Researcher in the Biomedicine lab

Faculty Research Strategy 2017-2020

Research activity is integral to the function of the Faculty of Health and Medicine, as an important academic activity and to support our mission to deliver research-led teaching. Our vision is to be nationally and internationally recognised for our distinctive research, in health, clinical, biomedical and life sciences which will address national and international challenges.

Our priorities

  • To support distinctive areas of research excellence (themes) that:
    • address national and international challenges in health, biomedicine and life sciences
    • provide evidence and advice that is influential and impactful
    • are sustainable.
  • To promote inter-disciplinary approaches.
  • To support the development of health and clinical research strengths in our partners.

Summary

The principal aim of this strategy is to enhance excellence through high quality and high impact research. Alongside this, we also want to be well prepared for the next REF. To achieve these aims it is important that the strategy reflects the current and emerging University strategy for research and Impact.

Key elements of the strategy

  • We will target investment to increase our strength and depth in themes that emerged as strengths from the 2014 REF and those that will be developed in the future. To enable this, we have created a system of support to promote these themes, including the appointment of ‘Theme Leads’, and as part of increasing the depth we will include clinically-focused research in a number of these themes.

    The themes are:

    • Ageing (including End of Life Care, Neurodegeneration and Cancer, which may develop into independent themes)
    • Mental Health
    • Health Information, Computation and Statistics
    • Infectious Disease Transmission and Biology
    • Social and Economic Inequality in Public Health
  • We will modify and add themes as necessary dependent on relevance to the Divisional, Faculty and University research strategy, evidence of excellence (e.g. highly rated publications, evidence of influence on policy) and critical mass of funding and personnel. Proposals for new themes should be made in the first instance to the ADR and will be assessed by critical review by the Dean, ADR and the divisional research directors and followed by recommendation to PRC.
  • We will ensure that theme development supports and enhances our successful teaching profiles.
  • We will support the University Research strategy to develop 'Centres' and 'Institutes'. This will include FHM driving the creation of new Centres and/or Institutes where there is significant research strength and depth or combining resources with other Faculties particularly in 'Digital health' with FST.
  • We will undertake a range of activities to drive a significant increase in research income from major funders including:
    • improving our application and success rate with key funders (especially BBSRC, MRC, ESRC, EU, NIHR, Wellcome Trust, AMRC and the private sector) enhanced in collaboration with the four Research Development Managers;
    • increasing the number of post-doctoral fellowships by staff identifying suitable high level candidates and assisting with their application or by attracting independent potential and awarded fellowship post-doctoral researchers to the Faculty.
    • targeting our use of smaller grants expressly to provide a platform for future bids for larger scale funding and developing early career profiles
    • increasing the volume of inter-disciplinary research (including research with the NHS and industry) through direct collaboration or through opportunities in the N8 group.
    • establishing strong and productive relationships with a small range of international university partners with the development of at least one major international research partnership.
    • growing (and making more prominent) our agreed 'strategic research themes' particularly with respect to developing a focus on population approaches to health.
    • developing capacity and capability for clinically focused research within those themes including engagement with NHS partners and the Innovation Agency (NWC AHSN) through the Lancaster Health Hub;
    • Increasing our publication output and maximising the proportion of research outputs judged to be 3* or 4*.
    • maintaining and enhancing our research environment;
    • Increasing representation on RCUK award and strategy panels.
  • We will develop and implement plans for engaging effectively with key stakeholders in the sector, with a particular focus on:
    • being active in establishing the Health Innovation Campus;
    • developing and deepening our engagement with the commercial sector;
    • an active and integrated knowledge exchange strategy.
  • We will undertake a range of activities to promote the highest quality outputs and maximising the proportion of research outputs judged to be 3* or 4*. This will include the development of discipline-based publication strategies and an awareness of the importance of citation.
  • We will develop and implement approaches to maximise the impact of our research.
    • We will undertake a range of activities designed to maximise the impact of our research. This will include:
      • public engagement and knowledge exchange activities
      • information capture of impact cases
      • education and mentorship through a structured system of Impact Champions working with LU Impact Support Officers.
    • We will ensure our impact strategy reflects that of the University
  • Our research environment will be further enhanced. This will include staff development and career paths (including staff development, career enhancement and opportunities for early career staff), seeking out opportunities to increase PGR student numbers and the promotion of collaborative research and sharing of research through participation in meetings, seminars and away days.
    • We will ensure that there are opportunities for staff to develop their research capability
    • We will review our approach to workload allocation for research – for example considering how we can best ensure effective time for grant writing and impact activities, and how we can use time allocation to incentivise grant applications.
    • We will ensure that key, effective supporting activities are in place, such as Faculty-level peer review of research proposals, maximising the effectiveness of the FHM Research Committee and creating close links with the University Research Director and Research and Enterprise Services.
  • We will undertake a range of actions specifically designed to prepare for the next REF – in particular establishing effective continuous recording and tracking of research outputs and impact.

The strategy in more detail

Tab Content: Current strengths

Several areas of research activity are pursued within the Faculty.

These map onto one or more of the divisions within FHM (Biomedical and Life Sciences, Health Research and Lancaster Medical School). As such the ambitions of individual divisions within the Faculty are one set of drivers for this research strategy, but noting that cross faculty (and cross university) groupings and priorities also exist, and reflecting the multidisciplinary and translational nature of much of the research performed in the Faculty and the University.

Current research themes of critical mass within FHM and their components are the following, ordered alphabetically by main heading without imply any ranking of importance. There is synergy between several of these, which reflects the multidisciplinary nature of the FHM research portfolio

  • Ageing (including End of Life Care*, Neurodegeneration* and Cancer*):
    1. Mechanisms of normal ageing using Drosophila as a model system
    2. Age-related health problems, including neurodegenerative, musculoskeletal and eye conditions
    3. Palliative and end of life care across the lifespan
    4. Mental health and well-being of the ageing population
    5. Technology and healthy ageing
    6. DNA damage and repair mechanisms
    7. Signalling mechanisms in normal and cancerous tissue
    8. Palliative and end of life care for those with cancer

 

  • Health information, computation and statistics:
    1. Novel geostatistical modelling and analytical methods
    2. Epidemiology of infectious and non-communicable diseases
    3. Project design and statistical analysis

 

  • Infectious Disease Transmission and Biology:
    1. Parasitology and tropical infectious diseases
    2. Environmental microbiology
    3. Gastro-intestinal microbiology

 

  • Mental Health:
    1. Psychological treatments for bipolar disorder
    2. Health and clinical psychology
    3. Organisational health and well-being

 

  • Social and Economic Inequality in Public Health:
    1. Health equity and knowledge exchange
    2. Intellectual and physical disability
    3. Health economics

    *may develop into independent themes

Tab Content: Support mechanisms

Various sources of Faculty or central University funding are available to help support FHM staff in the delivery of this strategy:

  • Travel Fund for participation in conferences/workshops/research activity (central funding + faculty supplement, administered by FHM Associate Dean for Research)
  • FHM Equipment Fund allocation (biannual allocation from university centre, disbursed by Policy and Resources Committee on receipt of divisional bids)
  • Early Career Small Grants for staff in the early stages of their career to pursue short research projects that deliver outputs or can help to underpin applications for more substantial funding eg to Research Councils, EU Horizon 2020 or major medical/health charities (annual competition administered from University Research Support Office and assessed by faculty Associate Deans for Research and departmental Research Directors)

Advice in applying for these funds is available from the Associate Dean for Research and FHM Research Support Officer.

In addition FHM hosts part of the NIHR-funded Research Design Service North West, which advises on research design to researchers in the North West who are developing proposals for national, peer-reviewed funding competitions for applied health or social care research.

Tab Content: Impact strategy

FHM encourages all staff to engage and contribute to delivering the impact of their research in the following ways:

  • To engage with service users including patients, their families and the public so they can inform the research process
  • To develop links with health and social care professionals
  • To develop international and national partnerships

Actions and opportunities to enhance research impact include the following:

  • Strengthening of the Lancaster Health Hub, involving partnership with local NHS Trusts and Industry
  • Recognition of Knowledge Exchange and Public Engagement activity in workload models and promotion cases
  • Faculty support from the ADR for activities to support user group engagement
  • Lancaster Pathways to Impact funding; FHM Knowledge Exchange awards; and Public Engagement with Research grant schemes that can provide financial support for impact activities
  • Biannual Impact Audit and Report to publicise success and acknowledge staff activity

Tab Content: Translational research

The Faculty's focus on translational research allows our work to inform and improve treatment, disease management and other aspects of healthcare.

Our translational programme draws upon several well-established workstreams within the divisions of Biomedical & Life Sciences and Health Research, and involves partnerships with colleagues in other faculties and in other organisations, particularly the NHS and industry.

The Faculty has led the establishment and development of the Hub, a formal strategic partnership between Lancaster University and six NHS Trusts across Lancashire and Cumbria. This drives locally-led, NHS / University collaborative research by facilitating scientific collaboration and partnerships. It also delivers a framework for joint research governance, linking the University, the NHS and the NIHR CRN as appropriate.

We will build upon the foundations laid over the past few years to increase the amount, scope and impact of our translational research activity.  We will also increase the range of our external partners, both in the UK and abroad.

At the same time we recognise the need to continue to build our capability and infrastructure for translational research. As part of this, we will:

  • deliver NIHR IAT programmes for academic clinical fellowships and clinical lectureships.
  • achieve success in obtaining NIHR senior investigator awards.
  • develop a strategy with partners for bidding for major NIHR infrastructure funding, for example, a Biomedical Research Centre.
  • work with our NHS partners to establish joint appointments for senior clinical academics to lead collaborative research programmes.

We will also build upon our growing record of success in working with industry, particularly SMEs, to enhance opportunities for partnership working around translational R&D.

Tab Content: Engagement with networks

We work closely with the new NIHR and NHS England networks for research and innovation across the North West Coast, particularly the NIHR CRN, the NIHR CLAHRC, and the AHSN.

In addition, we are a founding member of the Northern Health Science Alliance, which links the eight northern research-led universities with their partner NHS Trusts to drive large-scale collaborative research across the whole of the north of England. We engage with and lead numerous national research networks, and are leading internationally initiatives on ageing, neurodegenerative diseases, end of life care, geostatistical modelling and malaria vectors.

We aim to increase not only our participation in these larger networks but also our strategic leadership of initiatives and programmes within their work streams to enable the Faculty to build further upon its growing reputation as a major focus for advancing and delivering high-quality research in health and medicine.