Wellcome Trust launches a ‘new vision and strategy’ as they publish their 2020 Science Review

In today’s blog, Al Innes, Research Development Officer in Edinburgh Research Office, writes about the newly announced Science Review of the Wellcome Trust.

In a bold move away from translational research, the Wellcome Trust seeks to enhance how it spends over £1bn every year on ‘discovery science’ for a multitude of scientific disciplines. Their ‘renewed’ focus targets three core international health challenges: Mental health, Global heating and Infectious diseases. Wellcome are clear that they remain committed to funding ‘fundamental science that creates new knowledge’.

A review two years in the making

The review process was announced back in 2018, with the results published this week.

Speaking about the announcement, Director Jeremy Farrar was keen to emphasise the important timing of the renewed strategy:

‘This is a critical moment in shaping the future of our world. As an independent foundation, Wellcome must take a clear position, must argue for international cooperation to address these urgent health challenges, must support the role of science in solving them.’

There is a renewed commitment too for diversity and inclusion, as well as research culture, and a continued commitment to fund researchers across disciplines – having recently put a number of social science schemes on hold.

Wellcome provide more detail of the scope of each area:

  • Infectious diseases: Wellcome will work with communities affected by escalating infectious diseases, including the rise of drug-resistant infections. This programme will target research and resources to inform local, national and international actions needed to prevent, prepare for, and respond to these threats.
  • Mental health: Wellcome will pull disparate scientific and clinical fields together for a united research effort that will accelerate the development of better treatments. People with lived experience of mental health issues will be central to this work.
  • Global heating: This programme will work with the communities most affected by climate change to explore the harmful effects of global heating on health, and drive research to develop new ways of protecting people’s health.

New schemes announced as old setup winds down

Wellcome further announced that they would be moving to a new ‘simplified set of funding schemes’ designed to give researchers’ more freedom, time and resource to pursue their ideas’. This is a move away from their core areas of support for biomedical science, population health, product development and applied research, humanities and social science, and public engagement and creative industries – with a focus instead on a ‘more diverse’ range of research disciplines.

Internationalism is also highlighted with the laying out of the new schemes eligibility to include applicants based in the UK, the Republic of Ireland and low- and middle-income countries; and applicants from the rest of the world if applying as part of a team.

Wellcome have committed to publishing greater detail on the new schemes, including the criteria and eligibility, in early 2021 with the intention that the schemes will be available from Summer 2021; while current Wellcome schemes wind down across next year.

The detail we do currently have includes, in terms of career stage, they will support:

  • early-career researchers who want to develop their research capabilities (from project design to delivery), carry out innovative research, advance understanding in their field, and build links with other researchers
  • mid-career researchers who want to develop their independence and leadership skills, run their own research programme or project, and make a key contribution to their field
  • established researchers and teams who want to pursue bold and innovative research, tool or technology development.

They will be open to:

  • applications from any discipline – including science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM), clinical research and experimental medicine, and humanities and social science – as long as the research is related to health
  • applicants based in the UK, the Republic of Ireland and low- and middle-income countries, and applicants from the rest of the world if applying as part of a team.

Further information and resources

For more information on the Science Review, you can read Wellcome’s own blog post on the announcement.

To find out more about how Edinburgh Research Office can help you apply for Wellcome funding, visit our website.

Notes

  1. Wellcome Science Review 2020. Published 19 October 2020

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