This year, we celebrate ten years since the launch of the Starter Grants for Clinical Lecturers scheme. The achievements of the awardees are cause for celebration. To mark this, we have published our ‘Starter for 10: a decade of supporting academic Clinical Lecturers’ report which sets out the successes and includes case studies drawn from the last decade. In the report, Academy Vice President (Clinical) Professor Paul Stewart FMedSci writes about the clinical academic careers landscape.
In the ten years since the Starter Grants for Clinical Lecturers scheme was created, the UK research landscape has benefited from significant developments. The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) has been established and celebrated its 10 year anniversary with a review and refreshed strategy last year. UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) has been formed and encompasses the Research Councils and other organisations. Academic Health Science Networks and a number of ‘clusters’ have cemented themselves. The ambition for the UK to position itself as a world leader in medical research has been set out in The Life Sciences Industrial Strategy (LSIS) published in 2017. The recommendations include a call for an increased commitment to research and development (R&D) spending, a strengthened environment for clinical trials, collaboration between industry and the NHS to enable service transformation, and continued improvement on patient outcomes.
The new organisational structures enable greater coordination across stakeholders, including the medical research charities, pharmaceutical, biotech and medtech industries and broader life science sector to realise the ambitions of LSIS. Effective cross-discipline and cross-sector working is essential as researchers tackle increasingly complex research questions. Recent Academy policy reports have defined the impact of emerging healthcare challenges, for example: Multimorbidity: a priority for global health research and Health of the public in 2040.
Successful advancement of health research requires a sustained pipeline of talented researchers. As Vice President (Clinical) at the Academy, I am committed to ensuring that we work in co-ordination with the broader sector to support aspiring researchers. We achieve this through policy work, for example, the creation of the UK clinical academic training in medicine and dentistry: principles and obligations. This cross-stakeholder document outlines the expectations of the funder, trainee and those responsible for clinical training to ensure that the clinical academic researchers are supported at critical stages and throughout the most difficult transitions in their careers. In addition, the Academy’s report ‘Improving recognition of team science contributions in biomedical research careers’ and recent follow-up conference involved engagement with a broad range of stakeholders to formulate and progress the recommendations on how best to support researchers engaged in collaborative research.
Providing direct support to aspiring medical researchers is also a key component of the Academy’s strategy and the Starter Grants for Clinical Lecturers demonstrates our work in this area. To deliver tomorrow’s healthcare today we need clinical academics, dentists and vets in all facets of medicine, including primary care and craft disciplines, but also in emerging technologies and practises such as digital medicine and robotics. The Starter Grants scheme will continue to maintain and support diversity amongst award holders.
The last ten years have yielded great progress and the next ten years has the potential to be even more productive. As a sector we must continue to work together to provide both our aspiring and emerging future research leaders with the right training, opportunities and support to enable them to define the new, exciting research priorities and to find solutions through new ways of cross sector working and innovation.