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2020 and 2021 NIHR IAT Priority Research Themes



NIHR Priority Research Themes for the Integrated Academic Training (IAT) Competition

The NIHR has allocated Academic Clinical Fellowships (ACFs) and Clinical Lectureships (CLs) in medicine to IAT partnerships through the IAT Competition. Since 2018, the IAT Competition has targeted multidisciplinary research areas identified as being of strategic significance by DHSC and the NIHR.
ACF and CL posts in priority theme areas may be held in a number of different clinical specialities, with the condition that the research programme undertaken by the ACF or CL will be in the theme area.
The seven priority research themes detailed below were selected for both 2020 and 2021 posts.

Platform Science and Bioinformatics

There have been rapid recent advances in high throughput technologies that allow large-scale assessment of disease process. This has been exemplified by advances in genomic medicine, and the advent of large-scale genomic diagnosis resulting from the 100,000 Genomes Project.

NIHR previously and successfully introduced a Genomics ACF in the IAT competition. We aim to build on this success, broadening out the opportunity to also include the biology of transcriptomics, metabonomics, proteomics, and critically, the underpinning sciences of bioinformatics essential for the utilisation of the technology.

Access to, and availability of, vast population-level data sets ('big data') could also provide the basis for research to inform approaches to prevention, diagnostics, and treatment. NIHR believes that Platform Science and Bioinformatics has the capacity to become a flagship theme area.

ACF and CLs supporting this theme could be held in an underpinning science area e.g. pathology, or in a clinical speciality in which the technology can be effectively applied.

Therapeutics or Clinical Pharmacology

Therapeutic opportunity exists beyond clinical pharmacology in GMC specialities where application of therapeutics is key.

Biomarkers are critical in therapeutic development so these ACF and CL posts could be linked to platform science and bioinformatics. Likewise, the development of digital therapeutics support tools would be within remit.

ACF and CLs supporting this theme could therefore be held in clinical pharmacology, or another speciality linked to therapeutic developments. 

Older People and Complex Health Needs

This theme would include research that helps to understand and manage multimorbidity, highlighted by the "RAND Future of Health Report" as a major and growing health challenge in areas such as the ageing population and chronic disease.

ACFs and CLs appointed to these theme posts could be held in, e.g. geriatric medicine, or in a GMC speciality where age-related or chronic disease morbidity represents a critical component e.g. diabetes, cardiology, general practice, orthopaedic surgery, etc.


Dementia remains a key theme for NIHR.

ACFs and CLs could be held in a number of GMC specialities e.g. geriatric medicine, old age psychiatry, neurology, histopathology or clinical radiology, etc.

Medical Education

Medical education research (also known as clinical education research) focuses on the education and development of clinicians and clinical teams across medical training and continuing professional development. Medical education research may draw upon sociology, psychology, anthropology, economics, or linguistics, as well as disciplines such as management and business.

Medical Education ACF and CL posts could be held in any GMC speciality.

Acute Care

ACF and CL posts supporting the acute care theme may be held in a range of GMC specialties, which are relevant to the management of the acutely ill patient. These could include, but are not restricted to, emergency medicine, intensive care medicine, anaesthetics, and acute care surgical specialties.

Mental Health

ACF and CL posts may be held in a number of GMC specialties, which may include e.g. general psychiatry, child and adolescent psychiatry, forensic psychiatry, old age psychiatry, psychiatry of learning disability, or medical psychotherapy.