A Clinical Academic is a clinician who also wants to include an element of research, teaching or management in their role with the aim of improving clinical practice within their speciality. Medical clinical academic training pathways have become more structured. The academic career path can begin at medical school with an intercalated BSc or MSc degree or MB PhD programme, alongside other opportunities to be involved in research. Nevertheless, the move into an academic programme is possible at various stages in postgraduate medical training.
Recognising the value of supporting clinicians to do research in their area of expertise, the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) provides a range of schemes to encourage aspiring Clinical Academics. Academic foundation programme posts funded by Health Education England (HEE), offer protected academic time during Foundation Year (FY2) training, usually in the form of a 4-month block spent away from clinical practice. The NIHR Integrated Academic Training (IAT) Pathway supports Academic Clinical Fellowships (ACFs) for up to three years enabling academic training alongside specialty training with the aim of supporting entry onto a PhD programme. The NIHR also provides Doctoral Research Fellowships (DRFs) supporting a period of out-of-programme leading to a doctoral degree (PhD), and finally, Clinical Lectureships (CLs) of up to four years’ duration enabling postdoctoral clinicians to split their time equally 50:50 between clinical and academic work (Figure 1a). Universities are required to provide one matched CL post per NIHR-funded CL post through local funding. DRFs are personal awards following a competitive application process. Equivalent personal funding to pursue a substantive period of research leading to a higher degree may be obtained from the Medical Research Council (MRC), Wellcome Trust, British Heart Foundation and other charities.
At Consultant level, the NIHR offers Senior Clinical Lectureships or Advanced Fellowships as well as prestigious senior Research Professorship awards. Equally, there is the opportunity to use NIHR or equivalent funding to pay for research sessions within a Consultant job plan.
The devolved nations also support integrated academic training programmes and details may be found on the following websites:
- NHS Scotland | Scottish Academic Training (SCREDS)
- Northern Ireland Medical and Dental Training Agency (NIMDTA) | Academic Training
- Wales Deanery | Academic Medicine
In Scotland, the Academic Foundation Programme supports a dedicated four-month academic block for research or medical education activities. As well as acquiring clinical competencies expected of all trainees, each academic foundation trainee is allocated a personal academic mentor who is actively engaged in promoting and undertaking research at University and/or NHS level.
The Scottish Clinical Research Excellence Development Scheme (SCREDS) provides an integrated training and career development pathway enabling clinicians to pursue concurrently or sequentially academic and clinical training within the NHS. It facilitates both the attainment of a senior clinical academic appointment and the award of a Certificate of Completion of Training (CCT). Normally time within the SCREDS appointment is as follows: 20% for research training and 80% time for clinical training. These posts are funded either directly by universities or by NES.
At Consultant level, NHS Research Scotland (NRS) supports NHS clinical staff in developing a research career by funding protected time to contribute to, conduct and lead clinical research, in order to increase capacity in areas that are either aligned to research excellence locally or nationally or areas where the potential exists to develop research excellence. The Scottish Senior Clinical Fellowship scheme supports clinical scientists in their transition to leadership and provides a research-focussed entry point to a permanent clinical academic career for a period of five years.
In Northern Ireland the Clinical Academic Training Programme is a partnership between Queen’s University Belfast and the Northern Ireland Medical and Dental Training Agency. The following link has details on the organisation of the CATP including application processes and deadlines. It also offers information on the Irish Clinical Academic Training (ICAT) Programme which is an All-Ireland training programme for clinician scientists supported by the Wellcome Trust.
The Welsh Clinical Academic Track which is one way of developing an academic career in Wales. It does encourage applicants from many specialties and successful applicants are linked to appropriate research centres, usually in Cardiff or Swansea Universities:
However, some surgical trainees do research leading to academic degrees through other routes taking OOPE. Funding for those routes can come from a variety of sources such as Health Boards and specific research funds, including RCS funding.
The details for the Academic Foundation recruitment across Wales can be found on the following link:
If you have any question regarding the above, please feel free to contact the Academic and Research Committee on the following email: