Dr Elijah Mak with an MRI scanner

Early career researchers: You spoke, we listened

Early career researchers (ECRs) are the future of dementia research and hold the key to a better world for people affected by dementia. Here is how Alzheimer's Society is committed to you.

Last year I wrote about the impact of COVID-19 on early career researchers (ECRs) and about our plans to revise the support we offer to ECRs. We’ve spent the last year gathering data, looking at funding pipelines and talking to you about what you need to build a research career in dementia.

We’ve supported ECRs since we started funding research 30 years ago and reaffirmed our commitment in 2014 when we established our Dementia Research Leaders programme.

We’re now taking this a step further with our ambitious new plan to become the best funder of early career researchers in the UK.

  • We want to attract the best ECRs into dementia research and support you to develop into dementia research leaders.  
  • Our funding schemes will be flexible and supportive, based on your potential as well as your academic success. 
  • We will create a sustainable pipeline of talented researchers in dementia to give people affected by dementia the breakthroughs and change they deserve. 

We don’t just want you to survive a career in dementia research, we want you to thrive.

All our existing schemes have been updated to make them more competitive and supportive to allow you to think big and lead your work with the funding and support you need. For example, our PhD studentship is now one of the most competitive studentships available.  

If you’re a clinician or allied health professional we know you’ve got a mountain of additional challenges when it comes to building a clinical-academic career. You’ll see that we’ve added three new funding schemes to support you at the most critical points in your career.

Creating communities

We’ve finally launched a researcher facing Twitter account (@AlzSocResearch) to speak directly to you and the wider research community. Do follow us for updates on our programme and our work to support early career researchers.  

We’re proud to have confirmed our continued funding for the Dementia Researcher Platform that continues to go from strength to strength.  

We’re also working in partnership with the clinical professional bodies like the Royal Society of Medicine, Royal College of Psychiatrists and Royal College of Nursing to reach out to these communities and support clinicians and allied health professionals to build flourishing careers in dementia research.  

This year we’re bringing together our funded ECRs to an overnight retreat. We’ve designed a really dynamic and engaging programme to offer (face to face!) networking and skills development to support your career progression. This event was only open to our funded researchers this year but the plan is to open this up in future years.  

Equality and inclusion

We know that unfortunately there are additional challenges for some early career researchers and we’re striving to become a leader in equality and inclusion. We’re still early on in this journey but we’ve taken steps forward.

We remain one of the only funders to offer funding to cover family and sick leave for our PhD students who, outrageously in our opinion, often fall through the gaps in terms of employment rights.  

Our new partnership with the Daphne Jackson Trust sees us launch a new fellowship to support researchers who’ve taken two years or more out of research due to family, caring responsibilities or long-term sickness.  

We’re continuing to work with researchers about how we can better support those going on leave and returning to research.  

What next?  

We’ve got big and ambitious plans to build on the work outlined above, and we’re excited to tell you more later in the year.  

We can’t build all this without your feedback, so continue to tell us how we could improve our new schemes, our support, and where the gaps and challenges still remain.  

We started 30 years ago and we’re not going anywhere. You are the future of research and we are committed to backing you.  

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