ANZCA support for emerging clinician researchers

ANZCA briefs the NHMRC on its research strategy and practical support initiatives specifically targeting emerging investigators

In December 2021, Australia’s National Health and Medical Research Council Chief Executive Officer Professor Ann Kelso asked the college to provide an overview of the research career pathway support it currently provides to ANZCA fellows and trainees who are current or prospective clinician researchers.

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ANZCA was well prepared to answer having, in recent years, developed a research strategy clearly mandating targeted support for our emerging investigators, and an associated suite of practical support initiatives freely available to these researchers as they establish their research careers.  The following is a summary of the college’s response.

Research and ANZCA

The third goal in ANZCA’s 2018-2022 strategic plan is to sustain and support global leadership in research through funding, collaboration, networks, culture, and promoting opportunities across the career lifecycle. One of the ANZCA Research Strategy’s ten strategic aims is to support and develop specialist researchers at all career stages, including encouraging trainee and novice involvement and academic progression, and developing an Emerging Investigators Subcommittee to connect research opportunities and pathways throughout the college. The Research Committee and the ANZCA Foundation have implemented these strategies by developing structures, initiatives and activities that provide emerging researchers with practical support. 
 

ANZCA Foundation Research Grants

The college’s annual grants program supports high-quality peer-reviewed research studies in anaesthesia, pain medicine and perioperative medicine, across a bi-national network of fellow and trainee investigators and their hospital and university research teams and programs. These studies explore important questions in basic science and clinical practice, increasing scientific understanding, identifying further potential for clinically significant outcomes, and demonstrating safety and feasibility of further testing through large clinical trials. Outcomes are highly relevant for patients, practitioners, and the health-care system, and are available through a continually growing body of publications which are also accessible in the college’s online research repository (AIRR) in the ANZCA Library. College research grant funding through the ANZCA Foundation grew from $861,000 in 2011 to $1.66 million in 2020 (prior to a Covid-19 deferred year in 2021), and efforts to leverage additional external funding continue.

Novice and emerging investigator grants

Future advancement not just in our specialties but across perioperative medicine will be strongly related to how well novice and emerging researchers are supported today. Recognising the need to develop and invest in this rising talent, each year the college provides its Novice Investigator Grants of up to $A20,000 each to help grantees establish their academic careers, by funding the essential input costs of their studies and helping to attract other funding.

Novice investigator grant applicants undertake most of their research personally under the supervision of experienced colleagues. Strict eligibility criteria ensure that applicants need only compete with other novice researchers for these grants. Applicants are also each offered formal one-to-one mentoring support from experienced Research Committee volunteer members during the application process, to increase their chances of grant success. Novice investigators whose applications are received by 14 January each year may request this mentoring. The mentors assess the applications and provide feedback, before applicants resubmit their improved applications. All mentoring comments are confidential and not available to the wider Research Committee.

ANZCA Patrons Emerging Investigator Grant

In 2021, the new ANZCA Patrons Emerging Investigator Grant of $70,000 was created and dedicated to encouraging and helping emerging investigators transition from the novice investigator grant to the more demanding project grant level.  Again, specific eligibility criteria ensure that this grant is only available to emerging early-career investigators transitioning to leading larger studies, and that they do not need to complete with highly experienced senior investigators.

Applicants must be the principal investigator and a college fellow or trainee. If a trainee, one chief investigator on the application must be a college fellow. This grant may be over two years with funding up to a total of $120,000, and higher degree scholarships may be included within applications for the grant.

ANZCA Project Grant Scholarship Scheme

For its Project Grants, which normally offer up to A$70,000 for a single grant or A$120,000 over two years, the college allows any applicants enrolled for higher research degrees to apply for project funding of up to A$45,000 as well as up to A$45,000 for a salary support scholarship, or A$90,000 over one year. They may also apply for a second year of funding.

Other scholarships and grants

In addition, thanks to the generosity of its donors, the ANZCA Foundation offers several other donor-funded scholarships and grants for emerging investigators. These include the ‘Skantha Vallipuram ANZCA Research Scholarship’ of $15,000, and for those working in hospitals affiliated with the University of Melbourne, the $20,000 ‘ANZCA Melbourne Emerging Researcher Scholarship’ and the $10,000 ‘ANZCA Melbourne Emerging Anaesthesia Researcher Award’.

Mentoring and Formative Grant Review

An additional initiative targeted at this group is the ‘Formative Grant Review’ program. This initiative allows trainee or emerging investigators to gain insights into not only the process of writing formal grant applications, but also the subsequent peer review process. With appropriate permissions and confidentiality, participants conduct a ‘formative’ review of a real grant application and are provided with supervision and expert feedback. More information for potential mentees is available by directly contacting the foundation.

Emerging Investigators Subcommittee

The Emerging Investigators Subcommittee (EISC) was established in 2017 by the Research Committee and the Foundation to improve support for researchers just commencing or recently embarked on a research career. The EISC also provides a forum for representatives of trainee and regional research networks across Australia and New Zealand. 

Other resources

The EISC, ANZCA Library and the foundation have established the college’s online Research Support Tool Kit, providing access to high-quality, relevant academic educational resources for emerging and established researchers. 

This toolkit is available on the ANZCA website as a ‘Library Guide’, with resources sorted under such topics as ‘getting started’, ‘grants’, ‘funding’, ‘budgeting’, ‘project and trial management’, ‘literature search’, ‘data management’, ‘reporting’, ‘ethics’, ‘governance’, ‘risk’, ‘compliance’, and a range of subjects under ‘publishing’, ‘evaluation’ and ‘promotion’. Several topics are specific to emerging investigators and research coordinators.

ANZCA Institutional Research Repository

The ANZCA Institutional Research Repository (AIRR) stores and facilitates discovery of the research and publication output of ANZCA and Faculty of Pain Medicine fellows and trainees, and the wider ANZCA community. It includes research authors and profiles, peer-reviewed medical journal publications, seminal reference books, relevant publication series, randomised control trials, and other research support publications, and allows searching by keyword, subject, and date issued. AIRR is hosted online within the ANZCA Library.

Conclusion

ANZCA’s suite of research support initiatives is continuously developing, and is aimed at supporting novice and emerging fellow and trainee researchers in negotiating very challenging pathways towards research success. Their future contribution will be vital drivers for improving the science and knowledge behind excellence in clinical practice, and patient outcomes.

Further information on any of the grants available through the ANZCA foundation is available here.  Applicants are reminded that the closing date for all ANZCA grants is 5pm AEDT, 1 April 2022. More information on accessing or supporting these support programs can be found on the college website, or by contacting the foundation:

  • Research grants:  Susan Collins, research and administration coordinator.
  • Foundation queries: Rob Packer, general manager, +61 3 (0)409 481 295.

 
To support the foundation, search ‘GiftOptions – ANZCA’ in your browser.
 


Last updated 12:11 12.04.2022