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NIHR IAT Priority Research Themes


Published: 21 January 2020

Version: 2.0 (Sept 21)

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The Integrated Academic Training (IAT) programme has nine priority research themes.

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.

(i) 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 and aims to build on this, broadening out from but still including genomics into the biology of transcriptomics, metabonomics, proteomics, and critically, the underpinning sciences of bioinformatics essential for the utilisation of the technology. ACFs and CLs supporting this theme could be held in an underpinning science area e.g. pathology, or in a medical specialty in which the technology can be effectively applied. This theme complements the NIHR Incubator in Health Data Science.

(ii) Epidemiology and public health 

This is a new theme aimed to split out some of the applications last year that came into the Platform Science and Bioinformatics theme. The focus of this theme is ‘big data’ in relation to patient numbers and populations, for example electronic health records as opposed to complex biological data sets about single patients, which should continue to come in under the Platform Science and Bioinformatics theme. As with the Platform Science and Bioinformatics theme, this theme will complement the NIHR Incubator in Health Data Science and also the NIHR Incubator in Public Health.

(iii) Therapeutics or clinical pharmacology

Therapeutic opportunity exists beyond clinical pharmacology in GMC specialities where application of therapeutics is key. ACFs and CLs supporting this theme could therefore be held in clinical pharmacology or another speciality linked to therapeutic development in that speciality. Biomarkers are critical in therapeutic development so these ACF and CL posts could also be linked to Platform Science and Bioinformatics. Clinical Pharmacology also represents a key area of interest for industry and was again highlighted as a shortage area in the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry’s report, Bridging the skills gap in the biopharmaceutical industry: Maintaining the UK’s leading position in life sciences

(iv) Health needs of older people 

This theme links to NIHR’s strategic priority area of multimorbidity at any age. ACFs and CLs appointed to these theme posts could be held ingeriatric medicine, or in a GMC speciality where age-related morbidity represents a critical component, e.g. diabetes, cardiology, general practice, orthopaedic surgery, etc.

(v) Dementia

Dementia remains a key priority 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.

(vi) Medical education

Medical education research focuses on the education and development of clinicians and clinical teams across medical training and continuing professional development and research may draw upon sociology, psychology, anthropology, economics, linguistics as well as disciplines such as management and business. These ACF and CL posts could be held in any GMC speciality. Partnerships are encouraged to consider cross-cutting educational research proposals relevant to all types of clinical training including the allied health professions, nursing, midwifery and dentistry.

(vii) Acute care

ACFs and CLs supporting the acute care theme may be held in a range of GMC specialties, which may include e.g. emergency medicine, intensive care medicine, anaesthetics, or acute care surgical specialties. Acute care research remains an area in need of additional support and this theme would also complement the recently launched NIHR Incubator in Emergency Care.

(viii) Mental health

ACFs and CLs that support this theme may be held in a number of GMC specialties, which may include general psychiatry, child and adolescent psychiatry, forensic psychiatry, old age psychiatry, psychiatry of learning disability, or medical psychotherapy. This theme will also complement the NIHR Incubator in Mental Health due to launch in 2020.

(ix) Multimorbidity at any age 

ACFs and CLs to support this theme could be held in a number of different GMC specialties where the research is focussed on addressing multimorbidity. NIHR encourage research in a range of patient populations to ensure the focus isn’t just on older people. The definition of multimorbidity used by the Academy of Medical Sciences should be adopted for applications to this theme:
The co-existence of two or more chronic conditions, which is either:
  1. a physical non-communicable disease of long duration, such as cardiovascular disease or cancer
  2. a mental health condition of long duration, such as a mood disorder or dementia 
  3. an infectious disease of long duration, such as HIV or hepatitis C
IAT partnerships can appoint in any GMC speciality according to their local expertise, as long as the research programme undertaken by the ACF or CL will be in the theme area.