Enabling researchers to thrive

SUSTAIN is an innovative year-long programme of training and support for female researchers run by the Academy of Medical Sciences since 2015, which aims to develop participants’ leadership and career potential. An independent evaluation in 2021 found that:

  • 91% of participants responding strongly agreed/agreed the programme had helped them thrive as independent researchers,
  • 86% of participants responding strongly agreed/agreed the programme improved confidence in their leadership ability,
  • 98% of mentors responding reported improved career planning skills in their mentee.

This page is intended as an introductory toolkit to support people looking to create their own researcher development programme similar to SUSTAIN.

It is meant to be an introduction, rather than a comprehensive guide: it aims to help you start exploring possible components of your programme, and to highlight key considerations.

The Academy’s SUSTAIN programme has three core components:

  • A programme of career development workshops,
  • One-to-one mentoring from a research leader,
  • Peer support in small groups and across the cohort.

The tabs below cover these three areas, outlining the Academy’s approach and key considerations for each one. Although we’ve found that combining these three elements is particularly impactful, any combination of these, or even just one, can still have a profound impact.

We hope the information below offers a helpful starting point for developing your own programme. We know how daunting it can be creating something from scratch and we’re keen to share our experience and help you however we can.

If after reading the information, you’re unsure what to do next, please get in touch – we love talking about our work and would be delighted to help you get started.

A core component of the Academy programme is our series of career development workshops. These act as an initial way for the cohort to meet and get to know each other, as well as providing vital training. Each session is tailored to support participants through the challenges of combining research, teaching, clinical practice, caring and other responsibilities where relevant.

Across the cohorts we have run so far, the workshops have included:

  • Time management
  • Negotiation skills
  • Setting up a research team for success
  • Developing your leadership style

It is important to consider your topics carefully and to ask your participants what training they need.

Given our focus, SUSTAIN programme workshops often discuss skills that women are given less opportunities to develop, or are of particular value to women at this career stage. If your programme is aimed at a different group, you may not want to offer this same combination of workshops. 

If you are offering peer coaching and/or mentoring as part of your programme, we recommend you offer training to everyone involved, so that all parties have the same expectations of the coaching/mentoring relationship.



The SUSTAIN programme is funded by the Academy of Medical Sciences, Medical Research Council, Royal Academy of Engineering and Royal Society.

Key contacts

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