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Survey shows almost all ICR clinical alumni stay research active

Some 98 per cent of clinicians who studied at the ICR remained research active in their first role following speciality training, a new survey shows.

The results show the success of our clinical research training and are helping to inform how we can continue to enhance our programmes in the future.  

The ICR is committed to providing the best possible training and support for all our students. As part of wider work to engage with our alumni, we are keen to learn from your career and experiences to help us establish what we are doing well – and where we can improve.

We know that our clinical students play a vital role in accelerating the translation of discoveries into benefits for cancer patients. With their training in academic research and experience in caring for patients, they are in a unique position to make connections between research and clinical practice – and to pose important new research questions.

In 2018, we asked our clinical alumni to take part in a survey about their careers and experiences of staying research active. We would like to thank everyone who filled in this survey, which involved those former students who completed their studies between 1983 and 2017. Of the 63 survey respondents, 62 per cent gained a PhD and 38 per cent an MD(Res).

Our training sets clinicians up for research active careers

We were pleased to find out that 98 per cent of clinical alumni continue to be active in research in their first role following speciality training. For those further along in their careers, 94 per cent remain research active in their current role.

Their involvement covers a range of activities, most commonly within clinical trials, radiotherapy or imaging – showing that it is not only those who progress onto a clinical academic pathway who are using their research skills.

Our results also show that 75 per cent of clinical alumni have applied for at least one source of research grant funding. With an impressive success rate of 78 per cent, this suggests that our former students are well equipped with the skills necessary for winning competitive grants.

Most said their ICR studies had given them experience and skills, and many also cited improved career prospects, improved understanding of research, personal fulfilment, collaboration, raised credibility and better patient care.

Join our ICR student alumni group on LinkedIn – we already have more than 500 members (both clinical and non-clinical alumni) who may help you find your former peers or new connections.

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Challenges for clinical researchers

We also identified areas where clinicians are facing barriers that are impeding their ability to achieve a balance between clinical and research activities.

In total, 29 per cent of respondents said that they found it ‘difficult’ or ‘very difficult’ to remain active in research. Their main challenges were working hours, and difficulties balancing personal and professional commitments. A lack of funding opportunities was also highlighted.

Exploring gender differences

We also broke the results down by gender – to help us to explore if there are any differences between the sexes and find out if there is a need for different kinds of support.

At the top level, there were no real differences between the research activity of males and females, although we did find disparities in their number of publications and presentations at international conferences.

When asked about factors that would help clinicians to be more research active, all respondents stated greater job security in academic roles. But women also prioritised greater support for career breaks and flexible working, and greater visibility and support of senior clinical academic role models.

Exploring gender differences is important for our Athena SWAN work to promote the roles of women in research, and we are already discussing ways we can make improvements in this area.

What next?

We continue to reflect on the findings of this survey as we look at further enhancing the training and support that we provide for our clinical students.

You may be interested to know that we have recently introduced a number of new initiatives. We now offer training called ‘Succeeding in clinical academia’ – which includes a series of workshops to enable clinicians to ‘meet the funder’, where funding bodies present their opportunities for clinician researchers at different stages of their careers.

There are also several other recent initiatives such as our new Clinical Academic Forum, and bridge funding to help people to make the transition from an MD(Res) or PhD to clinician scientist fellowships.

Keeping in touch

This survey is just one part of our wider efforts to create lasting connections with our alumni community. We value our ongoing relationship with you and recognise its importance in our legacy.

We plan to repeat the survey in two years’ time, so that we can continue to monitor our clinical alumni’s research activity and explore whether these trends change over time, particularly whether our current initiatives are having the desired effect.


Please join our ICR student alumni group on LinkedIn – we already have more than 500 members (both clinical and non-clinical alumni) who may help you find your former peers or new connections.

You can also email us at [email protected]. We would love to hear what you are doing and any significant achievements – personal or professional. And we would also welcome your thoughts and ideas on building this community.

PhD studentships

Applications for our main PhD recruitment round have opened. We’re searching for the brightest minds in cancer research. The deadline for applications is 17 November.

ICR values

Our values – developed together as an organisation – make it clear how each and every one of us work to meet our mission – to make the discoveries that defeat cancer.