Podcasts

Podcast – Whats new with Alzheimers Society Grants

Hosted by Adam Smith

Reading Time: 45 minutes

Adam Smith, chats to the Alzheimer’s Society research grants team, discussing their newly launched 2022 funding call, getting details on their all new PhD, Fellowship, Careers and Project Grants.

Sophie Roberts, Dr Jennie Gabriel and Katherine Gray – share details on how the Society’s funding programmes have been transformed and updated to better support ECRs, with improvements in the applicatio process, contract lenghts and stipends, and all new programmes. They also discuss eligabilty, and how to apply.

For details on all the calls visit:

https://www.dementiaresearcher.nihr.ac.uk/alzheimers-society-launch-new-funding-schemes/

https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/research/researchers/our-application-process

To keep up to date with news from Alzheimer’s Society Research Team you can now follow them on twitter @AlzSocResearch – there you will also find details of an upcoming webinar for applicants.


Click here to read a full transcript of this podcast

Adam Smith:

Hello, and thank you for listening. This audio recording was made on Twitter Spaces on Wednesday the 15th of June, 2022.

Adam Smith:

Thank you very much for joining our Spaces discussion today. I’m Adam Smith. I’m the Program Director for Dementia Research through University College, London, and it’s brilliant to be hosting this discussion. Today, I’m joined by my colleagues from the Alzheimer’s Society to discuss their latest grant round that sees them open 10 new schemes, all of which have been refreshed and updated to improve their support for researchers and particularly for early career researchers. But before we get into that, let’s meet our guests. I’m joined by the brilliant Sophie Roberts, the amazing Jennie Gabriel and the fantastic Katherine Gray. Hi everybody. You can unmute yourselves and say hello.

Katherine Gray:

Hello.

Dr Jennie Gabriel:

Hello.

Sophie Roberts:

Hi.

Adam Smith:

Great. So let’s do some proper introductions. Sophie, why don’t you introduce yourself and tell us what you do.

Sophie Roberts:

Great. Thanks Adam. So, hi everyone. I’m really excited to be doing one of these. I’ve not been on a Twitter live before, so it’s very exciting. I’m Sophie Roberts, the Senior Research Grants Officer at Alzheimer’s Society. As part of my role, I help to run our grants program, handling everything from the designing of different grant schemes and the grant review process all the way through to the management of our funded awards. I’ve been working with Society for just over three years now as part of the grants team, and in my time I’ve looked after both the fellowship program, but most recently I’ve been looking after our PhD Studentships and making sure that they have everything they need to be successful.

Adam Smith:

Fantastic. And Jennie, why don’t you go next?

Dr Jennie Gabriel:

Hi everyone. So I’m Jennie Gabriel. I’m a Research Grants Officer working with Sophie, so we work within the same team. We do a lot of the grants management as well as some of our ECR support and things as well. So that’s kind of what I’ve been working on. I have been working on our ECR retreat, which is very exciting, and I’m sure we’ll talk a little bit about that later. And I’m also our Fellowship Portfolio Lead, so I speak to a lot of our fellows and help them with their grants and support them as well. I, myself, come from an academic background, so I’ve kind of come into the Alzheimer’s Society with that kind of experience, and we’ve had a lot of conversations and some exciting chats about the academic community and what we can do for dementia researchers.

Adam Smith:

Wonderful. That sounds like a busy job. In fact, all of you sound like you’ve got busy jobs. Thank you so much for finding time to talk today. Okay. So last but not least, we’ve got Katherine.

Katherine Gray:

Yeah. Hello. Also a Twitter Spaces noob, so this is all very exciting. I hope you can all hear me. So I’m Katherine Gray, I’m the Research Communications Manager at the Alzheimer’s Society. I’ve worked for the society for quite a long time, mainly in the research grants team, but now moved over to research comms. So the role of our team is to sort of spread the word about research, the research outside and society funds sort of internally, and to our donors and supporters, and then of course our researcher facing comms, and we have a new research Twitter account, which is very exciting. I think currently a listener to this lurking in the group so please do give us a follow as we are quite a new account, and we want to spread the word. But yeah, looking forward to sort of telling you all about our plans today for our new schemes.

Adam Smith:

Thank you, Katherine. I have sent a co-host invitation to your new super research account. So hopefully somebody’s at the other end to accept that.

Katherine Gray:

Okay. I’ll send you a little message.

Adam Smith:

Great. So thank you very much, everyone. It’s really great to have you here. As Katherine just said, we should point out that there’s a brand new Alzheimer’s Society Researcher Twitter account. It’s there, now accepted as a co-host so it won’t be speaking.

Katherine Gray:

Excellent. Thank you.

Adam Smith:

It won’t be speaking, but we do very much encourage all of you to give that account, a tap and a follow if you haven’t already done that by now, and that account will be used to keep you up to date and all the research news from outside the society.

Adam Smith:

So I hope everyone listening has a pen and paper ready, but if not, don’t worry, we’re recording this and the chat will be released into our YouTube channel and our podcast channels later today as well with proper transcription for those who are unable to listen and we have turned on captions there at the bottom, but apologies for the captions because somebody, if you see some great gaffes, please do screen grab those, but it’s already made one. It says gaps, not gaffes, but hopefully that’ll help if you don’t have the ability to listen, or if you’re in a place where listening out loud isn’t an option.

Adam Smith:

So let’s get into it. I’m sure all of you’re aware already, but the Alzheimer’s Society Research Program provides funding for all career levels across clinical, biomedical research and care research with funding for career stage grants, including PhD studentships and fellowships and career development grants, and of course, big project funding for established and independent researchers, and of course, brilliant things like they contribute to Dementia Researcher, which we’re incredibly grateful for and huge initiatives like the Dementia Research Institute. But in this call, there are 10 grant programs. However, before we get into the individual calls, I know an awful lot of thought has been put into structuring the grants or restructuring the grants. So Jennie, can I maybe come to you first and ask you to talk to some of the background work that went into this round and how you’ve developed them and then I’ll come to each of you to contribute to that.

Dr Jennie Gabriel:

Yeah, absolutely. So when we started to review our funding schemes, we knew early on that any changes that we made had to be to the benefit of the research community. We’ve heard time and time again about how hard Researcher’s being hit through the pandemic and the early career researchers were some of the worst that had been hit by the reductions in funding and the reductions in kind of support strategies and other things that have been normally available. So through casual discussion with researchers, we also knew that there were a lot of difficulties in progressing through the career research pipeline and how funding doesn’t necessarily support each of the different stages equally. And that was something that we wanted to address to kind of future-proof the research career pipeline.

Dr Jennie Gabriel:

So this project started with some research. We were looking at what grant schemes were still running, as I know that a lot of them shut down throughout the pandemic, and identifying what we felt were gaps within the funding available to Dementia Researchers. So what we started with was talking to BHF. So we know that their funding portfolio is extensive so we were finding out how their grants relate to each of the career stages. Alongside this, we spent a lot of time trying to map the clinical research pipeline. So this actually turned into a huge undertaking. I don’t think we really appreciated before quite how challenging it can be for clinical staff to enter to the research sphere. So this isn’t just for doctors, it’s for nurses and allied health professionals too. So from that kind of aspect, we realized that we really needed to do more to support our clinical researchers and pathways into clinical research, as well as our ECR focus.

Dr Jennie Gabriel:

So this then led us to speak to a lot of researchers. So we were talking to people across the biomedical, the care, the clinical researchers. We sat at round table discussions with participants ranging from junior fellows to world leaders in dementia research, and we were talking to them about support and funding and what is available for helping researchers throughout their careers. We also spoke to our newly developed Research Strategy Council, so these are a group are very established researchers who help us within the society, and they were extremely supportive of this work, and they really acknowledged that ECRs do need a lot more support and a lot more help. We spoke to other funders, BHF, as I’ve mentioned, as well as Diabetes UK, NIHR, I won’t name them all, but we’ve spoken to quite a few. And we recorded a lot of feedback to see where these major gaps were within the dementia research funding and to discuss with them how other funders were supporting their researchers and to see if there was anything that we could learn and we could implement as well.

Dr Jennie Gabriel:

So overall, this has led to our new grant round. We’ve designed this to try and fill some of the gaps and to do our bit to help future-proof the research career pipeline. What we’ve really tried to achieve here is redesign our grants to offer support for every career stage, but also make sure that what our grants provide is enough to help ECRs progress through their careers to ensure that they aren’t being held back by lack of opportunity, by lack of circumstances, and just allow researchers to do the best research that they can, really.

Adam Smith:

You caught me off guard there. I was still muted. So, wow, that’s a massive undertaking then. So you’ve actually had early career researchers as well involved in this discussion about how the previous schemes could be improved.

Dr Jennie Gabriel:

Oh, absolutely. Yeah.

Adam Smith:

Brilliant. Have you got anything you wanted to add to that, Katherine?

Katherine Gray:

Yeah, I think obviously Jennie’s talked about sort of the background that we did for this project and sort of the consultation we’ve sort of undertaken over the last year, 18 months or so, but I think want to highlight as well, that we’re really proud of our history of supporting early career researchers since we started funding research almost 30 years ago, so shout out to Professor Nick Fox, one of our first fellows. And we reaffirmed our commitment in 2014 by establishing our Dementia Researcher Leaders Program. So we’re really, in addition to all the work that we’ve done over the last 18 months, we are building on that history that we’re really proud of. And obviously we’re going to get into the details of these really exciting new schemes that we’ve launched this week or just last week, but we really want to take all of our work in sort of the early career researcher space to the next level, really, and be really ambitious and bold about what we can do to support dementia researchers throughout their careers.

Katherine Gray:

And we want to be known as the best funder of early career researchers in the UK, and that’s not just for dementia. So we’re being super bold about attracting and retaining the best ECRs into dementia research. And as Jennie said, we don’t want to just give funding to do the bare minimum. We want to provide enough funding for early career researchers to really develop ideas, think big and progress through their career stages. And another approach that we’re taking now is looking at, we can’t do this all by ourselves, we’re only one team, so how can we work in partnership. As part of the new schemes, we launched a partnership with Daphne Jackson Trust, and we’ll talk a little bit more about that fellowship later, but we’re also working alongside NIHR, the Royal Society of Medicine, and sort of exploring more partnerships at the moment, sort of really maximize what we are doing and sort of linking to other people’s networks as well.

Adam Smith:

That’s great, isn’t it? Because I think this is the… Fellowships and things like that are expensive and being able to co-fund that while attracting people to dementia research, potentially people who’ve been working in other fields as well, is a way that we can grow our community.

Katherine Gray:

Yeah, definitely. And it’s about promoting dementia as an option to a lot of people, and unfortunately, it’s not had quite the profile that some other conditions have had and it’s not been seen sort of as attractive or well funded and there lots of wider issues why that’s the case, and I think we really want to change that perception and draw people in. And I think it goes beyond funding as well. We also want our approach as a funder to be really flexible and inclusive, and that’s my nice segue to handing over to Sophie who’s going to talk a little bit more about our sort of approach.

Adam Smith:

Go on Sophie.

Katherine Gray:

Sorry Adam.

Adam Smith:

Tell us… no, no, no.

Katherine Gray:

I stole your line there.

Adam Smith:

No, it’s absolutely perfect. That’s what I love.

Katherine Gray:

[inaudible 00:13:13].

Sophie Roberts:

Thanks Katherine. Yeah. So I guess one of the things I’m most proud of as part of our program is that we really do take this flexible approach to funding and addressing some of those issues that occur for equality, diversity and inclusion. So we work with all of our grant holders to find sort of really the best way of working for them, whether that’s shifting to part-time work to cope with the demands of caring responsibilities, and of course that’s not just childcare, but all kinds of caring responsibilities, including for parents and others as well. So we want to make sure that they have the right kind of support for them.

Sophie Roberts:

We have a number of policies that we’ve developed over the last few years relating to things like maternity, paternity, adoption, shared parental leave as well as sick leave, and I guess to note there what I think is so important is for PhD students, because a lot of the times they’re actually really left out of the sort of care and support that’s offered at universities because they’re not technically classed as staff, despite the fact that they do in inordinate amount of work for universities, but we have a special policy for them that makes sure that they’re covered with the statutory leave for their caring responsibilities as well, which I’m super proud of.

Sophie Roberts:

And outside of that, we’re also trialing childcare support for our funded researchers to attend our conferences. We’ll be running this for the first time at the end of June, so hopefully we’ll get some good data back from that and be able to roll that out to our conferences again. Basically we just want to make sure that we’re taking off some of the pressure from our researchers so that they can get the most out of their time in our funding program while also maintaining their sort of mental and physical health.

Sophie Roberts:

We have tons of options available if you want to find out some more on that, we’ve got loads of resources on our website, as well as a recently recorded webinar with Dr. Natalie Merchant about our flexible funding, so give that one a listen. But we’ve made some major changes to our grant schemes that we believe will address some of these barriers that early career [inaudible 00:15:30] as they tread their path to independence. So, as we’ve mentioned, I’m especially excited about the Daphne Jackson Trust Fellowship which is launching this year. I’m super passionate about ED&I and I’m really excited to continue our work in this space over the next sort of year.

Adam Smith:

I think that’s great. I mean, recognizing that careers all change, right, and one size doesn’t fit all, and if we want to both attract new people and retain them, having funding which is flexible to individual needs and people who still want to have a life outside academia, which I know is breaking the rules, but also in clinical work, I think particularly in clinical, it’s quite hard. I mean, the NHS in the UK is stressed right now and trying to escape from your day job to think about research is tricky, but so it’s even more important to have the right funding in place, but great that you’re not just thinking of this as a funding distributor but as a place where you can get support and things as well, which is great. And not, of course this is something that all UK funders and the Wellcome Trust and Alzheimer’s Research UK and others have been looking at how they can better support people. So fantastic to see Alzheimer’s Society doing this as well, and leading the way with some brilliant new schemes, which we are going to come to in a few minutes.

Adam Smith:

So awesome tweet about all the thought that’s gone into this. As our regular podcast listeners will know, I chair the ISTAART PIA to support early career researchers, and a few months ago we published the results of a massive survey, which looked at the lives and careers and challenges for early career researchers. And inflexible funding programs, short term contracts, career uncertainty were all massive issues that contributed to losing researchers. So having Alzheimer’s Society really take that to heart. I’m not saying that you changed because of our survey, but it’s great to see that this is happening, because it really does get to the core of addressing some of the issues that we know have been raised in the past.

Adam Smith:

So it’s time to give our listeners the information that they actually came here for. We’re 20 minutes in and they’ve just had the background. So let’s talk about the individual calls and then at the end, there’ll be a chance for everybody to ask questions. And while you are listening, feel free to click the tweets that are tagged at the top of the space where you’ll find a link to the new Twitter account for Alzheimer’s Society research, some listings of all the grant calls and the chat. We were just saying about the new Daphne Jackson Trust as well.

Adam Smith:

So Sophie, I’m going to come to you first, because you’ve nicely grouped these on your website, which makes my job as the host of this a little bit easier. So tell us about the PhD schemes to start with.

Sophie Roberts:

Of course. So I guess I won’t go into the sort of nitty gritty details of each of these schemes, but I wanted to touch upon a few sort of major changes we’ve made to our PhD program. And currently we offer two standalone PhD funding grant options, which includes our regular PhD Studentship for sort of promising graduates who are looking to undertake a PhD in dementia related topics. And then our Clinician and Healthcare Professionals Training Fellowship, which is aimed at clinicians or allied health professionals from all sorts of backgrounds who’d like to venture into dementia research as well. And the third option that we have for our PhD Studentships is our clinical training partnerships. Our clinical training partnerships are available to institutions that have the capacity in infrastructure to support two or potentially three clinical PhD candidates at once.

Sophie Roberts:

We sort of recognize that the day to day reality, as you mentioned Adam, for many practicing sort of clinicians and healthcare practitioners meant that they probably had a lot less time to apply directly for funding themselves. So we designed this scheme to allow prospective supervisors to apply for the funding of multiple projects and appoint the fellows to undertake their PhDs after the application was funded. And this is a really nice one as you come in sort of like a cohort, which is really lovely. But our regular PhD two fundings, the PhD Studentship and the Clinician Healthcare Professionals Training Fellowship, a mouthful, we’ve overhauled those two grants to make them a lot more competitive and much more helpful, I think. So I guess one of the things that we noticed over the past few years is that the standard three year funding model, which is common for PhDs, wasn’t really working. We had loads of requests for extensions and actually it made more sense that we followed the four years of funding. So from this round on, we will be offering, as part of those PhD schemes, four years of full funding.

Sophie Roberts:

And I guess the most important part of this is that we’ve made that a really competitive piece of funding because you get an actual sort of livable stipend, which we’ve noticed was really tough actually and it makes a lot of difference to the mental health of our PhD Studentships who might be working second jobs to keep up with their funding or taking additional loans, whereas now we have a really healthy, livable stipend that people can apply for as well as full coverage for four years of university fees at UK rates. And additionally to those, we’ve got some additional funds covering career development that can be used for attending conferences, training courses, lab visits, or [inaudible 00:21:36] as well. So we’re hoping that these will be a lot more competitive and hopefully offers real support. And…

Adam Smith:

So can I just jump in with some questions then-

Sophie Roberts:

Yeah.

Adam Smith:

… about the PhD Studentships. So if I remember this rightly and I should pull up the webpage which will make this easier. So there are three separate schemes. There’s the PhD Studentships, the clinical training partnerships, and the clinical and healthcare professional training partnerships. Studentships, so this isn’t something, so I’ve just finished my MSC, I fancy doing a PhD, but it’s a topic that I’m choosing. I couldn’t apply to that scheme, this is one for people who want to supervise PhD students to apply to get funding to then hire some PhD students?

Sophie Roberts:

So it depends. You can do that route, as in supervisors can apply for that funding. When you apply to the program itself, all applications have to be submitted by supervisors. But if you were a master’s student who was really, really keen to do a PhD in dementia-related research, you would just need to find a supervisor who runs in a sort of topic [inaudible 00:22:57].

Adam Smith:

I see. So it can be top down and bottom up. So as a supervisor, you might think I’ve got a great idea, I’m going to go and try and get some funding to have a PhD student come and do a particular project, or if you’re out there and you’ve already got an idea in mind and you’d like PhD funding, you’d need to find a supervisor and then persuade that person to apply for funding, which they then use for you.

Sophie Roberts:

Yes, exactly.

Adam Smith:

Right. And the clinical training partnership. So there’s two ways to do this. Either… So that can be something you apply for as an individual-

Sophie Roberts:

Yes.

Adam Smith:

… or as an organization.

Sophie Roberts:

Yes, exactly. Hopefully there’s an option for everyone in terms of clinicians and healthcare professionals, whether you have a little bit more flexibility in your NHS Trust, who they’re supportive of doing research and you can apply as yourself with an institution or if you’re an institution who’s looking to host more clinical research, you can attract people that would-

Adam Smith:

So typically the clinical training partnerships. So this isn’t something that’s just aimed at doctors, is it?

Sophie Roberts:

No, no. This is all kinds of people, anyone from, as I said, a clinical or allied health professional background. So we have a few running at the moment that include occupational therapists, nurses, all kinds of people that come together to do this research.

Adam Smith:

So psychologists, nurses, OTs, physios, speech and language therapists, people from-

Sophie Roberts:

Yeah.

Adam Smith:

And is there, do you have to have been in that job for a period of time? What if you’ve only, you are kind of still a junior doctor, although of course they’re all junior doctors nowadays, but do you have to have been in that job for a period of time before you think about a clinical training partnership?

Sophie Roberts:

We only ask that you’ve completed all of your relevant examinations, but other than that, no, it can be used for anyone who comes in and has a really great idea and thinks they’re the best place to do that.

Adam Smith:

So you can jump into this even if you’re straight out of, kind of in the first few months straight out university as a student nurse, you could go straight into that as a research career option. So if you’ve just started in the NHS and you’ve just done a year there and thinking, oh my goodness, this isn’t quite what I expected, this would be perfect for you. Not that I’m sure that there’s anybody listening like that.

Sophie Roberts:

Oh yeah. As I said, as long as you’ve done your [inaudible 00:25:30] training and you have your registered membership, we’re welcome to apply and happy to take you.

Adam Smith:

And do you need the support of your organization? Do they have to sign off on this or is this something you could just do?

Sophie Roberts:

So you would need a supervisor, so someone who can watch over and make sure that you’ve got the support you need in place to complete the award. But yeah, we just were looking for teams that really want to support clinical researchers to come in and do some really great work and goodness knows we need it.

Adam Smith:

And just, I mean, this is thinking off the top of my head here, but if you are in the situation where you want to apply for that and you don’t currently have an immediate supervisor in mind and you need a little bit of help, by all means we have a WhatsApp group where you can join and they can talk and perhaps recommend somebody. And I’m sure if they reached out to you through your inquiries account, you might be able to advise people a little bit on that as well.

Sophie Roberts:

Definitely.

Adam Smith:

Great. And then as an organization, so when a supervisor might want to apply, is there a limit on how many they can apply for?

Sophie Roberts:

We don’t actually have a limit to how many you can apply for, but I suppose there’s an issue there about competition and whether or not there’s enough funding to go around, A, and B, whether or not I suppose there are other competitive applications in the process that might out-compete you. So we don’t have a formal limit, but it’s unlikely that I suppose you’d be funded for all of your PhDs if you’ve applied for more than one.

Adam Smith:

Great. So don’t hedge your bets. I mean, it is wonderful that you’ve increased that stipend as well because the cost of living’s rising. And so you’ve increased the money people are going to get in their pockets as well to keep themselves going during this period of studentship.

Sophie Roberts:

Oh yeah. We totally understand the sort of pressures that one faces while living, not just in London, but around the country and just how little funding was on offer for student stipends in the past. So we really wanted to make sure that they could spend all of their time focusing on their research and doing the best work possible and not have to worry about whether or not they were going to have meals that weren’t just cheese sandwiches or having some social life outside of their work.

Adam Smith:

Which is incredibly important and great that this, of course, we have a wonderful UK university system where we know that there’s dementia research happening pretty much in every university across the country. I know we always think, I mean, I’m biased because I work at UCL and we always think about big places like UCL and Imperial and Kings and places like that, but there’s so much happening elsewhere in the country as well. So it doesn’t matter where you are and it’s great that Alzheimer’s Society really do fund across the UK. So this isn’t only for England, right? This is for people in Wales, Northern Ireland, Scotland?

Sophie Roberts:

Yep. We fund in all parts of the United Kingdom.

Adam Smith:

Great. Okay. I think that’s enough for PhD Studentships but if you’ve got questions that haven’t been raised in that little bit of a chat there, save them up to the end and you’ll be able to click the little, you see the bottom of your screen, you’ve got a heart and in the left hand side, you’ve got a request to speak button. You can press that request to speak button and we’ll enable your microphone to take your questions later on. And if you like what you hear, I think it’s always motivating, if you click that little heart, you can give us a clap or a wave. So do that if you like what you’re hearing. Thank you very much for talking us through those, Sophie. Jennie, tell us about fellowships.

Dr Jennie Gabriel:

Hi. Yeah, we’ve got three fellowships on offer. So these are quite different to what we have previously offered and we’ve kind of broadened the space a little bit that we now cover with our fellowships. So for our very early career researchers, we’re opening a Postdoctoral Fellowship. So this is up to four years working on a project with the support and guidance of a supervisor. We’ve designed this so that it’s actually, it’s the postdoctoral fellow who will be the lead applicant on this. So it’s to allow the fellow to then gain some grant writing experience and kind of give their CV little boost to say that they have brought in this grant funding as well.

Dr Jennie Gabriel:

This is open from final year PhD. So we would expect the applicant to have finished their PhD by the time they started the grant, but if they know that that’s going to happen, then they can always apply whilst they are still completing their PhD. And so we’ve designed this round and this fellowship to allow postdocs to gain more career boosting skills. So like I said, this is like bringing in large grant funding, but also skills training, and it comes with a career support budget that we are also offering our PhD students. And this also comes with an overseas secondment option so that we wanted to offer that kind of level of skills training as well. So we will offer some funding to try and facilitate that and to allow that to happen so you can go away and learn new techniques or get experience in another lab.

Dr Jennie Gabriel:

And this was kind of to address one of the issues that was raised in our round table discussion saying that kind of, that flexible approach and that attitude within academia that you have to go overseas and you have to get this experience from other labs isn’t always possible, especially if people have families or they have care commitments or there might be health issues that prevent them from being able to do that. So kind of the shortest stint we think might enable more people to be able to take advantage of that and to progress their careers through that.

Dr Jennie Gabriel:

We’ve also included an optional summit internship. So this is kind of based similar to our undergraduate research bursaries that we used to offer, which was a summer studentship. And we’ve brought this into our Postdoctoral Fellowship for two reasons. One, to allow the postdoctoral fellow to gain some supervisor experience. We know that not all postdocs are allowed or are permitted by their PIs to supervise summer students.

Dr Jennie Gabriel:

But we also want to address one of the issues that was raised during the COVID pandemic. So we know that people that have just graduated or have graduated in the past couple of years haven’t necessarily had research experience. They would’ve missed out on that as labs were closed throughout the summers, or they were closed throughout their final year when they would usually undertake a research project. So we’ve kind of broadened this from our Undergraduate Research Bursary to turn it into a Research Internship, because we hope then that people who may have graduated recently might still be interested in research. And if they can take advantage of one of these opportunities, there’s still a chance that they could kind of come back and get a little bit of research experience rather than just targeting it at current undergraduates.

Dr Jennie Gabriel:

Then moving on to more senior researchers. We have the Dementia Research Leaders Fellowship. So this is our longest fellowship and provides up to five years of funding that we hope will allow researchers to progress into more permanent research positions from this, so we’re offering quite a bit of support along with this as well. Again, we’ve designed this in response to issues that have been raised previously from the fellows that we’ve spoken to.

Dr Jennie Gabriel:

So one of the key issues that were raised when we spoke to them was that they have a lack of time to apply for funding to build their research team. As a fellow, you spend so much time teaching, you spend so much time writing grants, writing papers and focusing on your own research as well, obviously that’s key to it, that you don’t necessarily have the time to go out and to employ some research staff that will help you and will help to alleviate some of the work that you need to get done. So our DRL Fellowship now comes with a fully funded PhD Studentship, or this could be equivalent costs towards research support staff, just to help our fellows kind of get a little bit of a step and get their research groups off the ground.

Dr Jennie Gabriel:

And finally, we have our Daphne Jackson Fellowship and we’ve spoken about this a lot, we’re very proud of this. So this is an opportunity for researchers who have been forced to leave research or have felt that they were forced to leave research due to health or care reasons and allow them to return to their research careers. So we’re really keen to support skilled and talented individuals reenter research. It’s a great loss that you should be forced to leave, quite frankly, and it’s a great loss to the research community. So we’d like to make this process as easy as possible and to offer the support and guidance that returning researchers might need and the Daphne Jackson Trust have an excellent reputation for this. So this grant comes not just with funding, but there’s the extensive support that is provided by the Daphne Jackson Trust as well. And so we want to ensure that our fellows don’t find themselves in a single swim situation when they return to dementia research and we think that our partnership with the Daphne Jackson Trust will really, really help with that.

Dr Jennie Gabriel:

So we’ve been very mindful throughout the design process to make sure that our fellowships offer career support as well as funding, and I think, I like to think anyway, that we’ve kind of incorporated that into all three of our fellowship schemes.

Adam Smith:

Great. Okay. Are you ready? I’ve got questions. So, if I’m understanding this correctly, the first scheme, the Postdoctoral Fellowship, is the equivalent of kind of your old school junior, what you might have called a junior fellowship or other programs might call it that. Is that right? So this is the one you should apply for perhaps as your first postdoc or if you’ve been doing, or if you’re just coming to the end of your PhD or if you’ve maybe only been a postdoc for a year or two, that’s the scheme you might consider.

Dr Jennie Gabriel:

Possibly. We’ve not put any years post-PhD limits to any of our grants. So I kind of, I would like to move away from the idea that you might have only had one postdoc or you might be so many years post-PhD. So-

Adam Smith:

Do you know what, can I just jump in there to completely support you on that? Because I think this is the problem is, is when you have a junior postdoc junior fellowship and then a senior fellowship. If you haven’t then got something else to go to, would you just carry on in those roles? I mean, I think that kind of breaks it down to suggest that there’s a fixed period of time that you’d be a postdoc before you progress on which of course, we know in reality, it’s not like that. You could be a postdoc for quite a long time. So well done on that.

Dr Jennie Gabriel:

Thank you.

Adam Smith:

Pound the back.

Dr Jennie Gabriel:

So yeah, kind of the way that we’ve kind of viewed this is not so much, oh, you are this many years post-PhD, but you are in that postdoctoral stage but not ready yet to apply for the senior fellowships. So the Postdoctoral Fellowship is kind of designed to help you get that skills boost, that CV boost, that would then allow you to be able to apply for a more senior fellowship.

Adam Smith:

So if you’ve already, let’s just give you a scenario. If you’ve already had one fellowship, which was say a two or three year fellowship, apologies, you could still apply for that. You could still apply for that one?

Dr Jennie Gabriel:

Yes.

Adam Smith:

There you go. Perfect. And you mentioned before the increase in bursary on our PhD Studentships. Have you looked at that for the fellowships as well?

Dr Jennie Gabriel:

Absolutely.

Adam Smith:

Great. So you’re going to pay more as well, and well done, big pound on the back for making this four years. I think I incorrectly tweeted that it was five because somebody told me five, but it’s a four year fellowship, funding for four years.

Dr Jennie Gabriel:

The Postdoctoral Fellowship is for four years. The Dementia Research Leaders is for five.

Adam Smith:

That’s exciting. And so for the four year program, I gather it’s not just money to cover your salary, there’s money to actually do stuff as well. So you don’t have to get the fellowship and then spend the next six months applying for funding to do actual research.

Dr Jennie Gabriel:

No, it comes with a research and consumables budget as well.

Adam Smith:

So researching, consumable budget, bigger bursary and a career support budget. That sounds, is that new?

Dr Jennie Gabriel:

It’s something that we have continually offered on many of our grants, our PhD Studentships as well. We have kind of, we’ve leveled it across our grant offer and we’ve increased it a little bit just to allow people to be able to attend some more conferences, and we know that kind of the costs of attending these conferences can get quite high, especially if it’s a keynote or something quite niche. So yeah, it’s something that we’ve always offered, but we’ve kind of highlighted it a bit more now to make sure that people know that that money is available.

Adam Smith:

Wonderful. And am I right in thinking, so these aren’t clinical. Are they clinical?

Dr Jennie Gabriel:

The Postdoctoral Fellowships are open to, well, they can be open to clinical staff. We do have some other grants though that are… Yeah, they are open to clinical staff as well. We would be open to discussions. We know that clinical staff at different levels can have some quite high salaries associated with them as well. We are very open to discussion with anyone who might be applying from a clinical background to talk about what their grant application would look like and will help them in any way we can.

Adam Smith:

That’s great. Because I know from talking to quite a few clinical doctoral candidates that when they finish their doctorate, they do feel a little bit… I mean obviously there are various programs in the NIHR they can apply for, but making that transition from a clinical doctorate is quite a tricky one. So great that you are looking at that too. And the senior, not senior, sorry, Leadership Fellowship. So who would typically apply for that? So this is somebody who’s already had some fellowships before. This probably wouldn’t be the first fellowship you’d apply for out of your PhD.

Dr Jennie Gabriel:

No, we’d expect applicants for the Dementia Research Leadership Fellow that they would’ve had previous junior fellowships. This is kind of seen as a stepping stone to becoming an established and salaried researcher within a research institution. And part of this is that we actually expect a written kind of commitment from the research institution of them helping with a career plan and with the career development of the fellow to help them in that path.

Adam Smith:

Right. And do you apply for those, both of these you apply for as an individual?

Dr Jennie Gabriel:

Yes.

Adam Smith:

Great. And then the Daphne… So others, I’m sure, who’ve been listening will be familiar with the Daphne Jackson Trust. They’ve got these great programs trying to encourage people from different backgrounds. So is this to encourage perhaps people who may have left to start a family and then return? Is that in this scheme or is that a separate one? I know they have one like that.

Dr Jennie Gabriel:

Yeah. At the moment the Daphne Jackson Trust only offer fellowships, well, yeah, it would be for people that have left to start a family, sorry, that was my bad. It’s for kind of like care commitments and for healthcare reasons. So those are kind of the two primary reasons for leaving research that this grant will cover.

Adam Smith:

Great. So you could actually theoretically apply for the Daphne Jackson and the Postdoctoral Fellowship as well, couldn’t you? You could apply for both and hedge your bets. I love asking, I’m asking you all these awkward questions.

Dr Jennie Gabriel:

Yeah, it’s great.

Adam Smith:

I’m just going to save you getting these questions later on from our email.

Dr Jennie Gabriel:

No, it’s fine. Yes, you could, in theory. The one thing that I would say is that the Daphne Jackson Trust have just such a good reputation to help people to return to research. It comes with such a level of support that I’m not sure that from the society perspective, we would be able to match.

Adam Smith:

Yeah.

Dr Jennie Gabriel:

So as a returner, realistically, you would be offered a lot more support, a lot more help, a lot more guidance by going through the Daphne Jackson Fellowship. But in theory, yes, you could apply to both.

Adam Smith:

Okay. And we’ve talked a little, you mentioned there about the internship program. So is this something, I don’t think I fully understood, so would you allocate interns or do you find them, do they find them?

Dr Jennie Gabriel:

No, this will be open to the fellow to find them. A lot of institutions and universities have kind of internal ways of recruiting summer studentships because I know that a lot of universities and research institutes have their own summer internship schemes. So it could be through that that they look to find these internships or through social media, through other ways as well, but it would be down to the fellow to find their intern.

Adam Smith:

Okay. And so what’s that got to do with the fellowship then? How does that become part of the fellowship? Is that because you are going to then train them to be supervisors or that you pay somebody?

Dr Jennie Gabriel:

Well, because this will be part of the Postdoctoral Fellow, so the Postdoctoral Fellow has a supervisor in themselves. It’s similar to you would get if you were a postdoc working under a project grant. So it would then create kind of three levels of supervision really within the team. So there would be general supervisor or a PI that would supervise the fellow and then the fellow would be considered the supervisor or the day-to-day supervisor of the research intern. So it’s a 10 week summer project that just provides that kind of supervisory and that teaching experience that some postdocs don’t get the experience or don’t get the opportunity to take advantage of.

Adam Smith:

Great, which leads me nicely actually into, because I believe I’m going to ask you about the Career Development Grants as well, because this is, I don’t remember seeing specific Career Development Grants in the past. So you’ve got three of these too. Tell us about these three grants. It’s all on you.

Dr Jennie Gabriel:

Yes we do. So this is something brand new that we’re bringing in to the mix. So again, this is in response to the feedback that we’ve got from some of our researchers who have said that they found it difficult to find the time to build their own research idea. So if they’re a postdoc and they’ve tried, like they’re often tied to a project that their supervisor is kind of running and they’re not always allowed the freedom to pursue their own research ideas. So this can be a particular issue within the clinical sphere, because there’s the additional challenge that many can’t find dedicated time away from their clinical research, from their clinical work, sorry, to do research or many don’t even get an opportunity to kind of try out research within kind of biomedical environment specifically, just speaking from my own experience. I know you get the opportunity to do research projects and you kind of get that taster of research, but you don’t always get that within clinical training. So we’ve designed these schemes to try and kind of fill these gaps and to provide some kind of more short term support for ECRs.

Dr Jennie Gabriel:

The Career Development Grant is open to all research staff, so this is the more generalized Career Development Grant, so it’s open to all research staff post-PhD, and it provides a year of funding to allow the grant holder to build up their own research idea. So this could be kind of collecting some pilot data, this could be generating their research idea that could be the basis for a future fellowship or the next kind of big grant that they hope to bring in. And we’ve kind of designed them again to be kind of a bit CV-boosting too. So this comes with the same secondment and internship funding as the Postdoctoral Fellowship.

Dr Jennie Gabriel:

And there are also two other Clinical Focus Career Development Grants, so these kind of target areas that are kind of more niche to the clinical sphere. The Pre-Doctoral Clinical Bursary allows clinical staff, and this includes the nurses, allied health, health professionals, kind of anyone within the clinical sphere really, to take on a six month project within dementia research. So kind of this would be part-time alongside their clinical commitments just to see if it’s a career that they’d like to pursue and to give them that clinical experience. And we’ve also created a specific post-CCT option. So this is for clinicians who’ve received their certificate of completion of training. So these are quite senior clinicians and this kind of provides the same opportunities for them as the more standard Career Development Grant and gives them some dedicated research time to allow them to build up a research idea and to gather some data to kind of just help them get onto the next stage of their career development.

Adam Smith:

So in there you’ve got some great schemes which are going to address this issue about both attracting and retaining people, but in a short term kind of way. So if you are a nurse out there that’s got a great idea for a project, you’re not quite ready though to take on the commitment of a five year part-time PhD, you can apply for funding for this Pre-Doctoral Clinical Bursary, do a six month project, do some research methodology, learn some new skills, try out a research project and see if you want to then do that doctorate.

Dr Jennie Gabriel:

Yeah, absolutely.

Adam Smith:

That’s a great, yeah, I’m not aware of there being anything like that. I mean, even the NIHR’s Research for Patient Benefit Programs and things like that, which offers similar funding, but how quickly do you expect those to be delivered? Is this something that would, can people plan for next year? I know the grant rounds have all got deadlines in July, August. When would you expect those to start?

Dr Jennie Gabriel:

We would expect them to start in kind of maybe spring next year, just because there wasn’t a lot we could do about the length of the grant process. It takes as long as it takes to make sure that we have a good grant review process, but we will be awarding funding in March. And so we expect people to start in, as I said, June-ish but the funding is, people are open to start from 12 months of the award from March.

Adam Smith:

Awesome. So that’s a really exciting unique program that I think would be a great segue into a clinical research career. Well, well done for coming up with that. And the Career Development Grant, so this addresses that kind of point I raised earlier about people who’ve done their doctorate and haven’t yet worked out what comes next.

Dr Jennie Gabriel:

Yeah, absolutely. Or just if people have a kind of research idea they’ve been really wanting to try and push, they’ve not had that freedom within previous postdoctoral positions to be able to do that because they’ve been committed to a different project and this kind of gives them that opportunity to just spend a year working on kind of a smaller project that then could be the basis of something bigger and then will hopefully kind of bring some new ideas into the sphere as well.

Adam Smith:

So if you are in the last, say, six to 12 months of a fellowship right now and haven’t got the next thing sorted out, is that something you could apply for?

Dr Jennie Gabriel:

Yeah.

Adam Smith:

Great. There’s got to be a lot of people listening to this now who are kind of still chasing around applying for the fellowship. So I mean, that’s exactly perfect for somebody who might even, you might apply for the Research Leader Fellowship and the Career Development Grant because you might not get one, but you could get the other. Am I giving out all bad rules now? But I think people [inaudible 00:51:13] thinking of all those awkward scenarios that nobody has thought of. And then of course the post-CCT Career Development Award is wonderful as well to move towards that independence. Thank you very much, Jennie, that’s great. And project grants, of course project grants. So you’ve got some big, big pots, suitcases full of cash to give out for some big clever project grants as well.

Sophie Roberts:

Yeah, exactly. So we have, these grants can be up to 400,000, but that’s not to say that you have to spend all of that because I know a lot of the times people assume that project grants are only massive pieces of funding, but it also can range from anything from pilot funding, springboard, seed funding, all the way up to the sort of larger scale £400,000 grants. So I wanted to make that clear because I know not everyone knows that.

Adam Smith:

Well, it nicely simplifies it, doesn’t it? Because I know other funders might break it down to pilot grants and different projects, but you’ve just, it’s just a single one, it’s project grants, whether it’s a pilot you’re applying for or a springboard or seed funding or a building off the back of a pilot you did last year, that’s the grant you’d apply for.

Sophie Roberts:

Exactly.

Adam Smith:

So this isn’t funding for people, this is… So I think you had to have a contract which was for the length of the funding.

Sophie Roberts:

Yeah.

Adam Smith:

Which I know can be an issue because if you are a fellow applying for this and you’ve only got a year left on your fellowship, it immediately makes you ineligible to apply for these larger grants.

Katherine Gray:

Yeah. It is definitely a challenge. We are encouraging early career researchers to apply as co-applicants so that they can get experience of being involved in these larger project grants and applying for funding. But we do need someone with a sort of longer term contract to be able to award the grant.

Adam Smith:

Okay. I think we’ve lost Sophie altogether now. Perhaps she’s dropping out and we don’t know. She’s just gone as a speaker. I’m going to bring her back in as a speaker. Come on. There we go. Hey Sophie-

Sophie Roberts:

My apologies.

Adam Smith:

We lost… That’s all right. We lost you as you were telling us that you needed to have a contract which was the period of the grant.

Sophie Roberts:

Yeah. Sorry, I’m at home today. My wi-fi isn’t very good.

Adam Smith:

That’s okay.

Sophie Roberts:

But I heard Katherine cover a bit of that at the end, just about our commitment and focus to early career researchers and encouraging all applications to include early career researchers as co-applicant or [inaudible 00:54:03].

Adam Smith:

Yeah. And then they don’t have to have a contract that’s for the full period, as long as the lead does.

Sophie Roberts:

Exactly.

Adam Smith:

So if you’re out there and you’re thinking about applying for a project grant, you need to find somebody to apply with you if you’re still on that ECR program, that kind of ECR career path. This is wonderful and we’ve already taken, I can guarantee we’re going overtime already. Katherine, I’m going to come to you now because I know you’ve changed the application process as well. Tell us about, to make it better for people, not just to make it more complicated.

Katherine Gray:

Hopefully not.

Adam Smith:

Tell us about the application process and what you’ve done to the process.

Katherine Gray:

Yeah. So I’ll just give a really quick overview, I mean, just to sign post people to our website and the lovely team here to answer really specific questions, because I appreciate we’ve really overloaded you with lots of information and lots of changes. But I think the big news in terms of our application process and the sort of biggest impact to applicants is that we are now introducing an outline stage for our applications. So previously we asked for everything all at once and we only had one deadline, but now we’re introducing this outline stage to hopefully speed up the process and sort of streamline things for all involved.

Katherine Gray:

So initially for that outline, we’ll only be asking applicants to submit a three page outline, so two pages scientific and one page lay, and the deadline for that is soon. So the deadline for outlines is the 15th of August, but I think what we are really keen to stress is that outline is the word, it’s only two pages, we just want a vision, some really inspiring ideas. Is its top line to really sell your idea to the grant advisory board for them to sort of pick you, and then you’ll have a lot of time after that to work up your proposal in more detail. So we hope that by doing it this way, we’ll be able to communicate decisions much more quickly to applicants and those that sadly are unsuccessful, you find out much sooner, you don’t waste your time, you’re not in limbo for ages, and those, as I said, for those who are lucky to be shortlisted, you do have more time to work up your proposals.

Adam Smith:

That’s great. I mean, that’s what we are looking for, right, because there’s nothing more frustrating than spending a significant amount of time working on a fellowship application that appears to just be rejected out of hand or just wasn’t quite fitting the remit and then you’ve spent all that time on it. So, that’s-

Katherine Gray:

Yeah, exactly. And previously, because we extensively peer and laid review all applications that came through to us, people were waiting a really long time for outcomes just because it took us, understandably, quite a while to do that. And people got feedback, quite detailed feedback, as a result of that. But I appreciate that if you’ve waited six months to find out you haven’t made it, it’s pretty painful.

Adam Smith:

And I know Alzheimer’s Society are very strong and very firm supporters in making sure that there’s good patient and public involvement and people with lived experiences input into both partnering up with the grants after they’ve been awarded to keep in touch with them-

Katherine Gray:

Yeah.

Adam Smith:

… and in the decision making process and before they even apply. I assume you’d strongly encourage people applying for pretty much any of these schemes to get some involvement and to make sure that these are research projects that people really will benefit from.

Katherine Gray:

Yeah, absolutely. And we’re really not diluting that message, and I think we’ve always strongly believed that whether your application is really looking at basic science through to really applied clinical sort of care focused research, there’s a huge role that people affected by dementia can play in helping shape your research, even if it’s just in terms of how you’re pitching it and how you’re explaining it and how you’re contextualizing it in sort of the wider field.

Adam Smith:

And you, well, Alzheimer’s Society, Parkinson’s UK, and I know UCL HBRC where I am, you’ve produced the toolkit for patient engagement in biomedical research as well.

Katherine Gray:

Yeah.

Adam Smith:

Which I can put a link to in the show notes, which suggests PPI activities, even at a basic science level.

Katherine Gray:

Absolutely. And we’ve got resources on our website and if you just don’t know where to start, just contact the team and we can sort of sign post you to various things or put you in touch with people that would be relevant to your research.

Adam Smith:

I think particularly those projects we mentioned before, though, the ones for the clinicians who are interested in doing a six months research project in their workplace, for example, that getting good PPI and input into those would be valuable.

Katherine Gray:

Yeah, absolutely.

Adam Smith:

Right. It’s time for questions. To explain how this works, in the bottom left hand corner of your screens, I don’t know if we’ll get any, because people are always a little bit shy. Don’t be shy. We’ll only turn your microphone on for a few seconds while you ask your question. So if you have a question, in the bottom left hand corner of your screen, you’ll see a little button that says request to speak. You are very welcome to request to speak. We’ll unmute your microphone. Please keep it civil and on topic and ask your question as succinctly as you can. And then we’ll mute you back up while we put the question to our panel. So if anybody has a question, you can tap the request to speak now. I honestly, while we’re waiting for anybody to do that, I think I’ve already put you all under the spotlight enough with my questions, but is this, so the grant deadlines are July and August, is that right? Anybody can take that. You all must know.

Katherine Gray:

We should all know. The outline deadline’s the 15th of August, but we’ll be opening the calls, so the calls aren’t actually open at the moment, but all the details are online, and then the schemes are open for applications on the 27th of June.

Adam Smith:

27th of June. Great. Okay. Well, it doesn’t look like we actually have any questions. So I think honestly, we’ve already come up to our time limits. So this is probably all we’ve got time for today, but before we go, there’s a few things to, perhaps a few notices. We’d like to let you know that Alzheimer’s Society have an applicant webinar as well on Thursday the 23rd of June from 1:00 PM to 2:00 PM. If you check their Twitter feed, which is @AlzSocResearch, which you’ll see listed at the top as the cohost for this Spaces discussion today, give them a follow and I’m sure as soon as details on how to register for that webinar are released, they’ll put the joining details there. Is that right, Katherine? Does that-

Katherine Gray:

Yeah. Perfect. Thank you. Yeah.

Adam Smith:

Great. So you’ve got the webinar there as well. And of course, if you have any questions that you didn’t want to speak out loud, or if you’re listening to this from the recording and you didn’t manage to make the live session today, you can DM your questions on the grants throughout July to their Twitter account, which is @AlzSocResearch and of course you can email them to researchinquiries@alzheimers.org.uk. And if you are one of those people that’s looking potentially for somebody’s suggestions on who might be a supervisor for your own research idea or you have questions or if you’re wanting somebody to have a quick scan over the outline application you’re writing, we have an amazing WhatsApp community at Dementia Researcher. So if you’ll find details on how to get involved on that on our website and of course, Dementia Research website, you’ll also find listings for all the latest funding calls from research funders across the UK, and we have tons of resources as well and blogs and podcasts on how to write a great grant application. So check those out at dementiaresearcher.nihr.ac.uk, and there’s a link in our bio.

Adam Smith:

Thank you very much, the brilliant Jennie, the amazing Katherine and the awesome Sophie, for taking time out of your day to join us.

Katherine Gray:

It’s been a pleasure. Thanks so much.

Sophie Roberts:

Thank you very much.

Adam Smith:

That’s all right. Great. Thank you everybody for listening. Be sure to subscribe to our website, in YouTube and in your favorite podcast app, and we’ll make this recording available straight away later today. Thank you very much.


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