What do we mean by imaging research?
Imaging research covers two broad classes of activity: studies in which the primary question is related to imaging (for example, assessing the accuracy of a new ultrasound technique) and those studies in which imaging plays an important role in supporting clinical research (for example, computerised tomography (CT) imaging to assess lung tumour volume in a trial of a novel drug for lung cancer).
How we support imaging research
We lead and support imaging research on a significant scale across all elements of NIHR, including the Biomedical Research Centres, the Clinical Research Facilities, the Clinical Research Network and the Medical Technology and In-vitro diagnostic Co-operatives.
The fellowship and training programmes run by the NIHR Academy support the academic development of imaging researchers from all disciplines and the NIHR research programmes fund cutting edge imaging research.
The NIHR Imaging Group has been established to support and coordinate this activity by:
- collaborating with key national partners, including UKRI, the major medical research charities and patient groups
- working with NIHR-funded imaging researchers, patients and key stakeholders to develop a strong NIHR multidisciplinary community of practice for imaging research
- ensuring that NIHR makes a visible, coordinated and effective contribution to scientific advances in imaging, including the development, application and evaluation of Artificial Intelligence (AI)
- supporting the development of the imaging research workforce, with a particular focus on those working in the NHS
- improving the delivery of primary imaging research in the NHS
- strengthening partnerships with industry.
Facts and Figures
- Between 2017 and 2018 over 250 studies involving imaging were supported by NIHR Biomedical Research Centres and Clinical Research Facilities.
- The NIHR Clinical Research Network typically supports more than 2000 studies in which imaging is an important element each year
- Since 2016, NIHR Academy has awarded 54 fellowships involving imaging research from a range of disciplines across the various fellowship programmes. In the same period, NIHR Programmes funded or managed over 90 primary imaging research studies or studies where imaging was a component of the design, with research grants awarded across multiple funding workstreams (£17.5m through EME, £9.3m through i4i, £41.8m through HTA and £2m through Research for Patient Benefit).
Supporting your imaging research
Speak to a local imaging expert
If you need help or advice with delivering your imaging study you can contact one of our Local Imaging Champions who work within the Local Clinical Research Networks. Local Imaging Champions provide leadership for imaging research alongside imaging experts from across the NIHR. They form part of the NIHR Imaging Group and work to strengthen local imaging research portfolios by finding and encouraging collaborative ways of working with Academic Health Science Networks and the SME imaging sector.
Visit the NIHR Local website to find your nearest Local Clinical Research Network who can put you in touch with their Local Imaging Champion.
Enhance your understanding of statistical issues that arise in imaging studies
Imaging research can present some specific design and statistical challenges. The NIHR statistics imaging group organises small group discussion meetings about ongoing research projects including both statisticians and clinicians, where we discuss aspects of study design and analysis. Clinicians attending these events find them valuable and an enjoyable opportunity to learn more about statistical aspects of imaging research.
Visit the NIHR Statistics Group website to find out more and join the mailing list.
Involving patients and the public in imaging research
The NIHR exists to support research that is centred on patient benefit. To this end, our Imaging Group sponsored a one-day workshop to identify issues and opportunities for patients when encountering the new imaging technologies in the context of applied research in medical care environments. Key areas for consideration were identified, including:
- Involving patients at the outset in terms of concept, technology design and research design
- Ensuring appropriate communication, access and inclusivity
- Reporting of results and incidental findings
A brief guidance report has been created which is available for interested audiences who may include:
- Medical imaging researchers
- Organisations and individuals whose role it is to support and help facilitate imaging research
- Patients and the public interested in, or who encounter, medical imaging
Read more about what is important to patients and the public in respect to participation in imaging research.
For those new to research
Radiology Academic Network for Trainees (RADIANT)
The NIHR Imaging Group has strong links with Radiology Academic Network for Trainees (RADIANT). RADIANT is a national trainee-led consortium, supported by the Royal College of Radiologists (RCR), aiming to:
- Increase trainee engagement in audit and research, including recruitment to imaging studies on the NIHR CRN portfolio
- Increase trainee engagement in national and international scientific meetings
- Involve trainees in publications
- Improve research training for trainees
Visit the Radiology Academic Network for Trainees (RADIANT) website for more information including details on how to get involved in the consortium.
Associate Principal Investigator (PI) Scheme
We have developed an Associate Principal Investigator Scheme which aims to support health and care professionals to become the Principal Investigators of the future. The RCR have joined a number of Royal Colleges in endorsing this scheme. The scheme provides opportunities for junior doctors and health and care professionals interested in clinical oncology and clinical radiology to develop their skills as a researcher and get involved in some of our cancer portfolio studies involving radiotherapy.
Find out more about the Associate PI Scheme.
Celebrating research excellence
We celebrate the successes of inspirational health and care professionals who have supported NIHR Portfolio research through our Research Excellence Awards jointly sponsored by a number of Royal Colleges and other stakeholder organisations. The NIHR RCR Outstanding Clinical Radiology Researcher Award runs every two years and accepts applications for contributions to CRN-supported imaging research in two categories: Consultant and Trainee. The latest award closes for applications October 2021.
Find out more about NIHR Clinical Research Network research awards.
NIHR Imaging Group
The NIHR Imaging Group is led by a Steering Committee, and has three operational Working Groups and two cross cutting workstreams.
We have representatives from the 15 CRN Local Imaging Champions, CRN Cancer Radiotherapy and Imaging Research Leadership and BRC Imaging Leadership. The Committee also includes representatives from three key professional bodies – the Royal College of Radiologists, the Society of Radiographers and the Institute of Physics and Engineering in Medicine, whilst patients and other external bodies (including UKRI) are also represented.
To request support or to contact any of these working groups, email firstname.lastname@example.org
NIHR Imaging Working Groups and Workstreams
The Imaging Group has three working groups. The working groups are supported by cross-cutting workstreams in the areas of industry, and patient and the public involvement, which are overseen by the Steering Group.
Imaging Science Working Group
The imaging science working group focuses on identifying the specific gaps in imaging research infrastructure, and proposes solutions to help investigators undertake high quality imaging research in the NHS. The aim of this group is to support the development of cutting edge imaging research across the NIHR. This includes secure shared access to large imaging datasets linked to cognate clinical data to support the development of AI and machine learning algorithms in imaging, access to clinical trial unit support with specific expertise in delivering imaging studies and developing a set of tools and repository of resources to assist imaging researchers.
Our partners include University of Oxford, Health Data Research UK (HDR UK), National Cancer Imaging Translational Accelerator (NCITA), NHSX, University of Dundee, University of Cambridge and University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, RCR, and Imperial College London.
Research Delivery Working Group
The overarching goal of the Research Delivery Working Group is to improve the imaging research delivery infrastructure within the NIHR and across its partners and stakeholders – NHS, academic and commercial.
Working with UK Research & Development (UKRD), NCITA, NHS England (NHSE) and NHS Improvement (NHSI) and NHSX, and supported by key imaging experts including our CRN Local Imaging Champions, we aim to develop appropriate and efficient guidance frameworks (including ethics and governance permissions and costings guidance) to facilitate imaging research and the use of imaging data. This will lead to greater efficiencies in delivering this research, better funding and staffing models, and improved access to resources, thus providing confidence to our partners and patients that consistently high quality imaging can be undertaken to drive research forward. The group also aims to develop collaborative networking and regional hubs to optimise delivery and provide flexible capacity for imaging research.
Workforce Working Group
Over 35 million imaging tests are performed each year in the NHS. The aim of this group is to increase the capacity and capability of the NHS and academic imaging research workforce. It will also work to improve early-mid career opportunities for grant-supported clinical research and enhance academic careers in imaging. Our partners include key professional bodies such as the Royal College of Radiologists (RCR), Institute of Physics and Engineering in Medicine, Society of Radiographers. Activities include championing for the increase in clinical academic training within core radiology and radiographer curriculums as well as working with RADIANT to develop learning programs and increase the number of trainees supporting our portfolio research. The group aims to develop NIHR fellowships in joint partnership with industry and charities as well as a multi-disciplinary mentorship programme.