As a UK charity and a Member of the Association of Medical Research Charities (AMRC) [put in a link here]. The Lister Institute believes that it is important that it should have, and make public, a research strategy. The ‘Research Strategy’ set out below was developed in 2006. The Prize Fellowship scheme was reviewed in 2008 (in accordance with section 9 of the Strategy) and found to be fulfilling its objectives; it continues as the Institute’s only competitive award – See RESEARCH PRIZES – What are they?
THE LISTER INSTITUTE’S RESEARCH STRATEGY
1. CHARITABLE OBJECTIVE
‘To further understanding and progress in preventive medicine by promoting excellence in biomedical research in the UK and Republic of Ireland’
A Research Institute
The Lister Institute of Preventive Medicine has had a long and distinguished history of supporting biomedical research since its foundation in 1891; essentially falling into two phases. Originally established as a research institute specialising in the area of ‘infections’ and their prevention by immunization and other means it had the dual roles of both undertaking fundamental research and also of producing and supplying materials such as vaccines and antitoxins. The Institute continued in this mode until the early 1970s when increasing financial and regulatory pressures caused both the closure of its laboratories in Chelsea and its Production Facilities at Elstree.
The sale of its assets at Chelsea and Elstree established a capital fund for the Institute, the income from its investment producing a significant sum for annual expenditure. The change from an operational Institute to a provider of research grants marked the start of the second phase of the Lister’s funding of biomedical research in the UK, which continues to this day.
Lister Senior Fellowships
The decision was taken that the greatest contribution that the Lister could make was through the establishment of the Lister Senior Fellowship scheme which supported generously for five years, high quality individuals and their research, at a formative period in their careers. This was an innovative scheme, testimony to which was the high quality of the Fellows and their subsequent achievements and contributions to the UK’s biomedical research effort. From its start to its closure to new entries in 2002 ninety-five Fellows have been supported. More details on the early history of the Lister Institute can be found in Leslie Collins’ ** fascinating history of The Lister Institute (1) and its subsequent supplements.
A new Funding Scheme
In 2002 the Lister was again faced with the task of developing a funding scheme(s) which fulfilled its charitable objectives, was both affordable and sustainable and met a need in the research environment. The view was that the Lister could only operate a single scheme which had a defined financial commitment but, importantly, one which replicated some of the characteristics which had contributed to the success of the Senior Fellowships. Amongst these were:-
– the support of high quality individuals at a crucial stage in their careers
– generous and flexible funding
– available to both science and medically trained individuals
– available within any appropriate UK and the Republic of Ireland research environment/establishment
– available across all disease types and research disciplines
– research which has the potential for the prevention or treatment of disease
Against this background the Lister Institute Research Prize Fellowship scheme was devised and launched in 2004. It is currently the Lister’s only way of funding biomedical research and is therefore the sole arm of our research strategy.
3. WHY THE LISTER INSTITUTE FUNDS RESEARCH
The Lister Institute funds research because it believes that the acquisition and advancement of knowledge is crucial to our understanding of health and disease. Further that the development and exploitation of these research outcomes will lead to new strategies for the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of disease.
4. HOW THE LISTER INSTITUTE FUNDS RESEARCH
The Lister Institute believes that research is driven forward by high quality individuals and their supporting staff. Therefore identifying such key researchers and providing them with appropriate support at crucial stages in their careers is critical to the maintenance and development of a high quality and internationally competitive research community in the UK and the Republic of Ireland. Consequently the Lister will target its funding to the support of individual researchers.
The Lister further believes that any funding which it provides to individuals should be flexible in terms of how it is applied to the research activity, of sufficient value to ‘make a difference’ to the researcher’s activities, and that the processes for application, review and award should be as un-bureaucratic as possible, commensurate with appropriate levels of scrutiny and evaluation.
The Lister is very much aware of the large number of agencies that support biomedical research in the UK (and the Republic of Ireland) and the variety of methods by which they do so. It also appreciates that there are many routes for the provision of salaries for high quality researchers. The Lister also appreciates that, of necessity, much of the research funding is prescriptive in terms of the area of research or the use of the monies. The Lister, therefore, wishes its own funding scheme(s) to be complementary to this large ‘background’ funding and to enhance research opportunities by providing freedom to recipients in the use of its Prize award.
The Lister also wishes to ensure that any funding scheme is financially sustainable, does not build up future financial commitments and meets the Institute’s desire to match expenditure with income (derived from the return on the Lister’s investments). We also recognise that there may be opportunities for partnership with other agencies in broadening our funding scheme(s).
This overall funding strategy will be achieved by the provision of Lister Institute Research Prize Fellowships which will make one-off awards of £175,000 [now increased to £200,000] to individuals to be spent on any aspect of their research activities (with the exception of personal salary). The Lister Institute will seek to ensure that not only are high quality individuals and their research supported through the Prize Fellowship scheme, but that mechanisms are in place to make certain that the outcomes of their research are developed for public benefit.
5. WHAT RESEARCH THE LISTER INSTITUTE FUNDS
The Lister Institute will support research in any area of biomedicine, or related discipline; there are no priority areas or diseases. The Lister would hope that the knowledge gained from the research activity might lead to a better understanding of the disease state, its diagnosis, treatment or prevention. However we recognise that the full impact of any knowledge gained from research may be difficult to predict and that the timescale over which any widely applicable beneficial outcome might be achieved could be long-term and might be dependent on the outcomes of other research activities.
6. WHO THE LISTER INSTITUTE FUNDS
The Lister Institute Research Prize Fellowships will be available to any tenured or non-tenured researcher (scientist or clinician) working in an eligible UK institution provided that their personal salary is secure, from another source, for a minimum of three years from receipt of the award. The recipient need not be a UK national but must have a position in a UK or Republic of Ireland institution for the duration of the award. There are no age restrictions, but the individual must, at the time of taking up the award, have a minimum of three and a maximum of ten year’s research experience, allowance will be made for career breaks etc. The individual may also concurrently hold awards such as a fellowship or programme/ project grant (s) from other organisations/agencies or be employed by them.
7. WHERE THE LISTER INSTITUTE WILL FUND RESEARCH
The Lister Institute Research Prize Fellowships may be held by individuals holding positions in any UK or Republic of Ireland research institution, which is deemed ‘not-for-profit’, (this might be a university, a hospital clinical department, MRC Unit or Research Institute, whether independent or charity-funded). Where the research dictates, a period of the award may be spent working abroad (but not more than six months in any consecutive 12-month period and in total no more than one year over the course of the three years).
8. HOW THE LISTER WILL MAKE FUNDING DECISIONS
The Lister Institute will select its Research Prize Fellows by assessment of written application and interview of short-listed candidates by members of its Scientific Advisory Committee. Members of the SAC will initially score all applications to generate a long-list of candidates whose applications will then be sent to national and international experts for detailed review. The selection of short-listed candidates by SAC members will be based on these reviews and their own assessments. Short-listed candidates, usually no more than eight, will be interviewed by the SAC and, as a part of this process, will make a brief presentation.
The Lister Institute Research Prize Fellowships not only seek to recognise and support high quality research and future proposals but also to reward a significant contribution to the applicant’s research area, commensurate with her/his age and experience. Candidates are able to provide both a supporting statement from their Head of Department (or equivalent) and a review from a nominated referee familiar with their work.
Applications are normally submitted in November for possible interview in the following May and commencement of any award in October. Precise details of the application process and eligibility criteria are provided on the Lister’s website www.lister-institute.org.uk. The Lister does allow re-application provided a candidate remains within the eligibility criteria.
9. THE TIMEFRAME FOR THE CURRENT STRATEGY
Funding for the Prize Fellowship scheme commenced in 2004 operated initially for five years, during which period at least 15 Fellows were supported. It was then subjected to a formal review to assess that:
a) the assumptions made about the impact of the scheme, the needs of the research community and the research environment were still applicable
b) it has fulfilled its objectives
c) the continuation of the scheme is justified
The number of Prize Fellowships awarded annually and their value will be considered each year and may be adjusted to match the Lister Institute’s financial situation.
(1) Collier L., The Lister Institute of Preventive Medicine: A concise history. The Lister Institute of Preventive Medicine. 2000, Supplement 2004.
** Copies are available free of charge from the Institute’s Administrator