In a very open blog post the Wellcome Trust’s new Director, Jeremy Farrar, begins to outline their evolving vision for research funding. While details remain a little vague at this point, a few important things are clear:
The Investigator Awards are here to stay. Whilst there remains some scepticism amongst the scientific community about this mechanism of funding, in their visits to institutions and their one-on-one time with researchers the Wellcome Trust (including Jeremy Farrar himself) have been encouraging academics to think about these awards differently. There has been a frustrating tendency for people to apply for the largest and most ambitious awards they possibly can, instead of rationally thinking about what level of support they actually need at this stage of their careers and how this can be effectively focused into exciting proposals. The Wellcome Trust themselves see this scheme as a way they can continue to fund projects and programmes rather than just gigantic personal fellowships, and we would encourage everyone to consider approaching this scheme on this basis.
Mid-career researchers need support. Jeremy’s post makes it clear that the Wellcome Trust are actively considering new fellowship schemes that will help mid-career researchers as well as senior and early-career staff.
Collaboration is key. While their Investigator Awards may have pushed the idea of individuals rather than teams being the focus, Wellcome are overhauling their Strategic Awards and putting in place new schemes for team-based collaborative funding,
Willingness to support risky business. One of the most interesting notes is reference to a new scheme “for small, one-off seed grants to promote the development of innovative or high-risk research ideas, so that these can become competitive for larger awards” – a very exciting prospect for those who want to pursue transformative basic or translational research questions.
All Wellcome Trust proposals – whether personal Fellowships, Investigator Awards or their excellent Translational Funding schemes – now have a dedicated Intention to Submit process to ensure that we give them the best support possible locally.
Please remember to send in the relevant ItS forms 12 weeks ahead of deadlines so that your application can be supported and approved for submission.