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What’s new in the Alzheimer’s Society research funding programme?

Alzheimer's Society supports groundbreaking research that transforms the lives of people affected by dementia. James Pickett, our Head of Research, shares the small but significant changes we’ve recently made to our research funding programme.

As you start to complete one of Alzheimer’s Society Grant Funding application forms for a Project, PhD or Fellowship grant, you’ll notice some changes to the focus of our research funding.

These changes have been informed by discussions with both researchers and volunteers directly affected by dementia. The changes reflect key points that we want to highlight as important for a strong application to Alzheimer’s Society. 

This isn’t a change in the eligibility criteria to applying for Alzheimer’s Society funding. We still want to fund the best and most relevant research into cause, care, cure and prevention of all forms of dementia, through a range of projects and capacity building PhDs and Fellowships.  

The four Is

When you’re next applying to our funding programme, remember these new changes as 'the four Is' – Impact, Implementation, Include and Involve.  

Impact 

In our biomedical funding scheme, we are putting a greater focus on funding novel research that is relevant to all forms of dementia in humans. This doesn’t mean prioritising clinical research over preclinical research, but we request a robust justification of how the proposed research question fits in to the broader picture of human dementia. 

Model systems and cellular pathways should be put in the context of the contribution they are likely to make to the human disease in question.

The onus is on applicants to make the case of the relevance of your hypothesis and approaches and systems to be studies. 

We would like to see applications that address the complexity of dementia, including its interplay with natural ageing processes and the common appearance of multiple pathologies in the older brain. Research should be placed in the context of ongoing or completed clinical trials. 

Applications to Alzheimer’s Society do not have to include both human and model-based research in the same proposal but stronger applications will include drawing together the knowledge created from the different and complementary approaches. 

Implementation

In our more applied and social research, we are also expanding our focus on implementation.

We are bringing our Implementation funding together with Care, Services and Public Health in to a new single Care, Implementation and Public Health board Co-chaired currently by Professors Steve Iliffe and Ruth Boaden.

This increases the opportunity for implementation researchers to apply for PhDs and Fellowships as well as project funding. 

We are also bringing the two streams together to increase the focus on implementation at all stages of research. We recognise that implementation is not something that can be considered only after an intervention has been proven to be effective.

There are multiple ways applicants can start to address this. This might mean engaging non-academic partners earlier in the research process, considering factors in the health, social care and public health systems in to which interventions and solutions would be delivered in future, and factors associated with health economics and costs.

We are open to alternative approaches to randomised controlled trials for complex interventions, for instance in the generation of real-world evidence.   

Include

Our application forms will now include a greater focus on inclusion and diversity  in each proposal. We have a broad definition of inclusion, and we would like to fund research that is focused on under researched populations as well as research that studies a broad general and representative population. 

Our application will require applicants to describe any steps they are taking to increase the diversity of study populations.

This could include details of recruitment methods to be used, consideration of inclusion and exclusion criteria to studies, or addressing gender-based differences in preclinical research. We will also be asking for details about inclusion in the regular reporting of our research grants. 
 
An important second aspect is steps taken by the applicants or their employing universities to support opportunities for researchers from different backgrounds, including commitments to Athena SWAN.
  
This ‘Include’ theme an evolving stream of work within Alzheimer’s Society over the coming years addressing equality, inclusion and diversity.

Recently we have reviewed our own policies and guidance from a gender equality perspective and have made changes, including paternity and sickness benefits for our funded PhD students.  

Involve

For 20 years Alzheimer’s Society has pioneered the involvement of people affected by dementia in research.

Every project we have ever funded has had three members of our Research Network associated with it as ‘monitors’.

In reality, this means partners and critical friends to the research, providing a lived-experience perspective and contributing public involvement to the research. 

Despite Alzheimer’s Society’s strong approach to public involvement, we have actually not asked much in our applications about the involvement of people affected by dementia. Public involvement is evolving as a research method, and we appreciate there is no single model that will work for all types of research. 

Our updated application forms put more opportunity for applicants to describe their approach to involving people affected by dementia in their research – and we hope to see some innovative and exciting ways set out. 

Applying to our research programme this year

The changes outlined here do not change the eligibility remit of Alzheimer’s Society funding. We are aware that many of our successful funded projects already address the areas we have set out and we want to encourage more, stronger applications like these. 

Depending on the type of research you are applying to carry out and how close it is to benefiting people with dementia , the four I's principles will apply in different ways. But, we believe they are relevant to all types of research. 

View our full research funding programme

Find out more about the research grants we offer and how to apply for them. 

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