Opportunities for research training
The RCOphth academic sub-committee partner with the education committee to highlight existing resources for development as a researcher, and to provide Ophthalmology-specific courses for all career stages. The courses support a range of research involvement from critical analysis of a paper to leading research projects.
Identify your research question
There are so many areas where we need to improve clinical care that identifying a worthwhile research topic shouldn’t be a problem. Ideally this would be married to your clinical interests. But framing your research question is the right way is crucial to a project’s success. The key is to see what everyone else has seen but think what nobody else has thought.
Using the P(opulation) I(ntervention) C(omparator) O(utcomes) framework will help you articulate a good research question and help you identify the best research design.
Patient & Public Involvement
The College has a keen interest in promoting and supporting research that will improve patient care and provide benefits in terms of maintaining visual health and increasing awareness of the vital role that research has played in the enormous improvements in eye health over the past decades.
Key breakthroughs through research in Ophthalmology and Vision sciences
As clinicians, we know that sight is precious and good eyesight is important to all aspects of life including people’s quality of life. Children growing up with impaired eyesight face challenges in terms of development, education and social opportunities. Loss of eyesight is feared by the public and is rated as one of the most devastating experiences by sufferers of eye conditions.
The last decade has seen enormous improvements in the management of common eye disorders that can cause blindness such as age-related macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy and retinal detachments. These improvements in patient management have been made possible because of decades of research effort into new treatments and better surgical techniques.
Trainees and inexperienced researchers will require input from someone who is an experienced researcher and who has a network of contacts that could be of use to you and your project. A local ophthalmologist in your deanery/university, active in clinical or basic science research, is an excellent first point of contact. Set up a meeting to discuss your idea. If trainees cannot identify anyone locally, the lead for your local trainee research network may be able to help
For NIHR and MRC funded post-doctoral researchers the Academy of Medical Sciences runs an excellent mentorship scheme for career development
Work to your strengths
We are all different and we will all enjoy different types of research (e.g. clinical, epidemiology, big data/informatics, laboratory-based research). It is crucial we do something we truly enjoy. Projects often run into difficulties (see resilience below) and risk grinding to a halt unless you are entirely committed to it. Identify the right type of project for you.
Learn how to perform high quality research
Your local deaneries and universities may well run introductory seminars on the design and implementation of high quality research. The College runs events and courses aimed at helping getting started in research, eg a very successful two day seminar to help those entering research.
Research costs money. Some local clinical projects might be possible without funding, but ambitious projects will often need financial support.
Charities that fund eye research can be found via the Association of Medical Research Charities website. The value of the research they fund varies widely and the time to make a decision can vary considerably, possibly up to a year. Funding schemes range from small starter grants, project grants (typically up to 3 years), PhD studentships and five year programme grants.
- Fight for Sight
- Glaucoma UK
- Retina UK
- The Macular Society
- Sight Research UK
- Sir Jules Thorn Charitable Trust
- The Dunhill Medical Trust
- The Wellcome Trust
Government funded research programmes are shown below. Again, there are a range of grants available. In addition these organisations pay overhead payments to cover the cost of performing research to your host organisation (University or Trust).
UK Research & Innovation has a vision for an outstanding research and innovation system in the UK that gives everyone the opportunity to contribute and to benefit, enriching lives locally, nationally and internationally.
- The Medical Research Council (MRC)
- Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC)
- National Institute For Health Research
The Royal College of Ophthalmologists also provides a range of grant schemes for their members, as does the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh.
The most important personality trait. Performing research is difficult when coupled with a clinical career. You will initially do a lot of it in your spare time and you will be beset by perceived failures along the way (grant applications, paper submissions).
This is something we as medics are not particularly used to. Stay strong. The rewards for delivering a project that you have complete ownership of are huge.