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ICAT-2 Prospectus

ICAT-2 Programme Prospectus

The all-Ireland Irish Clinical Academic Training (ICAT) Programme trains medical, dental and veterinary graduates motivated towards a research career. ICAT is a large collaborative network involving six universities and their affiliated clinical centres across Ireland and Northern Ireland. 

We select fellows based on academic potential and excellence. ICAT is a structured research training programme which provides funding to undertake a PhD while continuing higher specialist clinical training. Each fellow receives bespoke training, which develops individuals as independent researchers capable of designing, gaining funding for, and executing research projects.  

We provide a supportive, equitable mentoring environment that nurtures talent and encourages personal and academic growth. Through our comprehensive training, we empower aspiring clinician scientists to excel in their chosen fields while celebrating and valuing the unique attributes they bring to the programme and the Irish research landscape. ICAT focuses on each fellow and their chosen careers as clinician scientists.  

The ICAT-2 programme provides a linked structure between:

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

The Health Service Executive – National Doctors Training & Planning (ROI) and Health and Social Care Research and Development Division (NI), which work with the training bodies to provide accredited training positions.

The Dental Schools and Dental Council of Ireland.
The six participating academic institutions, with strong established international reputations, oversee research and academic training.
The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, linking with the School of Veterinary Medicine at UCD.

The overarching shared vision for ICAT-2 is to train world-class clinical academic leaders, across the island of Ireland to:

  • develop a diverse, vibrant, globally competitive clinical academic workforce in Ireland.
  • meet the need for academic leadership by health and veterinary professionals.
  • prioritise the role for clinician and veterinary scientists in understanding disease through research and innovation.
  • create flexible career structures for clinical and veterinary academic researchers.
  • create flexible career structures for clinical and veterinary academic researchers.
  • increase the output of high-impact, high-quality,strategically relevant research aligned with structured academic career pathways.
  • increase the output of high-impact, high-quality, strategically relevant research aligned with structured academic career pathways.

Central to our vision is to build an all-inclusive, diverse, and broad-ranging programme which develops a lasting and integrated network of academics across the island and internationally. The need for disruptive thinking and cross-pollination of ideas between our fellows, mentors and supervisors requires that we recruit broadly from all clinical and veterinary disciplines to promote wide-ranging sharing of ideas and interests. We especially encourage and support applications from clinical and veterinary specialties and disciplines heretofore under-represented in clinical academia.

Candidates embarking on this programme will be offered the following:

  • Choice of research opportunities with internationally renowned investigators, with a strong emphasis placed on achieving the best structure for cross-institutional and multidisciplinary research, as mandated by the programme.
  • A comprehensive research/training structure including study days within the participating universities, an annual summer school and the annual ICAT Retreat
  • Funding: an annual salary based on level of training and matched to their equivalent clinical scale, generous research expenses, training allowance and PhD fees (EU rate).
  • Opportunity to apply for additional funding for an international placement (between 2 weeks – six months) at an international centre of excellence of your choice.
  • Mentorship during the fellowship with a focus on supporting fellows to choose their supervisory structure, write their PhD proposal and which helps them through key transition points (such as the transition from PhD to follow-on clinical and research opportunities).
  • Longer-term post-PhD support, training and advocacy from the ICAT Alumnus Committee.
  • Opportunity to input into the ICAT-2 Programme structure by representing ICAT-2 fellows and alumni in the ICAT-2 Steering Committee, Equality,Diversity and Inclusion Working Group, Alumnus Committee, and the Forum Physician Health and Wellbeing Group (one fellow/alumnus nominated to each committee).

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 (80%)
Academic (20%)

(clinical/academic split may vary for some specialties)

During the first year, medical and dental fellows remain in their assigned clinical training position (or university-delivered specialist dental training programme) and have 20% of their time protected for academic activities.

Fellows will have honorary academic status at the host institution for this year. NI Fellows will have academic status at QUB and will be funded jointly by NIMDTA/HSC R&D. Year one is fully accredited for clinical training. For veterinary fellows, year one will allow completion of the final step in specialisation or further development of their clinical speciality. Fellows are provided with a clinical mentor and trainer by the relevant postgraduate training body; an academic mentor is assigned by the ICAT -2 Executive Team, and their local ICAT-2 Directors are their local points of contact. As fellows are assimilated into the programme, they may identify and request a new academic mentor if they wish.

ICAT-2 fellows begin year 1 with a collegial induction event during which fellows and ICAT-2 directors and programme managers become acquainted. At this event, the core principles of the programme are shared, and the ICAT-2 fellows get their first opportunity to interact as a group and with the larger research community in ROI/NI. The ICAT-2 fellows are encouraged at this point to begin focussing their research interests and communicating with potential PhD supervisors (with input from their mentor) 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. ICAT fellows are supported throughout this year to make their final choice of a cross-disciplinary supervisory team (comprising a primary PhD supervisor and two co-supervisors from across more than one partner university). With the assistance of their academic mentor and the supervisory structure, each fellow is supported to submit a well-written, thoroughly planned research proposal, including a research budget that outlines their three-year PhD studies. Submitted research proposals undergo rigorous internal and then external peer-review and each 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-2 Programme.

ICAT-2 fellows are expected to develop knowledge-gap focussed research questions, using a methodology and research design that must be truly cross-disciplinary and which must use the available resource of the broader ICAT network. ICAT encourages research that is strategically aligned with national and international research and clinical care programmes. ICAT-2 fellows should aim to pursue ambitious research with state-of-the-art approaches.

Year 2- 4

Joint Clinical (10%)
Academic (90%)
(clinical/academic split may vary for some specialties)

From years 2 – 4, ICAT-2 Fellows are fully immersed in their research activity and pursue a PhD under the guidance of their chosen supervisory team. Fellows attend a residential summer school at the start of year 2, attending training sessions, building relationships with their cohort and with fellows from other PhD programmes.

An additional but minimal clinical component is incorporated into the PhD years. For medical and dental fellows, with prospective approval of the relevant training body, part of the three years of the PhD may be accredited towards clinical training. For veterinary fellows, the clinical component assists in maintaining their clinical specialty. All fellows will develop an Individualised Training Plan (ITP) towards the end of year 1. This is formulated with the assistance of the clinical and academic mentors and where relevant is agreed by the fellow’s training authority. The ITP serves as a roadmap which will outline each fellow’s clinical training journey (or maintenance of clinical skills for veterinary fellows) during their PhD and up to the end of their specialist training. It will be reviewed on a yearly basis at their annual clinical training assessment. Additional support and advice is available from clinical and academic mentors when deciding upon clinical training/experience and accreditation during these years. Importantly, the clinical component must not disrupt research activity and academic training during the PhD years.

ICAT-2 fellows undertake training modules across a broad range of research topics during the ICAT programme. While many of these modules will be focused on their chosen research area, it is essential that all fellows are exposed to training in techniques, skills and methodologies which may not immediately be apparent as relevant to their research question. It is essential to provide this broad spectrum of training to encourage fellows to think laterally and disruptively when problem-solving. Training and modules undertaken will also serve to meet structured training requirements for PhD studies within their chosen university. Fellows are also expected during this period to present their research findings locally, nationally and internationally. They are expected to publish in peer-reviewed international journals and are required to incorporate a structured plan for public and patient involvement (PPI) in their research.

Throughout these years the ICAT fellows maintain the collegial and supportive atmosphere of the programme through programme events (study days, summer school and ICAT Retreat).

Throughout the PhD years, fellows must also undertake at least two structured outreach activities which serve underprivileged societies, and which embrace the principles of inclusion health. Each fellow and their supervisors must also submit an annual report outlining their progress, outputs and feedback during the PhD years of the programme.