News for researchers

Clinical Research Fellowship Scheme – applications open

Applications for the clinical research fellowship funding scheme will be opening on the 13 October 2021 with a deadline of the 12 January 2022.

Clinical research fellowships are our entry level scheme for both talented medical and non-medical healthcare professionals. They aim to provide training in clinical and/or laboratory research techniques leading to a higher degree (usually a PhD).

Medical graduates are expected to apply usually during speciality training, whilst non-medical healthcare professionals need to have at least one year's experience of clinical practice. Non-medical healthcare professions that are now eligible to apply include: dentists, physiotherapists, nurses, occupational therapists, podiatrists, prosthetists, orthotists, psychologists, veterinary surgeons, radiographers and pharmacists.

Fellowships are normally awarded for three years, but we also encourage applications from candidates who wish to apply for less than three years' funding, due to having already secured part-funding towards a PhD from another funding body. Projects must be in areas of research relevant to arthritis and musculoskeletal diseases.

How to apply

Accelerating New Treatments - applications open

Applications are now open for our Accelerating New Treatments call.

As part of the UK Musculoskeletal Translational Research Collaboration (MSK TRC), we have opened the second funding call for research projects that advance the translational pathway to delivering new treatments or cutting-edge improvements for people with arthritis.

The MSK TRC is a partnership between Versus Arthritis and the National Institute for Health Research. The MSK TRC collaboration was established to bring internationally renowned UK-based research centres to be at the forefront of musculoskeletal experimental medicine.

Projects must be human studies across the areas of prevention, diagnosis or treatment. They must also address an unmet need in arthritis and align with the Musculoskeletal Translational Research Collaboration’s themes, including:

  • connective tissue diseases
  • inflammatory arthritis
  • osteoarthritis
  • pain.

We are particularly interested in applications that consider life-course, both young and old.

The deadline for applications is 4.00pm on 1 December 2021.

Detailed information on eligibility and how to apply is available here.

Senior Research Fellowship Scheme – applications open

Applications for the senior research fellowship funding scheme will be opening on the 13 October 2021 with a deadline of the 12 January 2022.

Senior research fellowships are our most prestigious fellowship grants. They're awarded to outstanding medical, veterinary, nurse and allied health professional or science graduates committed to a research career in any discipline relevant to arthritis and related musculoskeletal diseases, who don't hold an established academic post. Awards will be for up to five years and have a maximum limit of £750,000 for costs which can be applied for, the host research organisation will be required to provide a minimum of 50% of the applicant’s salary for the duration of the award. Projects must be in areas of research relevant to arthritis and musculoskeletal diseases.

How to apply

Call for research projects investigating the mechanisms of pain

As part of the Advanced Pain Discovery Platform (APDP) initiative we are launching a call for research projects focused on increasing the understanding of the underlying mechanisms of pain. The call is funded as a partnership between UKRI, Versus Arthritis, the Medical Research Foundation and Eli Lilly, and a joint investment of up to £10.5 million is available.

What are we looking for?

Projects can seek to explore mechanisms of pain in various disciplines, including psychological, biological, cognitive and sociological aspects. Proposals may focus on a specific pain condition, or they may span conditions. We expect to support pre-clinical as well as clinical research projects and projects must demonstrate how they can lead to impact for people with lived experience of chronic pain. Proposals focusing on the following areas are encouraged:

  • musculoskeletal conditions in both adults and children.
  • The transition from acute to chronic pain, changes in the experience of pain, and/or the transition to remission.
  • The use of AI, machine learning and other innovative data technologies.

Through the involvement of the Medical Research Foundation, part of the available budget has been ring-fenced for funding of research into mechanisms of pain in children and adolescents, with a particular, but not sole, focus on musculoskeletal conditions in this group.

The research funded through this call will be expected to work with the recently established APDP Consortia and Alleviate – the APDP Pain Research Data Hub, to share information, and identify and exploit synergies between research disciplines and conditions.

Who can apply?

You must be a UK research organisation eligible for Medical Research Council funding. Please see the MRC guidance for applicants for further information on institutional and individual eligibility. Early and mid-career researchers are strongly encouraged to apply.

What can be applied for?

The call will support a broad portfolio of research projects ranging from smaller, more focussed grants to larger research grants. Funding can be sought for a maximum of 3 years and we do not expect to support grants above £1 million. Grants will be funded at 67% Full Economic Cost.

How to apply

This call is being administered through UKRI and full information on the application process can be found on the UK Research and Innovation webpage. Anyone planning to submit an application to this call must complete an intention to submit form by 4.00 pm, 15 July 2021. This is to help us prepare for peer review and manage conflicts at the panel assessment stage and will not be assessed in any way.

The full proposal should be submitted through the UKRI grant management system Je-S by 4.00 pm, 15 September 2021.

For more information on this call please see the UKRI funding page. If you have any queries on the call please email or the Versus Arthritis contact: Clare Farmer at

Help us redesign our research webpages

With the launch of our new strategic priority later in the year, we are taking the opportunity to redesign the research section of our website to ensure that current and prospective award holders can easily access relevant, up to date and engaging information on our research priorities, opportunities and latest news.

We need your help to make our pages the best they can be!

How can I get involved?

We are looking for people who would like to:

  • Tell us what you think about our current research webpages by completing a short survey
  • Be involved in a focus group to redesign the webpages (2-3 virtual meetings throughout 2021).

For more information please contact:

Congratulations to Professor Mark Wilkinson

We would like to send a huge congratulations to Professor Mark Wilkinson, who recently recieved a 2021 Fellowship Award from the Orthopaedic Research Society, for recognition of his achievements in bone disease research.

The Orthopaedic Research Society is the world’s largest professional organisation dedicated to musculoskeletal research, and the Fellowship Award is the most prestigious international award that the society can bestow upon it’s members. Those who are selected for this honour have demonstrated exemplary service and leadership, substantial achievement, expert knowledge, and significant contributions to the society and the field of musculoskeletal research.

We are proud to have supported Mark throughout his career. He began his career with a PhD funded through one of our Clinical Research Fellowship awards, and we have subsequently supported several of his research projects over the years. Mark has also been a member of both our research sub-committee, and the previously existing metabolic bone clinical studies group.

He commented, “I am honoured and humbled to receive this award from my research peers. This award reflects all the hard work done over many years by the bone and joint research team at the University of Sheffield, supported in no small part by Versus Arthritis and our fantastic patients! Without their support, we would not have been able to make our strides forward in understanding of arthritis and find better ways of improving the lives of patients.”

Versus Arthritis funding contributed to one of Mark’s key research achievements, the development of the JointCalc tool, which allows patients and GPs to predict outcomes of joint replacement surgery, and is now widely used across the world. He was involved with our ground-breaking arcOGEN study, which provided a significant leap forward in understanding of the genetic factors known to cause osteoarthritis. He also led research that we funded looking to understand why some joint replacements fail. This work improved understanding in this area and identified new genetic risk factors for loosening of joint replacements.

Please do get in touch and let us know if you or any of your colleagues have recently won an award as we love to shout about these. You can contact us at

PhD scholarship scheme - opening soon

Applications for the PhD scholarship scheme will be opening on Wednesday the 23 June 2021.

These scholarships aim to encourage the best basic scientists and non-medical healthcare professionals (including nurses and allied health professionals) to embark on a research career in any discipline relevant to arthritis and related musculoskeletal diseases.

PhD scholarships include a generous tax-free incremental stipend, UK tuition fees, fixed expenses and a travel grant for conference attendance.

The deadline for applications is 4.00 pm on 22 September 2021.

Who should apply?

Applications should be made by the proposed supervisor at an eligible institution. Applicants may include a named student or apply with projects alone, with student recruitment to be carried out at a later date.

 How to apply

Detailed information and guidance on applying for the scholarships can be found here. Applications should be made through Grant Tracker. For all enquiries, please contact

Applications for the foundation and career development fellowship schemes opening soon

Applications for our foundation fellowship and career development fellowship funding schemes will be opening on the 14 April 2021 with a joint deadline of the 14 July 2021.

Foundation fellowships are our first postdoctoral awards which aim to retain the best postdoctoral researchers and provide an opportunity for fellows to develop independent research ideas at an early stage in their career. For this round, we will accept applications from candidates who are in the final year of PhD training or within two years of completing their PhD at the time of application. These fellowships offer three years of funding.

Career development fellowships are our intermediate postdoctoral awards which aim to attract and retain talented postdoctoral researchers, and provide them with the opportunity to develop an independent research career and progress towards higher-level appointments. These fellowships offer five years of funding and applications should be jointly submitted by the candidate with a sponsor.

Both fellowships are open to basic scientists, vets, nurses and allied health professionals and projects must be in areas of research relevant to arthritis and musculoskeletal diseases.

How to apply

We need to become a truly inclusive organisation

You may be aware that, in July 2020 staff allegations of bullying and racism emerged within the charity.  We quickly initiated an internal investigation which recommended that we commission an independent and external review of all open cases, known to the charity, of racism and bullying and a review of all HR policies, practices, and case management.

Following a procurement process, the employment specialists Tell Jane were appointed. The investigations have now completed and we can now update you on the findings and conclusions from this work as well as what we are doing. 

In terms of specific cases, 10 allegations of bullying and four of racism and bullying were investigated by Tell Jane. Thirteen allegations were not upheld, including all four of the racism allegations and nine out of the ten bullying allegations. The one allegation of bullying that has been partially upheld is being progressed in line with our procedures, which includes a disciplinary investigation.  

Although Tell Jane were not appointed to review the culture of Versus Arthritis, through their work they made a series of observations and it is important to see the outcomes of the investigations in this context:  

  • There is evidence that some people within the charity may not feel able to raise issues or feel confident that they will be addressed.   
  • Some people lack trust in the HR team and/or managers to deal with the issues effectively.  
  • Whilst there has not been a finding of racism in this investigation, there are undercurrents of race issues as highlighted at the Tackling Systemic Racism event in July 2020 and the concern expressed by some employees to come forward and speak out. 

As an organisation, we are clear that this is not acceptable, it is not in line with our values or the charity we want to be. We are collectively committed to changing our culture at all levels within the organisation. We will adopt a zero-tolerance approach to racism and bullying, creating a development plan for HR, improving relevant policies and practice, and through anti-racism training for employees and volunteers, beginning with leaders and line managers. We are committed to creating a fully inclusive culture - through our forthcoming strategy and action plan for diversity and inclusion (D&I) and providing further training and resources for all employees and volunteers.

This has been an extremely challenging time for the organisation. We are committed to doing this difficult work to move forward and become a strong, diverse organisation, where all colleagues – both within the organisation and those outside it - feel safe, respected, and empowered. 

View our action plan: Versus Arthritis: Tell Jane Outcomes and Next Steps. (PDF, 202KB)

It is only by creating a truly diverse and inclusive organisation that we will deliver our vision for people with arthritis.  

You can read more from our acting CEO Ellen Miller: We must do more to become truly inclusive and anti-racist

Announcing our new Director of Research

After eight years with the charity, Dr Stephen Simpson, Director of Research, will be leaving Versus Arthritis at the end of January. In his time at the charity Stephen has worked with our talented research community towards many notable achievements. These include leading and championing our work on pain, bringing together influential leaders across the research sector to develop the Pain Roadmap, resulting in the single biggest investment in pain research. He also championed investment into pioneering research areas such as the microbiome, translational medicine and forging links to understand relationships between arthritis and other long-term conditions like cancer.

Under his tenure, we have increased partnership working; attracting over £20 million of direct funding over the last eight years, from UKRI and NIHR and diverse partners such as CRUK, MQ, and Lilly. We have built on Arthritis Research UK’s initial commitment to patient involvement, convening a new group of patient insight partners to help us work towards the goal that that no decision about research funding is made without the input of those who will directly benefit from it. We have continued to support and celebrate our vital research talent and future leaders through fellowships and importantly, over the last year, we have worked across the UK medical research sector and other organisations such as Academy of Medical Science and the Association of Medical Research Charities, to cooperate and collaborate on important challenges including the sector response to Covid-19.

Dr Stephen Simpson said, “I am incredibly proud of the work that we have achieved together over the last eight years, from raising the importance of pain as a key research challenge to championing the voices of people with arthritis in decision making. Although COVID and Brexit pose significant challenges for the MSK research sector, I am confident that together with our partners, Versus Arthritis will continue to support world leading research that fundamentally changes the lives of people with arthritis.”

Dr Neha Issar-Brown, Direct of Research

As Stephen moves on, we are excited to announce that Dr Neha Issar-Brown will be joining us as the new Director of Research. Neha joins us from Fight for Sight, where she worked as Director of Research, Policy and Innovation and initiated the development of the charity’s first patient centric research strategy.

Neha was previously Head of Population Health and System Medicine at the UKRI's Medical Research Council (MRC), where she was responsible for the broadest research portfolios within UKRI covering basic biomedical research through clinical and translational research, and interdisciplinary interfaces with socioeconomic, population and public health. She was the MRC strategic lead for several high priority areas such as healthy ageing, precision medicine, rare diseases as well as MSK research. Neha is passionate about patient involvement and has conceptualised and led many flagship initiatives with patients at their core, including the MRC-NIHR partnerships on multimorbidity and ME/chronic fatigue syndrome.

Her voluntary work extends her broader commitment to diversity and includes being an RCOG women’s voices panel member, a L’Oreal women in science STEM ambassador and Teach First UK youth mentor. Neha also sits on the Governing boards of educational academies, where she serves as an equality, diversity and inclusion champion.

Dr Neha Issar-Brown said, “I am thrilled to be joining Versus Arthritis as this exciting time in the development of its research strategy. I am particularly excited about working for an organisation that has such a strong track record in putting the views of people with arthritis at the heart of its work, ensuring that no decision is made without the involvement of those who will be directly impacted. I look forward to meeting with and becoming part of this exciting team.”

We look forward to Neha joining us from Monday 1 February 2021. We will also be hosting a “hello and goodbye” webinar, giving you the chance to hear from and speak to Stephen and Neha. This will be held on Wednesday 27 January 12.30 - 1.30pm. If you would like to sign up, please contact us on

Nurse and allied health professional internship scheme – applications open

Applications are now open for our Nurse and Allied Health Professional Internship Scheme. This scheme is open to recent graduates (within 5 years) or final year students in an AHP profession (HCPC registerable) or Nursing with either a predicted or a first or 2:1 degree who have an interest in clinical research into the personal impact of arthritis and musculoskeletal diseases. The internships are for eight weeks full-time equivalent with the core dates covering July and August but flexible and part-time options are available. They provide opportunities to gain research experience working alongside some of the UK’s leading nurse and allied health researchers.

Full details of the Nurse and allied health professional internship scheme are available here.

How to apply

For further information about the internship programme, to register an expression of interest or for details of how to apply, please contact Mary Fry on

More details can also be found by:

  • Watching this video to find out more from Prof Cathy Bowen (Principal Investigator) and Mary Fry (Programme Manager):
  • Downloading the programme flyer (PDF, 396 KB).
  • Following @MSKinterns on twitter.