How our funding schemes are changing
The way we fund research is changing to support our new strategy, which aims to support science to solve the urgent health challenges facing everyone.
We'll support discovery research in any discipline through a simplified set of funding schemes designed to encourage a broad range of applications. And we're taking on three global health challenges – mental health, infectious disease and climate and health.
Find out what this means for you.
New discovery research schemes
Our three new discovery research schemes enable researchers to do bold and creative discovery research that has the potential to improve human life, health and wellbeing.
The new schemes are designed to give researchers more freedom, time and resource to pursue their ideas and build a better research culture.
- Wellcome Early-Career Awards – for early-career researchers who are ready to develop their research identity. Through innovative projects, they will deliver shifts in understanding that could improve human life, health and wellbeing. By the end of the award, they will be ready to lead their own independent research programme.
- Wellcome Career Development Awards – for mid-career researchers who have the potential to be international research leaders. They will develop their research capabilities, drive innovative programmes of work and deliver significant shifts in understanding that could improve human life, health and wellbeing.
- Wellcome Discovery Awards – for established researchers and teams who want to pursue bold and creative research ideas to deliver significant shifts in understanding that could improve human life, health and wellbeing.
The schemes are open to applications from any discipline, including:
- science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM)
- humanities and social science
- clinical/allied health sciences
- experimental medicine
- public health.
We fund applicants based in the UK, the Republic of Ireland and low- and middle-income countries, and coapplicants from the rest of the world if applying as part of a team.
The research must have the potential to improve human life, health and wellbeing, and align with our funding remit.
Webinar about our new schemes
Watch a recording of the webinar that took place on Monday 12 April 2021.
>> Work to develop this has been underway for some time. But when Covid-19 struck, it would have been easy to pause, to rethink, to retreat. But we didn't. And we won't.
Mental health, global heating, and infectious diseases, these are the three most urgent health challenges that we face. And Discovery research going to the edge of today's knowledge and then beyond will bring totally new insights which can and will bring unforeseen benefits to everyone.
To do all of this, we also need to change how we fund science and we need science to change with us. We want the broadest range of people to contribute to and benefit from science's ability to change the world, and this is just the start. I hope you will join us as we embark on our most ambitious journey yet.
>> Welcome everyone to this webinar where we’re going to discuss the details of Wellcome’s new Discovery research funding schemes. I'm pleased that you've joined us today. My name is Diego Baptista, and I work here at Wellcome as a diversity and inclusion adviser.
I'm a brown man with salt and pepper hair and dark brown eyes. I'm wearing a black you button up top and behind me is a prominently displayed mirror ball with lots of plants. I'm really excited to introduce you to our speakers. I'll call each of our speakers in one by one, ask I'll ask them to share their video, say your name and your role at Wellcome, your pronouns, a brief visual description of yourself. So Michael, can I ask you to turn your camera on, and introduce yourself?
>> MICHAEL DUNN: Hello, everybody. My name is Michael Dunn. I'm director of Discovery research at Wellcome. I'm a tall Irish man, and I've got short dark hair and blue eyes, and I've got a picture of a Madonna behind me, which is from the national gallery. Thank you.
>> DIEGO BAPTISTA: Thanks, Michael. Alyson, can I ask you to turn on your video and introduce yourself?
>> ALYSON FOX: Hello, everyone. My name is Alyson Fox, I'm the director of research funding at Wellcome.
I am a white woman, I have shoulder length blond hair. I'm wearing glasses and I'm sitting in a very plain, white walled room.
>> DIEGO BAPTISTA: Thanks, Alyson. Anne, can I have you come in and introduce yourself.
>> Hi, I'm Anne Taylor, I'm associate director of operations and governance, I'm a white woman with curly brown hair increasingly going grey, I'm wearing glasses and I've got a blue and pink floral top with a blue cardigan on.
>> DIEGO BAPTISTA: Thanks, Anne, and last but not least, Jim, can I ask you to turn your video on, and introduce yourself?
>> Hi, everyone, I'm Jim Smith, I'm the interim director of research programmes, I'll be in this job for two more weeks, then my place will be taken by Cheryl Moore. I'm a baldish white man, I've never described myself as an old white man, but that's what I am, with a grey beard and grey hair, he / him, all over I'm grey.
Behind myself I can see bookshelves on the wall and coats hanging up. So thanks very much for joining us, I'm looking forward to this.
>> DIEGO BAPTISTA: Perfect, thanks Jim. So before we actually get started, I'm going to go through some housekeeping.
So firstly, you can access closed-captions with the settings function in Bluejeans. This will be in the lower right-hand corner of your screen. There's also a link that is shared with you for live captions for the event throughout the rest of it.
We will have slides today as you can see. If you hover over your screen, there should be a little slider where you can change the size of the slide itself versus the size of the video. And then at the very end, we'll go into a Q&A where over 200 of you sent in questions before the session which we're super grateful for. I'll be managing how our questions get answered, I've tried to group them into themes, and we'll have everyone come back on to answer those questions. So why don't we get started, and Michael, can I ask you to come back on, where you will describe the vision of our new schemes?
>> MICHAEL DUNN: Thank you very much, and it's not at all daunting to be talking to 3,000 people on this webinar. But I just wanted to give you a little bit of a sense of how we got here with our new discovery schemes.
And to give a little bit of a flavour of what it is that we are looking for from these schemes and from you.
So I think it is fair to say that over the years, one of Wellcome's major founding principles has been that science is essential to improving health. I think we would all agree over the events of the last year that that really is a statement that has never been more true. Our funding in Wellcome has substantially increased really from the 1980s, and, I guess, since then, a lot of things has changed. The world has changed, science has changed, and Wellcome has changed.
And I think what we want to do now is to ask, how best can Wellcome ensure that its support for science has the greatest impact on human health.
And that's why we embarked on a major strategic review. So Jim, who you will have just met in the introductions, led on the development of a new strategic direction for Wellcome.
And this began with asking how Wellcome-funded science might best achieve Wellcome's mission. And the aim was to create a single highly focused strategy for whole organisation, and that strategy was to have science at its very heart. The review was launched back in 2018, as part of it, Jim really consulted very widely and broadly, both within the Wellcome family, but also a lot of people that we haven't funded and people from all sorts of different health-related walks of life. We spoke to people from very many different career stages and from the different countries. We tried to ask ourselves the question of really where should Wellcome be in ten to 15 years' time, and what are the major scientific and health challenges that we should be seeking to overcome? The outputs of that review really resulted in two quite different but complementary approaches. The first is that we will support a broad foundation of Discovery research. That's research in search of the unanticipated benefits which come from curiosity-driven research.
And alongside Discovery research, we will also support three challenge-led programmes, which have specific long-term outcomes which will take a proactive, directed and coordinated approach to tackle some of the most important threats to human health, that's mental health, infectious disease, and climate and health.
I should at this point say that alongside Discovery research and health challenges is our commitment to improving research culture. And this is actually going to be embedded and important in everything that we do. This speaks to issues of diversity and inclusion, and our desire that science as a career is really open to everyone.
If we can turn now to Discovery research, all of the conversations that the review team at Wellcome had led us to really a clear commitment and understanding that advances in health can come from unexpected sources.
And indeed, a large number of health interventions have in the past come from basic curiosity-driven fundamental research which is aimed at solely understanding how life works.
Now, as other funders invest less into Discovery research, I think it becomes even more important than ever for Wellcome to contribute to knowledge and understanding, and thereby not only solve our own health challenges but actually challenges that are much broader and relates to all areas of health and well-being.
So we wanted to provide the best scientists in both clinical and nonclinical research and in humanities and social science with the freedom to be able to ask really exciting questions.
So we are funding Discovery research and we want that Discovery research to achieve significant shifts in understanding that could lead to improved human health, new insights, and potentially new tools that open up new avenues for researchers to explore.
In many ways, Discovery research could be seen as an evolution for previous Wellcome funding, and I think it is, to some extent. But we have given a lot of thought to the schemes that we will need to deliver Wellcome's vision and ambition. And we want to be bolder and more ambitious in our offering.
So we really want the research that we support to have the potential to push the boundaries of our existing knowledge or push the boundaries of the techniques or tools and help to venture into the unknown, if you like. And we want our research to be really visionary and creative in that respect.
As part of that, I want to give individuals examine teams the freedom to pursue bold and innovative research and we want to do that by increasing the level and length of support for researchers in our portfolio and try to shift the balance of our funding to researchers who are a little bit earlier on in their careers.
We're being explicitly broad in outlook. So we want to be open to all disciplines that could benefit our strategy, so that means walking the walk when it comes to interdisciplinarity, and being open to other disciplines, and I really want to highlight the importance that tools and technologies will play in our new strategy. It's an explicit icon that we are looking for, and we recognise that these things can fundamentally transform whole fields of research overnight and in the past, we haven't done enough in supporting that kind of research.
One of the big changes, I guess, in Wellcome's strategy is the creation of the three health challenges, and those health challenges span all the way from basic discovery to policy practice and interventions whereas Discovery research is explicitly broad, we kind of hope to have translational impact across the whole of biomedicine. I think we are hoping to have it within science, but for Discovery research, we are trying to focus on the fundamental research questions, which are going to drive our understanding of biology and of health and well-being.
I think this has implications for translational research in the future, we will not be supporting some of the more translationally focused research where the outcome is explicitly an intervention or some drug discovery.
But, of course, we will be able to and want to continue to support research which uses human participants such as in experimental medicine. So discovery is broad, the health challenges are very deliberately designed to go all the way from basic understanding through to translation and health impact. I think we can turn now to some of the specifics of the schemes, and I'm going to hand over to Alyson Fox to take you through that.
>> ALYSON FOX: Thank you, Michael. The full details of the schemes were released a couple of weeks ago. So I'm not going to run through everything there, and we can cover lots of the questions that have arisen in the Q&A at the end of this webinar. So I'm just going to give a bit of an overview of the three schemes.
As Michael says, in thinking about the schemes and how to approach Discovery research, we drew upon everything that we heard during our science review in consulting with the research community. And we put that together with what Wellcome also wants from its Discovery research.
And that's things like a broader discipline set, looking for discoveries that could impact human health, they can be serendipitous and come from different types of disciplines. So we wanted to make sure that we could accommodate that sort of research as well, and we wanted to make sure that we could accommodate interdisciplinarity and team-based research. A big thing that came out was the issue of flexibility, duration, getting off of the treadmill of constantly writing grant applications.
And as Michael says, a little bit more of an emphasis towards that mid-career stage. So what we've aimed for here is to greatly simplify the set of schemes that we had. Those of you that had been familiar with Wellcome in the past will know that we had innumerable different funding schemes, different geographies, career stages and disciplines. So we really wanted to simplify those down so that it can cover a broader discipline set, if you will.
The basic eligibility for the Discovery research schemes remains the same. That's the UK, Republic of Ireland and low and middle income countries.
But it's really important to know that those based in a team can come from anywhere in the world as is currently the case with our collaborative awards.
Very briefly then, these are the three Discovery research open mode funding schemes. We have the Early-Career Award, which as you might guess is for early career researchers, and these are for the researchers who are really ready to establish their research identity. To begin to build their research capabilities, and by the end to position themselves so that they are ready to lead an independent programme of research. Early-career award holders will have their salary paid for on the grant, they can request research expenses up to £400,000, and these awards will be up to five years. The Career Development Awards are for mid-career researchers, this is a broad set, we recognise this. These are for those researchers who have established their independence and are really ready to drive innovative programmes of research and have the potential to become our international research leaders.
Again, you can have your salary on these grants. What we called the fellowships in the previous world. But we recognise that for some disciplines, people may reach that independence slightly earlier within their career stage, and they may have already obtained a permanent position in a university. So you can apply for one of these grants if you are within the first three years of your first permanent position we haven't set a defined limit in terms of sums on these grants, but we encourage people to request the resources that are required for their research programme. Be bold, be ambitious, but be realistic. Those resources as ever will need to be justified in the grant application. These grants can be for up to eight years. So that's longer than we've had previously. That's not to say that they have to be eight years. And it will be dependent on the research programme that you envisage and also the discipline that you are within.
And, finally, there's a Discovery Award, and this is for the researchers who are already established in their career, and in their institutions. And we want these awards to give researchers the freedom to pursue bold and creative ideas that have the potential to deliver significant shifts in understanding, and to impact human health.
Again, we haven't set a resource limit on these grants, but we encourage you to request what is needed for this research. Again, they can be up to eight years they don't have to be eight years. That will be dependent on the research, but we do envisage the research being funded through these grants being bold and with the potential to have a really significant impact.
Discovery Awards may be for one person, two people, or for a team of researchers. It's what is needed to really execute that ambitious programme of research.
As I said earlier, the eligibility and the geographical eligibility hasn't changed, it's the UK, low- and middle-income countries and the Republic of Ireland. We encourage researchers who have taken a career break for whatever reason, who may have worked in a different sector and would like to come back to basic research, for example, do come and apply for these schemes, whether it's the early career or the Career Development Award, it will be a matter of judgment for you, essentially, for when you left your research career previously.
And as currently any of these grants may be taken part time.
Next slide, please.
Just a little bit about the application process.
And I know that many of you will be very keen to know the details of this and we'll be releasing more information in the coming weeks.
What we envisage is three rounds of applications a year for all of the schemes.
The schemes will open to applications at the end of August, beginning of September. They may be slightly staggered with the early career in a different point -- to the Career Development Awards and the Discovery Awards.
The application deadlines will be the end of October, beginning of November, and the first decisions will be at the end of April or May next year, 2022.
The assessment process, we've looked at in detail. We haven't changed the basic process, the work flow that much. But we've looked at every element very, very carefully. We are going to continue with the process of short listing all applications by subject area panels, expert panels.
Those applications that are short listed, we will then obtain expert written review, as we do now, and then for those short listed applications, we'll be inviting those into interview where the final recommendation will be made.
The final decisions will be made by Discovery research by Michael and his team, drawing upon all the information and the recommendations that have been provided by our expert reviewers.
The interviews we foresee being in person as long as the COVID restrictions allow, and I think we are all hopeful that that can happen.
And for all of this process, we have looked really, really carefully to make sure that they are equitable, that they are accessible to all types of researchers and to remove any risk of bias from the process.
The assessment criteria will be common across all of the schemes, and that will be looking at the research proposal, it will be looking at the research outputs of the applicant or applicants, and it will be looking at the research environment both research environment that the applicants are in and their influence and impact on their local research environment.
I think that's all I have to say at the moment.
And I think we can probably move on to questions, Diego.
>> DIEGO BAPTISTA: Perfect, thanks so much, Alyson, and thanks, Michael. That's a really helpful overview of the new schemes. As Alyson mentioned, we will move on to questions.
Before we do that, I will just remind people that if you hover over your screen, you can change the sizes of the presentations versus speakers like myself, if you want to see the presentation or speakers larger.
As I mentioned in the beginning, we received -- we asked you to input questions before this webinar, which was really helpful, and thanks to everyone who did that. We received more than 200 responses before the session, and we've tried our best to group them into themes. So can I ask all of our speakers to share their video again? Perfect. Everyone is here. So why don't we get started on the next slide.
The first question is how do these new schemes compare to your previous schemes? Is there a like for like? Michael, I'm going to send this question to you first.
>> MICHAEL DUNN: Great question. The first thing I wanted to say is that we are really very proud of the success of the schemes that we have run in the past and actually the people that we have supported on those schemes.
Some of them, all the way from PhD through to very senior positions.
So, you know, people currently funded in Wellcome grants shouldn't be kind of concerned about their status within Wellcome, I guess. That's important to say.
They should continue to do their excellent work, and they're just as important to us as the people that we will support with these new grants. But in terms of mapping the old world onto these new schemes, there are obvious similarities between the old and new schemes, but as has been mentioned by myself and others earlier, it's a much more simplified approach.
There's a longer duration of funding possible, which will enable researchers to come up with more creative and we're really encouraging people to ask very, very challenging questions within their research. It's also fair to say that we are also trying to encourage more support at earlier stages of people's careers. It's been clear to me over the years that, you know, people are having to succeed at higher and higher levels at each stage in the review process before they're competitive. And that's really very unhelpful, and can lead to quite a bit of conservatism. So we're trying to make sure that people don't feel like they're university professor stage before they go to a Career Development Award. So there are similarities, but we want them to be looked at as a fresh opportunity to provide flexibility and freedom and to bring down the seniority that people are finding themselves in when they're at that mid-career stage.
>> DIEGO BAPTISTA: Thanks very much, Michael. That was very thoughtful and thorough. Can we go on to the next slide, please? So the next question is, why have you chosen no more than three years' postdoc experience for the Early-Career Award eligibility? Is there any flexibility around this, and Alyson, I'll go to you on this.
>> ALYSON FOX: Always a difficult issue about setting limits and boundaries on any funding scheme.
It's important to know that three years is just a guide. If we don't give a guide, we know that we're going to get a lot of questions, especially when we have one scheme covering such a broad set of potential disciplines.
It's really a guide. Yes, there is flexibility. We're not going to say, if you're three years and two months, then you can't come in. But we do want people to recognise that this is a scheme for those early career researchers who are ready to begin to build their own independence, ready to go on and build their own research identity.
And so that's why we wanted to give a little bit of guidance here.
Different people are going to be at different stages of readiness in their career.
But for building towards their own lab or their own research group, if you will.
So it is not going to be a hard-and-fast rule, but we can't have infinity flexibility, actually. So if you have completed your formal training, for whatever that looks like in your discipline. It might be a PhD, it might be a period of research training that doesn't require a PhD and you've then done more research training and you have done another form period of research and then another, it's quite likely that this isn't the suitable scheme for you, and you should be thinking about the Career Development Awards. This is really for those earliest career researchers who have done well and are ready to build their own research career.
>> Thanks, Alyson, I really like that. It's kind of practical guidance with appropriate flexibility.
Can we go on to the next slide, please?
So this one will be for you, again, Alyson: For Career Development Awards, is the three-year limit for researchers in a salaried post fixed? If I reply to Wellcome, can I request my salary cover on my grants if I have a permanent position?
>> ALYSON FOX: That is probably a little bit easier to answer.
And the three-year limit is more fixed. We will probably have less flexibility around this. As I said when introducing the schemes, we do know that in certain disciplines, the career trajectory is a little bit different, actually, where earlier in their career, people may be in a more permanent position, and there can be more typical in the social sciences than in the life sciences. So that's why we wanted to make sure that those types of people could apply.
They would not normally be eligible, if you will, for a standard fellowship, where you get the salary.
But that, again, can't continue forever. So it's some guidance about who these awards are aimed at.
If you have been lucky enough to get a position, first of all, well done.
But that doesn't mean that you can step away from that position and then have your salary on one of these grants. We would expect the institution to honour the contract that they've given you. So you may apply for a Career Development Award. But the salary would still be coming from your host institution and we would be paying all of the research costs.
>> DIEGO BAPTISTA: Perfect, thanks, Alyson. I think we'll fall into a similar theme again if we can move on to the next slide. And you mentioned this in the last one, but if you fall between the Early-Career Award and the Career Development Award, which award should I apply for?
>> ALYSON FOX: Well, it depends on what we mean by fall between. We don't have strict time limits. It's going to be a judgment call for you about where you think you are in your career. If you're a long time past your training and your first period of research, it's more likely that you're going to be ready for the Career Development Award.
So that is probably what you should be looking at. The early career is for early career. It's a little bit difficult to think about how to spell that out, but that's what that is for. Michael, do you have anything to add to that?
>> MICHAEL DUNN: Not really. Everyone's situation is going to be different. So the emphasis is on you making those judgments, talking to your colleagues, there will be far more information on the website as time goes on, and, you know, there will be instances where I think you will -- you will need to talk to somebody in the office to get clarification.
>> DIEGO BAPTISTA: Thanks both. Can we move on to the next slide, please.
So this one will be for you, Michael. And the question is, why are some current Wellcome grant holders being allowed to apply for a Career Development Award outside of the eligibility guidance?
>> MICHAEL DUNN: Great question. I think the best way of thinking about this as well is we are kind of at a period where we're going to be transitioning from our old schemes through to the new ones. And we thought really hard about the responsibilities and commitments that we had made to the people that we had previously invested in. For example, the Henry Dale fellows.
It's fair to say that the Dale fellows would have been reasonably expecting to apply for an extension, which is part of the deal when they made their original application to Wellcome or potentially to apply for a salaried research position at the end of their grant. So we thought it would be particularly unfair to change the goalposts for those people, and it would be potentially damaging for those individuals to abruptly take away the opportunity to apply for a grant with continued salaried support. So as I said, it's a transitional arrangement which will work its way through the system but the ultimate goal is to have a pristine standard eight year Career Development Award where the next stage is a salaried post at a university or institution where you would be able to apply for a Discovery Award.
The important thing to say alongside this is that alongside the decision-making processes that we come up with within Wellcome we need to make sure that those processes allow for and take into account the different lengths of time that people have under their belts when applying for these grants. And that's something that we currently do. But I think it is important to mention here. Because as Alyson has said, a lot of these schemes, they're intentionally broad in terms of the jumping-on point, and so actually, us being able to make these judgments in terms of kind of, I guess, productivity based on the length of time people have had support, we need to make sure that we do that as well.
Thanks Michael and I know lots of people at Wellcome are working quite hard on this at the moment, which is really quite exciting. Can we move on to the next slide?
So this one will be for you, Alyson.
If I submit multiple applications to the old and new schemes, is that allowed? And will you consider my success rate from previous applications?
>> If you applied to one of our old schemes and were unsuccessful, you're absolutely allowed to apply for one of the new schemes, and no, we will not look at your success rate, if you will, for our previous schemes. So these are new. They're new schemes.
And we want them to be regarded as new schemes by us and by the research community.
Just look at the eligibility for the new schemes, look at the descriptions of the new schemes, consider whether you are suitable and think, "Yeah, that's going to be suitable for me," and then apply. We won't be looking at any data to see whether you've applied for one of our previous schemes before. You can't submit an application to an old one and a new one at the same time.
So I think all of our deadlines are such that that won't possible. But no, we won't be looking at what you've done previously.
>> Brilliant, that is super clear. Can we move on to the next slide? This one is also for you, Alyson, can I apply if I already hold a fellowship elsewhere?
>> ALYSON FOX: No. And that's because we're going to give you a lot of money and you're going to be proposing bold and ambitious research programmes and we would expect those programmes to be taking up most of your time.
We're not going to say you can't apply to hold anything else at the same time. So you can be co-applicant on a Discovery Award, for example, in due course.
But for the early career and the Career Development Awards, we would expect those to be really basically taking up the majority of your research time.
>> Perfect. Thank you, can we move on to the next slide, please? Again for you, Alyson, when can I speak to someone about my application?
>> ALYSON FOX: Quite soon. As we get closer to opening the schemes, which are at the end of August, we're not ready just yet, so when -- where are we? April. I would say towards June, that's when we'll be able to really be much more open to speaking with people. But it depends on what you want to know. We can tell you about the processes. We can tell you about eligibility. We can guide as to whether you might be suitable for one scheme or another. We can certainly tell you everything about the rules and what you can ask for and things like that.
But we won't be speaking with people about the content of their applications, actually, we want to be very equitable about the types of information that all researchers have access to. So some queries are already coming through to our information desk as we released the schemes a couple of weeks ago.
And we'll be beefing up the level of support that we provide in the coming weeks. I'd say by -- by May or June, there will be much more people available to speak.
>> DIEGO BAPTISTA: Perfect, so watch this space on our website for more information. Next slide, please.
This one is for you, Michael. Do applications through the schemes need to be in any of the health challenges areas?
>> MICHAEL DUNN: Absolutely not. Going back to the strategy, there's a distinction between the discovery and the health challenges discovery is intentionally broad.
So I would be extremely surprised if the research that we fund through discovery isn't going to be important in helping to develop and shape the challenge areas, but that's not the primary purpose of discovery.
So I think it's fair to say that, you know, what we don't want are people kind of artificially shaping and changing the grant applications so that they kind of -- it kind of makes it sound like they’re fitting the challenge areas. This will be not a factor -- that will not be a factor in deciding whether a piece of research is going to be funded or not. What we want is your best ideas. And those ideas have the potential to change our understanding of life, health, and well-being.
Can you clarify what support is available for clinical trials?
>> MICHAEL DUNN: The first thing to say is I maybe mentioned in the introduction that, you know, the most clinical translational part of the portfolio for Wellcome will be through the health challenges, because they are going all the way from basic discovery through to policy, practice, and intervention.
And Discovery research, we will be focusing on early stage discovery and not pure translational research.
So I think the clinical -- there will be -- so what's not in scope for us is research which is in there to create or test an intervention and that has a substantial clinical trial component to it.
But what we are interested in hearing about is research which potentially uses human participants such as in experimental medicine, and that research has to be conducted in line with kind of Wellcome policies and guidance for clinical trials. But we will not be looking to support clinical trials with an end point which is to create an intervention in discovery.
>> DIEGO BAPTISTA: Thanks so much, and that ties in nicely to this next question if we go to the next slide. Will you fund translational research including population health research, I feel like you touched on this, but is there anything else you would like to add?
>> MICHAEL DUNN: I knew that there is a lot of population health research questions, which are not purely about creating health interventions, so I would fully expect -- we are open to everything. We are open to all good ideas and all disciplines and absolutely we are open to population health research, absolutely. I guess there's going to be a judgment call is going to be on the level of pure translation within those proposals. A little bit of translation as an offshoot of what is primarily a discovery grant is fine. But I think if the main purpose of that grant is to carry out some major piece of translational research or an intervention that is not going to be in the remit. You'd be better off having a conversation with people that are involved in the challenge areas.
>> DIEGO BAPTISTA: Perfect, and we'll be quite clear about what with the challenge areas get developed and we announce that. Can we go to the next slide, please? This one will be for you, Alyson, are you discouraging applications for smaller, shorter grants?
>> ALYSON FOX: No. We don't expect every grant to be up to the limit of five years or eight years depending on the scheme.
And really, people should apply for what's needed for their programme of research.
Having said that, for those of you that are familiar with the old project grants, we don't expect the Discovery Awards to be project grants. In fact, we don't want the Discovery Awards to be project grants in the same way that we didn't want our current Investigator Awards to be project grants. We do expect them to be to be bolder than that. We do expect them to have the potential to make significant shifts in research. We’re not really looking for grants that may produce an incremental step change.
So we're not going to put limits on this. But we're not expecting everything to be eight years. We know that it will vary with discipline for sure as well. So we're going to be very flexible with that and we will understand those discipline changes. So we know that it can be difficult to give a detailed articulation of a programme of work for eight years, for example, and actually we know that it can be quite difficult to review that if there isn't a lot of detail.
So there are challenges that we and all other funders face with doing this.
So what we're thinking about, and we haven't got the detail finalized is that maybe requesting a detailed programme of work for, say, the first five out of an eight year programme but then more of the overall vision for the final three years, and that's something that we will be putting on our schemes and on our assessment criteria.
What we don't want, because if we get longer, larger grants, we don't want our application forms to become big and unwieldy and bulky and huge. I've seen a few questions about that.
So I think we were quite bold some years ago in making our application forms shorter and we are going to keep that the case. We're not going to have 10,000 word research proposals, or anything like that.
We're going to keep them much shorter and probably shorter than many other proposals.
And I have heard questions about grants from other funders. We're not going to prevent people from doing anything. We know that researchers have to build their careers. They have to build their research base, so if you do hold a Career Development Award, for example. Yes, by any means apply for a project grant from another funder or indeed be a co-applicant on a Discovery Award from Wellcome. But for any of these grants, of course, you'll just have to be clear and be able to justify and explain how you'll be able to do the research on all of it.
So if you're building up a whole portfolio of grants and then you want a big one from us as well then, yes, we will be asking, how are you hoping to do this. These are significant grants, so we expect them to have significant time devoted to them.
>> DIEGO BAPTISTA: That's really helpful. Thank you, Alyson. Can we move on to the next slide? How many grants are you anticipating that you'll award? Are you allocating certain amounts of for certain disciplines? Michael, I'll go to you for this question.
>> MICHAEL DUNN: Thank you. This is the million dollar question. It really will depend on the number and quality of the grant applications coming in through the door and the size of the requests on those grants. So, you know, we haven't set a particular number of grants that we are expecting to award.
But overall our spending for whatever was previously science and humanities and social science will continue broadly in line with what we've spent over the last few years.
But clearly, you know, we haven't put a time limit on Discovery Awards, how the length of time that people can apply for those grants, and we want people to be ambitious with their ideas.
It's fair to say that not all eight year grants will be credible and justified.
So I think it's important for people to really think about the resources that they need to carry out the research that they want to do, to make sure that their cloth is cut to suit the task. Clearly everyone asks for the maximum amount of money for the maximum amount of time. That fundamentally changes the overall number of grants that we can fund. So that's a long way of saying, we don't know. We will know when we've run through the system a few times. But one thing is for sure. We won't be ring fencing money for different disciplines or different disciplinary areas. And as we currently do, we will be basing our decisions based on the quality of the applications coming in through the door.
>> DIEGO BAPTISTA: Thanks very much, Michael. Can we move on to the next slide? Another one for you.
What PhD funding opportunities are you offering?
>> MICHAEL DUNN: We are offering flexibility within the Career Development Award and the Discovery Awards for people to enroll one postgraduate research assistant at a time to study for a PhD. I think that's quite good that we are being explicit about that.
And that kind of complements our, you know, our continued funding for the ongoing Wellcome PhD programmes, where, you know, the basic ones which we'll run for another six or seven years and there's a clinical health care professional call which is currently out, and that's kind of our current funding for PhDs. I think maybe alongside this, as well, there might be a question about -- in different disciplines that people may well not have a PhD at that early career stage, and we are allowing people to ask for PhD support for their fees, for early career grant holders, but it's not a studentship award, but it's being able to request those fees.
>> DIEGO BAPTISTA: Perfect. Thanks very much. The next question will be for you, Alyson if we can go to the next slide. Why is teaching buyout only being offered to humanities and social sciences researchers?
>> ALYSON FOX: The short answer to this is because that is what we have always done. We've looked at this and we've looked at all of the funding-related policies that we currently had to see whether they still are a fit for what we want, and will they work with the new schemes or whether there will be any change. So the humanities and social sciences have always had the opportunity to apply for a small amount, actually of teaching buyout. It's not all of their teaching by any means. And this simply reflects the different type of -- the different shape of the research endeavor in the humanities and social sciences.
And the different types of contracts that they typically have in UK universities.
Where they're expected to do much, much more teaching.
And the nature of their research is different. It's often -- it's much more frequently where the PI is really, really engaged in doing the research solely. And it's very accepted practice that they need to step away from their administration and teaching for a short period of time to enable them to do that research.
So we will be continuing with that.
But we will also want to be clear that it's our expectation that all of our researchers do engage with teaching as we know that they do now in line with their contracts. We don't want to build into our research culture that you do one or the other. In any way. And that's something that we don't want to promote.
>> DIEGO BAPTISTA: Thanks very much, Alyson, it's very clear. If we move to the next slide. This one is for you, Michael. How will you support research enrichment, for example, public engagement for your grant holders?
>> MICHAEL DUNN: Thank you, good question. I guess, the first thing to say is that Wellcome is establishing a brand-new kind of in-house team headed by someone called Dan O’Connor, and that team is focus on the research environment. That's issues to do with research culture, open research, and I guess kind of broader engagement with the public.
So research enrichment and public engagement is going to be a key part of the work of this new team.
And they will be looking to develop a plan to support this in the long term. My understanding is that grant holders, up until 2023 will still be able to apply for research enrichment based on their existing old style research grants but in the future there will be something that comes in its place, details that will be developed over the coming time.
>> DIEGO BAPTISTA: Perfect, thanks Michael. We have five minutes left and a few more questions. I think we will be able to get through all of them and then I'll close out the session. Can we move to the next slide, please? Another one for you, Michael. Are you still planning to fund infrastructure and resources beyond these schemes?
>> MICHAEL DUNN: One of the things that Jim’s review highlighted was the importance of resources as the enablers of research but the review itself concluded that running an open mode grant scheme may not be the best way of Wellcome making an impact in terms of these kinds of resources.
So we're going to be looking quite hard over the coming months at how we might be able to direct resources for funding in the future. So it's a little bit more deliberate and thought-through. So while we may not have an open mode of support, those resources which we maybe had done in the past through the biomedical resources grant scheme, we foresee some ability for Wellcome to support those kinds of activities. But I think there is a benefit of us doing it in a more deliberate way in that, you know, this whole kind of thorny problem of sustainability, long term viability, we can kind of deal with that upfront in a very real way when we do this strategic approach to supporting these kinds of resources.
>> That's perfect. Thank you, Michael. And we'll move on for one more for you, Michael, which is, why do you think it's necessary for researchers to spend time away from their home institution?
>> MICHAEL DUNN: This is a good one to clarify. What we really think is important is for researchers to be able to have the freedom to establish their own identity away from the environments in which they've trained.
We're not expecting necessarily for researchers to move universities. That may not be possible. It may not be desirable for those people. But we do want them to be able to spread their wings in some way and to have that freedom to kind of establish that kind of sense of independence.
And so, you know, I think what we're trying to do is make sure that people know that if they are a postdoc in somebody's lab. If they are sitting in that lab in the same kind of way, it's going to be very difficult for them to establish their own identity. So we're asking for people to think about how best to do that, and I think the environment is kind of one part of that.
It doesn't have to be moving city, but it does have to be moving out of that, I guess, direct supervision of your previous supervisor.
>> Excellent, thanks, Michael, and we'll go to the last question, which is close to my heart, and I'll ask you, Alyson, how will these schemes impact or positively influence research culture?
>> ALYSON FOX: I should throw this back to you, Diego, if it's close to your heart.
So I'm going to hark back to something Michael said a little bit earlier, introducing our new department of research environment, led by Dan O’Connor. That's to recognise that impacting research culture cannot be met through these schemes alone. They can certainly contribute to it, but it's really a bigger piece of work, much of which will require us at Wellcome to work with institutions and make our wishes, expectations, sometimes known there.
But there are a few things through the schemes that we will hope will influence research culture.
Firstly, we will continue with our expectation that institutions provide mentorship and sponsorship for the early career and the Career Development Awards.
In assessing applications, we will be looking at research environment and culture as I mentioned when going through the slides, and that's both the research environment that the researcher is in, but their contribution to the local environment and what they've done, and that may be their management, their leadership, appropriate to career stage, of course. We'll be asking about that in their application and in the interview process.
We will be requiring institutions to allow a certain amount of days per year for all researchers on their grant to engage in continual professional development and that will be an absolute requirement. I think we have said ten days, but don't quote me on that, having gone public with that, I will probably be quoted! We will pay for the costs of CPD for continual professional development, whether it is courses, where that training is not available within an institution, a researcher can request it on a grant, and we will pay for that.
We will be expecting institutions to either commit to a position or at least to commit to having a formal review during the course of a Career Development Award so that that award holder knows that there is either a post or a path to a post during -- by the end of their grant or shortly thereafter. And, finally, just to mention now, I've seen some questions about senior postdocs, and can they be co-applicants? And that's something that we want to do, to make sure that we recognise all people who are having a significant contribution. Not a minor contribution. But if there is a senior postdoc who is helping to write a grant, who has helped to shape the programme of research, who is going to have significant input in running that programme of research, then, yes, they should be a co-applicant and they will be recognised as such on one of our plants. And that's just a flavour of things that we will be doing for research culture.
>> DIEGO BAPTISTA: That's excellent, and a variety of flavours that will be really attractive. So we're really sorry if we didn't get to your particular question, and if it wasn't answered. I know people were putting questions in the live Q&A, and we're sorry that we couldn't monitor those during it. If I could go to the next slide, and direct people to our schemes page if you have more questions that you would like to submit.
And that is how you'll be able to sort of contact the team.
I'll just take a really brief moment to, again, thank all of our speakers, so thanks Alyson and Michael for answering questions, so thoughtfully and for Jim and Anne to be backup in case we had technical difficulties.
Thanks, Russell and Catrin for signing the entire session, and thank you very much to everyone who's sort of been working behind the scenes that has made this run really, really smoothly.
I hope you're as excited about these new schemes as I am, and I hope that you'll stay tuned to our website and our social accounts for further developments in Discovery research and Wellcome's strategy. So thanks, everybody, enjoy the rest of your day.
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