Funding and support for "young" researchers

1. How can "young" (less experienced) researchers be better supported/educated to access grants or other funding sources (outside of UHN) to lead research activities at UHN?
2. Research activities that are lead by allied health professionals are currently not well supported throughout UHN (i.e. lack of dedicated time, funding, role integration, education resources, etc.). Is there a plan to improve this in UHN's strategic plan?
3. Are there mentorship programs for research?

Comments

At UHN Collaborative Academic Practice (CAP) has developed a database to capture health professions academic activity across all our sites and programs. Under the leadership of Dr. Kathryn Nichol, CAP has been working very closely with Dr. Chris Paige and other UHN Research Institute leaders to build better connections and pathways to link and expose health professions academic work. For example, Dr. Weaver recently opened up access of the Krembil Research Institute to clinicians beyond those who meet the requirements for PI status --- there is building momentum to address how to ensure our clinicians are part of the research endeavor at UHN. CAP has created a strong infrastructure that could be leveraged to create a Health Professions Institute in the future that would bring discipline specific and collaborative academic practice, research and education together. 

The CAP Academic Affairs, Research and Innovation operating plan for 2015-2016 addresses  some of the major issues that health professionals identified as barriers to advancing academic practice – for example:
• Protected time
• Education support
• Funding
• Mentoring
• Consultation 

The Research  Quality Committee  is the place where CAP formally interacts with Research ( they meet 4 times per year) as well as at the VP/Sr VP level.  

EDUCATION
CAP completed a Health Professions Research Needs Assessment every few years: Results from this year’s assessment will provide an update from 4 years ago about education for research and how it should be offered. 

Mentorship has always been identified as a need and greatly valued – so we have incorporated this into CAP Research Job Descriptions for our Research Leaders, new Clinician Scientists and Senior Research Positions. We attempt every year to establish a budget from a variety of variable funds, which will jointly support our early career HPs researchers and clinician research knowledge  as well as ongoing career development.

CAP has approval in principle from Michener to redevelop some of our educational products that we use for novice researchers, which will be accessible to students and UHN staff. This will hopefully complement and improve what Research can offer, due to the way that their IT structure/access is set up.  

CAP Fellowships and Seed Funding Grants are a wonderful way of building research and leadership capacity and we now have over 100 graduates from these Fellowships. Through support from our UHN Foundation and Clinical Programs, we have secured ongoing funding to support this wonderful program.

TAHSN: Zeroing in on Academic Performance (ZAP)
Joy Richards is co-leading a task force with TAHSNp and TAHSNe to make visible health professions academic performance. This work includes standardizing language across hospitals and U of T, standardizing appointments and creating standardized metrics that hospitals can begin to capture and make visible the academic outputs for our health professions researchers, educators and clinicians.

Joy Richards, ​Vice President Patient Experience & Chief Health Professions
1) At Princess Margaret we have a mentorship program to assist early career scientists. These mentors provide advice on various research grant opportunities and can assist in evaluating drafts of research proposals. Given the particular challenges in funding at CIHR and other traditional funding sources, we are also establishing a new committee to address opportunities for making our scientists more competitive for funding. This will include new opportunities to get feedback and improve applications going forward. It is always a great idea to seek out other successful scientists and have them carefully read your grant well before submission.

2) Allied health researchers play a very important role in the research effort. At UHN, this falls under the Collaborative Academic Practice (CAP) portfolio. They assist research through providing the infrastructure, processes, and programs that enable innovative connections between knowledge and care. There have a number of initiatives including an internal grants and fellowship program. See - http://www.uhn.ca/healthcareprofessionals/Meet_Professions/Pages/researc....  

3) We have a formal mentorship program for early career scientists. This program is going to be strengthened in the near future to provide more structural support for our young scientists in this challenging funding period. We would love to year your ideas on ways to better support our scientists.
1.    How can "young" (less experienced) researchers be better supported/educated to access grants or other funding sources (outside of UHN) to lead research activities at UHN?

The Krembil Research Institute does not have a peer review process for grant applications at this time; however, new (less experienced) researchers are often paired with a more senior investigator during their initial few years of appointment at Krembil. Mentorship may be through the Director, a Research Division Head or through a Senior Scientist who is knowledgeable in the researcher’s area of interest. 

Early career investigators are encouraged to apply for external funding targeted to their experience level such as the Early Researcher Award (ERA) through the Ministry of Research and Innovation. Appointed Krembil researchers are also eligible to apply for internal opportunities such as the Postdoctoral Fellowship (with an incoming or current trainee) and the Small Equipment Competition. Both programs are intended to support and boost internal laboratories at the Institute. These resources can aid in an early researcher’s start-up.

Krembil also has a distribution list that is used to disseminate funding opportunity announcements to appointed researchers.

2.    Research activities that are lead by allied health professionals are currently not well supported throughout UHN (i.e. lack of dedicated time, funding, role integration, education resources, etc.). Is there a plan to improve this in UHN's strategic plan?

As noted above, we recently opened the “Clinician Investigator” category of appointment at the Krembil Research Institute (Krembil). It was created in the fall of 2015 to facilitate and further clinical research that is currently being done at the Toronto Western Hospital.  This category is opened to Physician, Nursing and Allied Health Professionals who meet the UHN criteria as an Investigator.

Clinician Investigators are researchers who hold a primary appointment outside of the Krembil and whose time commitment is mostly dedicated towards clinical service. Accordingly, Clinician Investigators will not receive salary, space or research start‐up monies from the Krembil; however they are eligible to apply for Krembil internal funding opportunities that are dedicated to clinical research and to marrying basic science with clinical research. Clinician Investigators’ grant applications will receive the Director of the Krembil’s endorsement and other resources, as they become available.

Current “perks” include:
•    Applying to internal funding opportunities such as the Small Equipment Competition and Postdoctoral/Clinical Fellows Award Competition;
•    Speaking at and inviting speakers to the Krembil Seminar Series;
•    Participation at the annual Krembil Research Day and Krembil Summer Student Research Day;
•    Potential to be featured in the bimonthly Krembil Newsletter;
•    Potential for assistance in grant applications.

For more information or to seek an application, please contact krembil@uhnresearch.ca 

3.    Are there mentorship programs for research?

UHN is committed to providing an excellent environment for the academic and professional development of its trainees. At a site level, the Krembil Research Institute equally believes in the strong support for up-and-coming new investigators. Currently, we offer the following mediums:

Seminar Programs - includes internal and external leaders. Postdoctoral fellows have the opportunity to meet the external visitors as part of individual laboratory visits, participate in a group lunch/discussion as well as attend the seminar.  This provides an opportunity to collaborate with researchers and knowledge users from diverse backgrounds and disciplinary areas.  Postdoctoral fellows have the opportunity to present their own seminar to the research community on current research and receive feedback from our members.

Research Day - As part of an ongoing trainee commitment, Krembil hosts an annual Research Day for the research community. This event represents a time for our members to come together to hear about the research occurring within the Institute, as well as to network and learn about the spectrum of interests and disciplines at our site. This day provides an opportunity to expand research horizons, sparking new collaborations in basic and clinical research and as a whole, to support the excellence of our trainees. We will be holding our 17th Annual Research Day on in May 2017 where attendance is in excess of 250 trainees, faculty and guests.  Through participation in the Krembil Trainee Affairs Committee, graduate students and postdoctoral fellows play an active role in the planning and execution of this event. Trainees also have an opportunity to deliver oral or poster presentations at Research Day. 

Summer Student Research Day - As a member of the Krembil Trainee Affairs Committee, all senior trainees, including postdoctoral fellows are invited to sit in on our smaller research day event for our summer students and medical residents. Senior trainees participate in the Q&A portion of the event to encourage our junior students with thought-provoking comments and questions. Critiques and suggestions are also collected from the senior trainees and returned back to the participants from a mentorship aspect. Many of the summer students are mentored directly by senior postdoctoral fellows as well as the laboratory Principal Investigator.

Collaborative Mentorship - Postdoctoral fellows reside within a primary laboratory at Krembil, however, as many of our research themes are overlapping, fellows are often supported by multiple collaborating Scientists both scientifically and resourcefully.
Participation in multi-group lab meetings is also of regular occurrence.

Intellectual Property (IP) and Knowledge Translation - Krembil and UHN's Technology Development and Commercialization (TDC) office are partnering to produce a series of educational events to provide information to the research community within the commercialization domain, and to help foster a culture of entrepreneurship throughout Krembil.  Events are to be rolled out in the Fall/Winter of 2016. Members of Krembil also have ready access to a TDC Commercialization Specialist who is housed on-site. This specialist provides molecular modelling for various laboratories within the institute, drug discovery project management support, feasibility assessment for extending intellectual property (IP) reach of UHN discoveries and provides advice to senior personnel on patentability of IP prior to reaching the TDC office.  The specialist also prepares inventor disclosures and drafts patent applications for drug discovery and medical device development projects.

Office of Research Trainees (ORT) - In addition to Institute support and initiatives, UHN holds a central office for all research trainees. This office supports trainees with internal travel awards to attend conferences and provides resources for research and career development. These include, but are not limited to resource documents for writing a scientific manuscript, workshops on resumes and online media, and panel discussions on careers in industry, academia and government organizations.