Race Against Dementia (RAD) was founded by Sir Jackie Stewart to raise money to fund breakthrough and innovative dementia research. When I started working for the charity in 2018, over £2m had been raised, and my first task was to create a programme for investing in research.
Working with Alzheimer’s Research UK (ARUK), we created the Race Against Dementia Fellowship Programme. With only one dementia researcher for every 4-5 cancer researchers, one of the challenges in this field is to have more scientists join the ‘race’. ARUK’s research highlights that graduate PhDs with relevant skills are vulnerable to leaving academic research to pursue alternative careers. So we decided to focus on postdoctoral fellowships to help draw more scientists into this important career track.
The RAD Trustees wanted to create a highly prestigious and sought-after grant, that would attract the best and brightest candidates. There are several brilliant fellowship programmes already out there, but they tend to be awarded to more experienced postdocs, 5+ years post PhD, at a point when they have already chosen the research career path and have built up a track record. We wanted to provide something equivalent for early postdocs, within 3 years of completion of their PhD. Targeting this career stage fills an important gap in the dementia research career pipeline, and has the potential to fast-track early career researchers (ECRs) through the postdoctoral stage to a tenure track.
Key differentiators of the RAD Fellowship with ARUK are:
- Each grant is over 5 years, rather than the usual 3-year fellowships, creating space for researchers to explore more innovative avenues of research without the pressure of needing to demonstrate quick results that would satisfy the next grant application in the third year.
- Grants are up to £500k, supporting essential equipment, travel and research assistance – rather than Fellows needing to seek additional sources of funding for each of these activities from different funders.
- Collaboration outside the host institution are not only encouraged, but are also financially supported. These could be international and/or include collaboration with commercial partners.
- The RAD Fellows form a global virtual team, and are part of a wider RAD network that can provide valuable contacts and opportunities for career progress.
- The RAD Fellows are provided with personal development and mentorship opportunities to prepare them as future leaders in their field. The programme includes connection with F1 teams (Red Bull Racing and McLaren Racing) and other high-tech commercial research, through which Fellows can explore tools and techniques, as well as aspects of culture and specific work processes, that might be applied to dementia research to accelerate progress.
- RAD Fellows are also recipients of world class learning and development opportunities, such as used in F1 teams and other successful commercial enterprises. In 2020, this has included performance coaching from Hintsa, communication and presentation training from Kingstree, and leadership and collaboration from Ignition.
In 2019, our first RAD-ARUK Fellows were appointed: Dr Cara Croft, Dr Claire Durrant and Dr Christy Hung. In 2020 they were joined by Dr Ellen Dicks, who is a RAD-Mayo Fellow, in a sister Fellowship Programme. Later this year, we will appoint two further RAD Fellows, in collaboration with Dementia Australia.
If you are interested in joining the growing virtual team of RAD Fellows, to shape the future of dementia research, we are currently accepting applications for our second round with ARUK. Find out more about how to apply on the ARUK website, you can also hear Dr Clare Durrant and I on the Dementia Researcher Podcast.
Dr Penny Moyle came to the UK from Australia in 1991 to complete doctoral studies in psychology at Oxford University. Her research at that time related to stress and change at work, during times of organisational change. In her career as a business psychologist, she has applied the lessons from that research as a consultant and as a manager. It is this work that led her to the role of Chief Executive Officer of Race Against Dementia. Aside from this, Penny continues to work as a business psychologist, mostly getting involved in leadership development, executive coaching and coach training.
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