Wellcome Trust announces ‘flexible’ eight-year research grants

The longer-term funds will “enable researchers to be ambitious”, the Trust announced today

The Wellcome Trust has consolidated its “confusing maze of funding routes” into longer-term funding grants that “enable researchers to be ambitious”, it announced today.

The independent global health research charity oversees a £29.1 billion investment portfolio, making it one of the largest biomedical research charities in the world.

The director of Wellcome’s Discovery Research portfolio, Michael Dunn, announced the three new funding schemes in a blog post today.

Two of the three, the Discovery Award and the Career Development Award, are awarded for up to eight years to “give researchers more freedom, time and financial resources to pursue their ideas”. The Early-Career Awards fund researchers for up to five years.

The three grants “fund people at all career stages, as long as the research is related to human biology, health and disease”, the Trust said. Individuals, teams and interdisciplinary research groups are eligible.

The Early-Career Award covers salary and up to £400,000 for research expenses. Researchers employed at universities and research institutes that abide by the Trust conditions – namely that they adhere to the Concordat to Support the Career Development of Researchers – are eligible.

The Career Development Award covers salary and research expenses for up to eight years. Mid-career researchers from any discipline “who have the potential to be international research leaders” are eligible, the Trust said.

The Discovery Award covers research expenses for up to eight years to support researchers or teams “pursue bold and creative research ideas to deliver significant shifts in understanding that could improve human life, health and wellbeing”.

The awards will open for applications in summer 2021, replacing existing schemes that will conclude by 2021. Wellcome will not hold mid-term reviews and will give researchers the freedom to adapt their approach and budget over time.

The Trust said it wants to focus its efforts on seeking solutions to three global challenges: infectious diseases, mental health and the health impact of global warming.

Although Wellcome has long funded research into infectious diseases, the Trust said it had identified mental health as a focus because it was “predicted to be the main cause of global mortality and morbidity by 2030”.

The Trust said there had been “chronic underinvestment in the field of climate change and health”, adding that severe climatic and environmental changes will mean “millions of lives and livelihoods will be lost”.

Last year, a Wellcome Trust survey of over 4,000 researchers suggested a third are considering leaving the sector in three years. Nearly two-thirds have witnessed bullying and harassment and nearly eight in 10 say high levels of competition have created “unkind and aggressive” working conditions. Commenting on the findings of the survey, Wellcome’s head of UK and EU policy, Beth Thompson, said many researchers face “stark pressures” because of “hyper-competition for funding and recognition in the system”.


Read more: Third of researchers considering leaving sector in three years – Wellcome Trust

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