Recently, we made some changes to the focus of our research funding. Anna-Louise Smith, Research Engagement Manager at Alzheimer’s Society, explains what this means in practice for the Research Network.
Our updates to the Alzheimer's Society funding programme were based on discussions with both researchers and Research Network members. These changes will help to encourage strong grant applications to the Society and ensure we maximise the impact of our research.
We will continue 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 by growing the dementia researcher population throughout PhDs and Fellowships.
Success so far
This exercise of change has been a great opportunity to reflect on the importance of the Research Network.
The involvement of our volunteers in our funding programme ensures that the research we fund is not only the best quality science, it is also meaningful and impactful for people affected by dementia.
These changes to our funding programme have also been an opportunity to make sure we are making the most of our volunteer’s skills and interests.
Developing our Monitoring programme
A unique role of the Network is supporting our monitoring programme which aims to assign three Network members to each grant funded by Alzheimer’s Society as ‘Monitors’. This means partners and critical friends to the research, providing a lived-experience perspective for the research teams.
Recently we haven’t fully achieved that target. Finding three people to monitor every one of nearly 200 projects is proving to be unmanageable. So it seems a good time to rethink how we make the most of our monitors’ time, skills and areas of interest.
We have had feedback from our researchers that they would like more support to develop their plans to involve people affected by dementia in their research.
We’ve also found that a number of our volunteers have expressed an interest in getting further involved in our funded projects.
What do these changes mean for our Research Network volunteers?
At this stage, there will be no immediate changes to your role as a Research Network volunteer.
In the coming months, we will be getting in touch with all our volunteers to explore ideas and map out a plan to evolve the monitoring programme, ensuring it is achievable and impactful.
This will ensure we provide valuable support to our researchers and enabling our volunteers to get further involved in our research projects if they wish to.
New focus for our researchers
Here I have highlighted the changes we are making to our research funding programme so that the people affected by dementia and their needs are at the front and centre of the research we fund.
We will be asking researchers applying to Alzheimer’s Society for funding to ensure they keep in mind the 'the four I’s':
- Impact: We are asking researchers working in the biomedical research field to put a great focus on justifying how their research will help us to understand all forms of dementia in people.
- Implementation: We are merging our Implementation and Care, Services and Public Health funding streams to make sure our researchers consider how their care research at every stage could ultimately impact people affected by dementia.
- Include: Our application forms will also include a greater focus on diversity as we would like to fund research that is focused on a diverse range of people that is representative of our population.
- Involve: Despite Alzheimer’s Society’s strong approach to involving people affected by dementia at every stage of research, we have actually not asked much in our applications about how researchers want to involve people affected by dementia. Our updated application forms give applicants an opportunity to describe their approach – and we hope to see some innovative and exciting ways set out.
You should start seeing this subtlety reflected in the lay summaries you review for us.
Join our Research Network
Research is not just for researchers. Your personal experience of dementia is invaluable. Join our Research Network to make research relevant and impactful for all those living with dementia today and in the future.