Dr Des Walsh, the Faculty of Medicine’s Director of Research Strategy, provides an insight into building relationships with funders.
Seems obvious really, we write good grants and they fund them – stimulating a beautiful friendship. But this is built on a transaction and not much else. That’s why building a deeper relationship with our funding bodies benefits all. Imperial recently hosted the Executive Chair and Chief Scientist of the MRC, the Executive Chair of EPSRC and has regular contacts with BBSRC and NERC. However, these are either top-level or infrequent.
So how does a jobbing researcher build relationships with their favourite funders?
Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and speak to a programme/project manager – direct contact means you can ask what you need to: does your research fit the remit of a scheme; are you at the right career stage; or just some basic pointers for what a Board may be looking for.
Try to attend funder-sponsored workshops and events – funder-folk will be there in person so you can collar them.
Ask the funder if you can observe part of a Board meeting. The regular MRC Boards all allow early career investigators to sit in on some of a Board meeting to get a sense of what Boards see as important. Feedback from these is uniformly positive and it’s a great opportunity to talk with Board members during the coffee breaks.
As with all good friendships, we can’t just take take take – we need to give back too, and there are several ways we can do this. If asked, try to undertake peer-review. Currently our rate for peer review is somewhere around 32% with MRC. It is time-consuming but peer-review is one of the cornerstones of our funding system, supporting our peers to develop better projects through critical evaluation. It also helps us to refine our own skills.
Offer your services to sit on Boards and Panels. Again, can be hard work but it’s rewarding and fun! Don’t be disheartened if your offer is not accepted – the funders are rightly bound by tight equality but also geographical rules. You will judge research applications for funding but will also get the opportunity to take part in the strategic conversations. Take part in public engagement events such as the MRC’s Festival of Science or the CRUK’s Revealing Research events.
Where funders put their cash is the subject of much debate; they need the right communities and constituents to advise them, and the Board/Panel discussions are often the start of this. In my experience, the funders do listen.
Imperial has a well-earned track record of attracting research funding. As the funding landscape changes, we must ensure we are at the heart of the research conversations too.
The Faculty of Medicine’s Postgraduate Education Team has expanded over the last year and our remit has evolved.
Given this, we decided to take some time towards the end of last academic year to reflect on and agree our priorities and identify effective ways to deliver them. In so doing, we agreed a vision statement that we wanted to share with you at the start of our new academic year.
Our priorities for this academic year include the implementation of the curriculum review and a range of strategic activities including the introduction of a Faculty-wide shared project call and the development of an agreed mechanism to recognise the value of teaching. These, and all other projects, as well as the way we work, fall within our vision:
To maintain an outstanding learning experience for our students, through collaboration with FoM PG Medicine educators. To bring this about, we are committed to creating and sustaining an environment in which PG Medicine colleagues can develop their own tools and initiatives. Working together, our goal is to make student learning interactive, engaging and digitally enhanced.
To achieve our vision, the team:
facilitates and coordinates the efforts of teachers and support staff to create high-calibre learning experiences for students;
uses evidence as the foundation of the support we provide;
collaborates with all FoM PG colleagues in practical and pragmatic ways, with a focus on dialogue, solutions and staff fulfilment;
ensures that our support is accessible and adaptable
promotes innovation and efficiency as a means to transforming educational practice;
encourages initiative and reflection among the FoM PG community;
adopts a strategic approach to supporting the FoM PG teaching community.
The team comprises:
Academic Lead for Postgraduate Taught Programmes
Principal Teaching Fellow, Postgraduate Medicine
Project Manager: Attributes and Aspirations (AA) Short Course
Operations Manager: PG Education
Teaching Fellow, PG Medicine
Teaching Fellow, PG Medicine
Senior Learning Designer: Attributes and Aspirations (AA) Short course
For students, this will ensure a consistently excellent experience when using College systems, irrespective of stage in the student lifecycle, year or programme of study.
For staff, this will ensure visibility of a modular level student study view in-year and in real-time to make decisions based on high quality and comprehensive information.
The new Banner system will reflect the College’s infrastructure, its programme and modular curriculum structure, its regulations and student activity to improve information sharing for both staff and students. A key aim is to establish the system as the single source of truth for student and curriculum data, providing a foundation for all information systems involving student data.
The transition to fully using Banner as a College-wide system will bring about changes in the way that student and curricula data is held, viewed and managed. Understanding the extent of reliance on local systems to manage data processing is key to successfully embedding the change to achieve a single source of truth.
SIMP Department Roadshows
To foster understanding and commitment for the planned phased outcomes you are invited to attend a SIMP Department Roadshows which has been arranged by the Faculty of Medicine for all staff.
The roadshows will give you an opportunity to meet with the Programme Sponsor, the SIMP Business Team and FoM Leadership and these events aim to provide an opportunity to update you on the programme and invite discussion on:
Sponsorship for the vision, phased outcomes and benefits
Objectives, timing and highlights of each of the multi-year phases
Looking-back over 2019 in preparation for phase I go-live (January 2020)
Looking-forward to achieving a successful phase II (January – September 2020).
Three sessions have been arranged, at St Mary’s, South Kensington and Charing Cross Campuses. The South Kensington session will be recorded for those staff unable to attend in person.
Staff Rounds are relaunching at Hammersmith Campus from Wednesday 18 September.
What are Staff Rounds?
The aim of the Staff Round is to inspire and learn how clinical medicine can be transformed by research. It’s a way for Faculty and Trust staff to discover the extraordinary research carried out throughout the Faculty and to bring people together.
The central premise of the event will be to use a clinical case to highlight research and encourage discussion. Staff Rounds have a long history at Hammersmith Hospital, dating back to the 80s.
The weekly sessions during term-time are organised by Professor Liz Lightstone. Writing about last year’s Staff Rounds, she said: “As part of an AHSC we still value hearing about fascinating clinical problems outside our specialities, and that we are prepared to joust in a friendly manner to promote even better outcomes. But that will only happen if people make the effort to attend, if the senior members of staff come along and bring their teams with them, and if everyone contributes. I would like the Staff Round to once again become a highlight of the week.”
Who can attend?
Research staff, clinicians, nurses, allied health professionals and more are encouraged to attend and will be welcomed.
Professor Peter Sever reflects on his time studying and working at St Mary’s Campus and looks forward to the new vision for the Faculty of Medicine.
I spent three wonderful years as a student at St Mary’s Hospital Medical School and have spent most of my professional life on the Mary’s Campus. Initially in the old Medical Unit with Sir Stanley Peart on the third floor of the Medical School, moving to the top floor of the QEQM building when it opened in 1987, then to offices in North Wharf Road. Finally, when they bulldozed down the North Wharf buildings, I was resettled in splendid new accommodation at the Hammersmith Hospital, in the Imperial College Translational and Experimental Medicine Building.
As one of the oldest Mary’s men still working, it came as a culture shock after so many years at Mary’s to decamp to the heart of the Hammersmith – an institution with which, for so many years in the past, we competed fiercely!
The move has been a great success and I realised that it’s people, not buildings that are important in the modern world. Bringing together clinicians and researchers, working together in their different disciplines, in new purpose-built accommodation, that provides them with the best opportunity to carry out their scientific programmes and look after their patients, is a goal to which we should aspire.
One of the problems I have experienced over many years has been the fragmentation of clinicians and scientists working across several campuses in a far from efficient way, when consolidation of our enormous talents on single sites would have benefited all. If we are going deliver the best research and the best patient care we must look hard at the geography of our institutions and plan for the optimal way in which we can achieve our goals. (more…)
We are delighted to report the outcome of the seventh Imperial Confidence in Concept (ICiC) competition. The aim of the ICiC scheme is to accelerate the transition from discovery research to translational development projects by supporting preliminary work or feasibility studies to establish the viability of an approach. These awards ‘pump-prime’ the translation of novel therapeutics, devices and diagnostics towards clinical testing.
We had a fund of over £1.4million for the ICiC scheme this year, and this includes contributions from the MRC, NIHR Imperial BRC, Wellcome Trust Institutional Strategic Support Fund, EPSRC Impact Acceleration Accounts, and HEIF funding, as well as support from NIHR BRC at The Royal Marsden and The Institute of Cancer Research.
Professor Roberto Solari chairs our cross-College Panel, which includes Imperial academics from scientific, engineering and medical fields, as well as external industry experts. Over 70 applications were received this year, and the Panel was impressed with the high quality of applications. Proposals covered the full breadth of biomedical translational research across the College, including:
‘Stem cell-derived hepatocytes for high throughput antimalarial drug screening’ (Jake Baum and Wei Cue – Faculty of Natural Sciences & Medicine)
‘A device to prevent pressure ulcers using novel pressure equalisation technology’ (Spyros Masouros and Colin Boyle– Faculty of Engineering)
‘Development of a Food Standards Agency approved Nutritional Milk with a Legume-base for children with severe malnutrition’ (Kath Maitland and Gary Frost – Faculty of Medicine)
‘Novel, low-cost instrumentation for clinical histopathology of kidney disease’ (Paul French, Candice Roufosse, Terence Cook, Christopher Dunsby, and Mark Neil – Faculties of Natural Sciences & Medicine)
London Advanced Therapies is seeking applications for its Confidence in Collaboration scheme, which offers a total of £1.5m funding to stimulate new research collaborations between two or more London academic partners in cell and gene therapy. This is the second of two calls for proposals.
Funding of up to £50K per project will be awarded to provide consumables and/or equipment to pump-prime new, exciting collaborative work that has the potential to go on securing more substantial funding from UKRI, charitable funders and/or Industry.
The London Advance Therapies – Confidence in Collaboration projects will have the following attributes:
Supporting new research collaborations in cell and gene therapy between two or more London Academic Institutions (with the aim of building cross-institutional teams)
Applicable to pre-clinical, clinical, manufacturing and underpinning technology research (and other similar areas)
Maximum of £50K, normally 12 months duration, supporting pump-priming/pilot research
Funding can support directly-incurred costs, including facilities use (but not salaries)
Applications must be led by an established academic at one of the London institutions and always involve a PI from King’s College London, University College London and /or Imperial College
Submissions should be co-led by PIs working at two or more London Institutions.
Applications will be assessed by a cross-institutional expert panel.
Expression of Interest should be submitted by email to: firstname.lastname@example.org – contact us with a paragraph describing your project and we will send you an application form.
Deadline for full submission will be on 12 September 2019 – please make sure you contact us well in advance with your expression of Interest.
When did you first realise you wanted to do what you do?
It was about 15 years ago; I knew I wasn’t very happy where I was and what I was doing, so I made a decision to do something about that.
What’s the best thing about your role?
I feel really privileged to meet and help a diverse range of people.
What’s the most challenging thing about your role?
I help people face some of their toughest challenges in life. Lots of people know what they should do, but knowing isn’t enough, because action is often scary.
What’s the proudest moment of your career?
I don’t really feel proud very much, but knowing I can share the tools to help people through difficult times is rewarding – I like finding the way together!
Tell us a little about your work on Mental Health First Aid?
I first trained as a Mental Health First Aid instructor in 2014. Since then MHFA has really taken root at Imperial and become something that enables many of our wonderful volunteers to support those around them. Growing and nurturing that network is where much of my work takes place. (more…)
Dr Shona Blair, Head of Research Strategy, Faculty of Medicine
Describe your job in a few words:
Develop and support strategic research initiatives
What’s the best thing about your role?
Supporting world leading researchers, and the team I work with.
What’s the most challenging thing about your role?
Understanding the depth and breadth of the research we do, the complexities of our structure and our engagement with the NHS.
What’s the proudest moment of your career?
Giving a key note address on my research, while the world leader in my field was in the audience, and receiving very positive feedback from him.
I heard that you’ve done some research on bees and honey – tell us a little about that:
As a former microbiologist, I’ve been involved in research into the antimicrobial and other therapeutic properties of honey, with a particular focus on manuka from Australia and New Zealand, for quite a few years. (more…)
As you may be aware, I am at home recovering from a spinal injury sustained in a car accident in Zimbabwe, where I was visiting one of our research units; I hope to be back after Easter. In the meanwhile, I am immensely grateful to Martin Wilkins who has stepped in as Acting Dean while I am away from College, and would also like to thank all of my colleagues for their well-wishes and their continuing support of the Faculty during this time. My enforced spell of reflection is, of course, very frustrating given the outstanding opportunities that currently stand before the Faculty, and the College as a whole. However, it has afforded me some time to reflect on how best to realise these emerging opportunities for Medicine.
In July 2018, not long after my appointment as Dean of the Faculty of Medicine, I wrote in the College Staff Briefing about the distinctive environment that medical science now enjoys at Imperial. I wrote of the extraordinary benefits of Medicine now being well-embedded within the wider ecosystem of excellent fundamental science at the College, while working translationally with our AHSC network of NHS partners. I also described the new opportunities that have been catalysed across the College by the development of our White City Campus, particularly through exploiting adjacency to the Hammersmith Campus. Since I wrote that piece, Novartis have announced their intention to relocate their UK headquarters to White City, elegantly demonstrating the ‘pulling power’ of our emerging life sciences cluster. (more…)
March marks the launch of our redesigned Faculty of Medicine internal newsletter, which is now being delivered to the inboxes of postgraduate research student members of our community as well as all Faculty staff members. The monthly email has taken on a new style and design following an extensive redesign project.
We in the Faculty’s Communications Team wanted to provide an insight into the redesign project and how changes made to the newsletter were driven by your feedback.
Why change the newsletter?
Although the Faculty newsletter scored positively in the 2017 Staff Survey – 70 per cent of staff agreed or strongly agreed that it was a useful communication channel – we were keen to review a structure that had remained largely unchanged for around five years. With the Faculty newsletter a crucial component of our internal communications, we felt there was a clear need to freshen the design and ensure it evolved to fit the needs of our community.
The newsletter was also designed at a time when it was the main piece of medicine-specific internal communications; necessitating a broad and varied remit. Since then, the Faculty’s departments have developed their own newsletters, which now cover a significant proportion of the newsletter’s original scope. (more…)
Joana Dos Santos explains a new short course for Master’s students, IMPACTS (Inclusive Module on Professional And Critical Thinking Skills):
IMPACTS is an elective, non-credit bearing short-course for PG students in the Faculty of Medicine.
What is the IMPACTS short course aiming to address?
As professionals, most of our skills have been acquired and refined through years of practice and interactions within our own scientific community. These essential skills to success notably include identifying key literature, critically engaging with different types of scientific publications, presenting data efficiently as well as interpreting and critically discussing complex data sets. Importantly, we might take some of these skills for granted and consequently expect our students to demonstrate them without having necessarily taught them, or taken into account the cultural, educational, linguistic or learning difficulties background of our students. (more…)
The HR Transformation Project will be transitioning the Faculty of Medicine’s HR departments into the new College HR Structure on Monday 4 March. This is the beginning of improving the HR services the Faculty receives, and will involve a change in how faculty staff can access HR services.
As the transition progresses, both the HR teams and Medicine departments will be adapting to a new way of operating. While I’m confident that service levels should improve quickly following the implementation of this change, we will need your feedback to understand how well it is working. We’ll monitor the HR service provided closely, and will address emerging issues as quickly as possible. To help us continuously improve the service we offer, you can provide feedback on your experience to Claudia Menichetti (for the Staff Hub), Jason Chambers (for the Recruitment Hub) or myself.
As part of our commitment to work with our neighbours in and around our new White City Campus, we are excited to announce the launch of a new fund which supports community-led science and technology projects. We are offering seed funding of up to £2,000 to local residents and community groups who wish to explore and share the wonder of science with their communities. You can read more about the fund on our website. (more…)
Could bird songs help boost engagement with hearing tests?
A new venture will explore the use of bird songs to encourage engagement with hearing tests. The idea was born out of a two-day workshop led by the NIHR Imperial Patient Safety Translational Research Centre, developed to stimulate innovative ideas that could help improve communication for adults with hearing loss.
In a new study, Institute of Global Health Innovation (IGHI) scientists will begin evaluating whether the Streams app can help both patients and healthcare staff by making important medical information more readily available.
Societal engagement at Imperial is for all members of staff and you can sign up to our exciting masterclasses now! They are a low-commitment, easy way to get familiar with engagement and kickstart your engagement activities.
Engagement activities have a whole range of benefits including:
Gaining new perspectives
Getting the public excited about STEM and your work
Imperial College London would like to recruit a postgraduate student representative for the NEW Science, Engineering and Technology Research Ethics Committee (SETREC). SETREC will focus on non-health related projects and will run alongside the ICREC which previously had oversight for all health and non-health studies.
A key aim of the Committee is to enable Imperial to maintain the highest ethical standards in all research relating to human participants.
SETREC will convene monthly on the third Tuesday of each month at South Kensington Campus. If you are interested in joining the Committee, please send a short letter outlining relevant experience and suitability. Please include an up to date copy of your CV.
No experience necessary. Applications must be sent to Nooreen Shaikh at the Joint Research Compliance Office. Information on ICREC can be found on the website.
The Public Affairs team is currently working on a new programme to support Imperial researchers connect with policymakers, including workshops with policymakers on specific themes, training, information and support to individual academics.
Seminars for Imperial researchers were introduced at the end of 2018 and will continue this year. These seminars aim to equip researchers with everything they need to initiate or continue their engagement with policy. The seminar will provide an introduction to policy-making and influencing as well as a practical guide on how to engage policymakers with research to achieve increased impact. It is suitable for all levels of experience and no preparation will be necessary.
The next dates are:
Thursday, 21 February: 13:45 – 16:00
Wednesday, 27 March: 9:45 – 12:00
Friday, 26 April: 13:45 – 16:00
Friday, 31 May: 13:45 – 16:00
Friday 28 June: 13:45 – 16:00
All seminars will take place in the Boardroom, Faculty Building, South Kensington Campus.
The College closes at your usual finishing time on Friday 21 December and reopens on Wednesday 2 January. If you need to undertake any essential work between these times when the College is closed, the College Access to College Buildings Out of Hours Policy applies. Please see the policy for more information on what is considered to be essential work.
The policy requires you to obtain written permission from your Head of Department (or, for the Department of Medicine only, your Head of Division). There is a link within the Policy to the form that you need in order to obtain such permission.
Heads of Department/Division must be satisfied that appropriate lone working arrangements are made in line with the College’s Safe Management of Lone Working Code of Practice, and that wellbeing implications are considered prior to out of hours access being granted.
Security staff are likely to check whether such permission has been granted if you are working at these times.
The College no longer subscribes to Research Professional and has moved to a new provider for research funding information, called Idox GRANTfinder 4 Education, offering a searchable database of funding opportunities and the option to subscribe to alerts.
GRANTfinder 4 Education allows academic institutions in the UK to service all their funding search requirements in one place: GRANTfinder for wider projects such as capital investment and spin-offs, RESEARCHconnect for research projects and POLICYfinder to keep track of relevant policy to support funding applications. This resource offers the ability to search for up-to-date funding opportunities and share information across defined groups and the wider communities at Imperial College and to deliver these in a cost-effective manner.
There will be a training session will be on 12 December. Antony McKay from Idox will deliver the training and there will be 3 sessions, all in room SKEM 315. Registration is via Eventbrite. The second session of the day will be tailored for research managers and the other two sessions are open to all College staff. Please register for the session you would like to attend. If you are unable to attend these sessions there will be more scheduled for the early part of 2019. (more…)
ICT Customer Services is currently undergoing a restructure led by the Head of Customer Services, Leigh Davenport. The new model is designed to allow us to focus more on the operational relationships with the faculties by giving the faculties a dedicated resource who will be their day-to-day interface. Whilst we are focusing on the customer relationship we are also going to improve the efficiency of service delivery, making better use of the staff we have by pooling our resources and continue our trend of improving resolution times whilst driving down Service Level Agreement breaches. The changes are due to take place in a structured and phased way, over the next 6 to 8 weeks.
New roles and changes to teams
A new function has been created called the Customer Services Management team, headed by Dawn Beaumont. Customer Services Managers will own the operational relationship with customer departments and manage customer satisfaction within ICT. As well as leading the new team, Dawn will also be the Customer Service Manager with responsibility for Medicine. Dawn has spent her entire career at Imperial providing IT support to Medicine, worked at all of the Medicine campuses and has for the last 15 years been the Faculty Support Manager responsible for the teams providing IT Support at the Medicine sites.
The ICT Digital Partners will still own the strategic relationships with the departments, initiating and guiding new projects and will work with the Customer Services Managers to champion the “voice of the customer” within ICT.
The Faculty Support team will report into a single Faculty Support Manager, Jamey Khan, who will oversee the services of resource teams providing deskside support in departments and via the ICT Service Desk in Central Library for South Kensington-based staff and existing local offices on remote campuses. This move should allow improved responsiveness of engineers to adapt to changing demands across the organisation.
Elmy Thompson, the current Site Manager for Hammersmith, Charing Cross and White City will be moving to take up the role of Departmental Operations Manager taking charge of the ICT’s Admin function. Dominic Spencer who currently covers St Mary’s, Chelsea and Brompton will have responsibility for managing deskside support teams across all the College’s remote campuses.
There are a limited number of FREE bursary places available for Imperial College London staff in healthcare professions outside of medicine to cover the course fee. Contact the CATO Team for further bursary details.
Revolutions in public health research and how to access UK Biobank data: An update for all Clinical Academics
Course date: The next Imperial CATO masterclass is on January 24 2019, 18:00hrs, at the Royal Marsden Hospital (Julian Bloom Lecture Theatre).
Course content: The focus will be on how clinical academics might use the increasing wealth of population and NHS data (including UK Biobank) in research studies, or work with epidemiologists and others in exploring research questions using their data and skills.
Target audience: This will be particular interest to those of you who are not public health researchers to learn about how you could potentially work with such academics, and learn what they are currently doing, and how to access data such as UK Biobank.
Speakers: this will include Dr Ioanna Tzoulaki, Reader in Epidemiology, who uses UK Biobank data to explore genetic associations of inflammatory biomarkers (amongst others).