practice. Each fellowship will provide backfill funding for 50% FTE of the awardee for protected research time and funding for the research-related costs of a research project and will have a duration of four to five years.

In the UK, the Medical Research Council Clinician Scientist Fellowship is aimed at clinicians with higher research degrees. This scheme supports outstanding clinicians to lead their own research plans and establish their own research team to make the transition to independent investigator.

The National Institute for Health Research (UK) Fellowships provide 3 years funding for individuals who are able to demonstrate their potential as researchers and commitment to a research career, but do not, as yet, have sufficient experience to be fully independent.

The Wellcome Trust Clinical Research Career Development Fellowships enable medical, dental, veterinary and clinical psychology graduates to continue their research at postdoctoral level and develop scientific independence. The fellowships provide support for up to eight years and the flexibility to balance research and clinical responsibilities. The fellowships are split into two stages: (1) Exploration and Consolidation (to consolidate your research experience and explore new areas of research) and (2) early Independence (for applicants ready to lead an independent research programme).

The path to independence

Following several years' of postdoctoral experience, the next step is to gain independence, lead a research team, train undergradaute and postgraduate students, and to leverage research funding as a principal investigator. ICAT fellows are selected for their potential to become leaders in academic medicine with international reputations for research excellence.

Health Research Board Emerging Clinician Scientist Awards support health practitioners by the development of a cohort of new and talented emerging clinician scientists in the Republic of Ireland enabling their transition towards research independence. This scheme will target health practitioners who have already consolidated their research knowledge, skills, methodologies and capabilities through post-doctoral research and are currently progressing towards research independence.

The Medical Research Council New Investigator Research Grant (NIRG) is aimed at researchers who are capable of becoming independent Principal Investigators during the duration of the grant, which funds up to 50% of the applicant's time over 3 years.