Dementia is our greatest medical challenge, affecting almost 50m people worldwide and carrying a US$818bn annual cost to the global economy. In the UK today, there are no treatments to stop or slow the diseases that cause dementia. Alzheimer’s Research UK’s vision is of a world free from the fear harm and heartbreak of dementia. This is only achievable through the sustained efforts of a dedicated community of researchers, so improving research capacity and fostering scientific leadership is a critical part of what we do. Researchers are making incredible discoveries about the diseases that cause dementia and this progress is taking us ever closer to life-changing breakthroughs in the treatment, detection and prevention of dementia. In 2012 and 2017, Alzheimer’s Research UK published two influential reports that highlighted the lack of person-power in dementia research compared to other disease areas and to the level of need.

The importance of early career researchers

Researchers in the early stages of their careers play a critical role in driving dementia research forward. They deliver the projects that you’re helping to fund, and they are also central to creating a rich and diverse research culture with wide connections and networks. The investment we make in the early- and mid- career researchers of today will pay dividends in the years and decades to come. Training and development are essential to grow a highly-skilled and motivated dementia workforce that pushes us closer to our ultimate goal for people with dementia and their families. It is important that we provide the tools and opportunities for dementia researchers to succeed in an environment where there is strong competition for funding and resources from other fields. We are working to overcome barriers to long and productive careers in dementia research and help to maintain momentum in professional pathways that are typically challenging and vulnerable to loss of talent. Building on our existing initiatives and strong links with the research community, Alzheimer’s Research UK is making a strategic effort to nurture and shape the research leaders of tomorrow.

The early career researcher working group

In 2021 we convened a working group of researchers at various stages of their careers to identify the barriers that made it harder for them to succeed, and put in place steps to help overcome them. Thank you to our ECR working group Michael Coleman, Cambridge (Chair); Gargi Banerjee, UCL; Jessica Daly, Sussex; Daniel Erskine, Newcastle; Jill Fowler, Edinburgh; Tammaryn Lashley, UCL; Georgina Menzies, Cardiff; Adele Pryce-Roberts, Cardiff; Tim Rittman, Cambridge; Li Su, Sheffield; Ashwin Venkataraman, Imperial; Jack Wells, UCL

Based on their suggestions and feedback from researchers across our Research Network, we have developed a new ECR programme, aligned under four key goals.
  1. Increase and sustain the early career workforce and enhance capacity in key areas of need
Alzheimer’s Research UK is increasing funding through targeted and flexible career development grant schemes, prizes and partnerships, and advocating career development to other funding organisations. We also work to identify gaps and promote diversity and skills such as clinical and digital expertise that are vital in dementia research.
  1. Develop a diverse and skilled workforce in dementia research
We want to ensure that researchers, particularly those from under-represented backgrounds, are given opportunities to train and develop a broad set of skills. Alzheimer’s Research UK is developing a calendar of training opportunities and events that nurture professional growth and support a research culture that values a broad range of skills and experiences, as well as academic achievements.
  1. Increase collaboration within and across disciplines
By growing an active network of early career dementia scientists we will support researchers to form new connections and collaborations. And we will get researchers from different specialities working together through networking events and facilitated informal groups.
  1. Strengthen engagement with wider ARUK programmes
Alzheimer’s Research UK is a leader in science policy, public engagement, research communication, patient and public involvement and research impact. We’ll make our expertise available to early career researchers through the early career platform, and other communication and stewardship channels. Details of our ECR grant schemes, events and other opportunities are available through the Early Career Researcher Platform.

If you are an early career dementia researcher who has a question about these resources or would like to speak to a member of the team about the support that we offer, please contact research@alzheimersresearchuk.org