In the past, people went into research when it suited them with no clear pathway provided and a lot left to serendipity. However, there is now a research training structure in place, the National Integrated Academic Training Pathway
. As previously, the first exposure to research often happens during an intercalated BSc at medical school. During Specialist Training some centres now offer Academic Clinical Fellowship (ACF)
posts, which provide protected time for research and pump prime funding to develop a project idea that will hopefully result in a successful external Research Training Fellowship (RTF) application. If successful, the RTFs leave their training programmes for 2-3 years to do a higher degree and can then either slot back into their dermatology training programme or can take up an Academic Clinical Lecturer (ACL) post, which provides again a split between clinical training and research. The ACL posts are meant for people with a long-term interest in medical research and post holders are expected to apply for a more senior research award, such as an Intermediate Research Fellowship (IRF), Intermediate Clinical Fellowship (ICF) or Clinician Scientist (CS) Award.
Having said all of the above, the actual numbers of ACF and ACL posts in this pathway are limited and often there is no vacant post for a suitable candidate or vice versa a post is available but there is no suitable candidate. We encourage all those interested in dermatology research to talk to established academics about their plans and ideas. One does not have to be in an ACF post to apply for RTFs, and many still do an MD/PhD independently and outside of the National Integrated Academic Training Pathway. Likewise, being an ACL is not a prerequisite of applying for an IRF/ICF or CS Award, and there are also further funding opportunities available after completion of a PhD (see website links provided below).
On a positive note, there couldn’t be a better time to get involved in research, as there is lots of other support around. For instance, Professors Frank Nestle, Hywel Williams and Chris Griffiths as NIHR Senior Investigators have recently joined forces with the BAD to set up a travel and research taster scheme. The British Epidermo-Epidemiology Society also runs an ‘Evidence Based Dermatology’ course
and a summer school
on how to critically appraise and write papers. THESIS is a research course run jointly by the BAD and BSID, which gives a general impression about skin-related research for those who have not decided what they want to do. There is also a Research Techniques course that Professor Edel O’Toole from Barts and the London will be running shortly. The UK Dermatology Clinical Trials Network (UK DCTN) has a Fellowship scheme for trainees, and you might even become a recruiter for one of the UKDCTN trials