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Competition to host Wellcome Trust Clinical PhD programmes – now open

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Competition to host Wellcome Trust Clinical PhD programmes – now open

Adam Smith

The MRC recognises the importance of clinical research and as part of refreshing their funding schemes, they have made some changes to the support is provided to clinical researchers. The Wellcome Trust’s Head of Research Careers, Anne-Marie Coriat, explains the approach, and opens the competition to host the new clinical #PhD programmes.

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Monday 9th November 2015

“In July, we explained that we had updated our thinking on how to better support clinicians who want to pursue a career in research. An important part of this is the new clinical PhD programme competition and I am delighted to announce that the competition is now open for applications.

The UK is a unique place to be a clinical researcher. Many funding opportunities are available from organisations like the Wellcome Trust, the MRC, NIHR, CRUK and other charities. Exciting opportunities also exist in our overseas programmes. The Trust is collaborating with other funders to agree consistent principles to underpin the support for clinical academic research so that, together, we can ensure the best career development for this critically important group of researchers.

We know that embedding research alongside healthcare is key to understanding the biological basis of disease, driving medical innovation and developing cutting-edge treatments. However, we have heard from you that being a clinical researcher can be challenging, with many different competing demands – including time in the lab, completing a clinical specialism and maintaining a work-life balance.

From 2016, we will provide support for clinical PhD training (around 60 PhD students per year) through a portfolio of PhD programmes run by institutions, rather than awards to individual PhD studentships. Applications to host a clinical PhD programme are welcome across the breadth of research supported by the Trust including allied health professionals, veterinarians and those working in medical humanities.

Programmes should provide diverse cohorts of trainees with excellent career development support and mentorship. We are looking for institutions that are innovative with their programme development, encourage work across disciplines and within and across institutions.

In parallel to today’s launch we have committed substantial funds to increase postdoctoral support for clinical researchers by 50%. Over the coming months, we will develop a new Postdoctoral Clinical Scientist Fellowship, which consolidates two of our existing schemes into a single, flexible award. This scheme will match the changes we have already introduced for our basic science fellowships.

The new approach provides the option of longer-term support and a greater ability to balance research and clinical training responsibilities. The scheme will be open to those who are re-entering academia after career breaks or extended periods of clinical training, and will adapt to the evolving clinical training model.

Credit: Neil Webb. Wellcome Images

Credit: Neil Webb. Wellcome Images

Our primary aim in developing these revisions is to provide flexible support for the next generation of clinical academics. We will continue to work with medical schools, other PhD funders, and NHS partners in developing this model of academic clinical training to ensure an environment that is creative, collaborative and supportive of early career researchers.

We are holding a workshop later this month for the directors of our overseas programmes, and from medical, veterinary and dental schools in the UK and the Republic of Ireland. This meeting is an opportunity to find out more, and input into, our thinking. It will also provide an opportunity for discussion across institutions.

I look forward to this chance to hear your views, and would be delighted to receive feedback or questions via email. Please do contact me at

For more information about the competition for clinical PhD programmes please the MRC website.