Latest news and updates

PhD scholarships – applications open

Applications are now open for our annual PhD scholarship call.

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 23 September 2020.

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 research@versusarthritis.org.

Advanced Pain Discovery Platform webinar 15 June

Many people with arthritis still report pain after taking their medication. To address this, we recently announced the launch of a £14m call which will use clinical data to pursue innovative and ambitious ‘big ideas’ in chronic pain research.

This opportunity is the first from our Advanced Pain Discovery Platform, a £24m initiative in partnership with UKRI which aims to break through the complexity of chronic pain and lead to new treatment opportunities. Together, we can make headway in improving the lives of people with chronic pain.

As part of the call launch we will be running an webinar to provide an introduction to the APDP initiative and its newly appointed Director, Professor David Walsh. The webinar will give an overview of the APDP, and information on the call for consortia, including the scientific scope, eligibility requirements, and the application process. There will also be a Q&A session after the formal presentations.

Date: Monday 15 June
Time: 2.00 pm - 3.00 pm (GMT)
Where: Zoom video webinar

Presenting at the webinar will be:

  • Professor David Walsh, University of Nottingham – APDP Director
  • Professor Andrew Carr, University of Oxford – ADPD International Scientific Advisory Board Chair
  • Dr Joanna Latimer – Head of Neurosciences and Mental Health, Medical Research Council
  • Dr Stephen Simpson – Director of Research, Versus Arthritis.

The presentation should be of interest to those in the pain research community and we particularly encourage potential applicants to attend.

To attend the event please register here.

After registering you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar. If you have any questions about the initiative you would like to submit in advance to be answered at the webinar please email them to SPFPain@mrc.ukri.org.

New Fellowship Expert Group Chair appointed

Research capable of transforming lives of people with arthritis requires exceptional researchers.

We understand the need to support the careers of people behind the research as well as their projects. We do this through research fellowships to support clinical and non-clinical scientists to develop cutting-edge research.

This investment in new ideas and future leaders in the musculoskeletal field will improve treatments and the management of conditions. One day we hope this may lead to a cure for chronic conditions like arthritis.

New Chair of Fellowship Expert Group

Professor Gretl McHugh, our new Chair for the fellowship expert group.

We are delighted to announce that Professor Gretl McHugh will be joining the Fellowship expert group as the new Chair.

Professor McHugh is an Investment Chair in Applied Health Research at the School of Healthcare, University of Leeds, since 2015. With a background in community nursing and health visiting, her current research focusses around the management of and service provision for osteoarthritis and improving pre-and post-operative care following joint replacements.

Gretl has a real passion for supporting the next generation of clinical and non-clinical academics with their research careers. Having held several prestigious fellowships herself, and supported by mentorship, she has developed the successful career she has today. Gretl comes with a wealth of experience in training and supporting students and fellows.

More recently, in response to the recent COVID-19 situation, she has been working with colleagues to support final year nursing students who opted to take up front-line positions in the NHS to make this early transition to use their knowledge and skills during the COVID-19 crisis.

This experience along with the expertise and skills she holds, makes her the ideal person to chair this committee to help develop and support these future leaders in musculoskeletal research.

Caroline Aylott, Head of research awards:

"We have a rich history in supporting the careers of up and coming researchers and it’s wonderful to see so many of them as world-leading researchers in their field today. Gretl is someone who shares our passion and we are delighted to have her working with us on this committee."

Prof Gretl McHugh:

“I am excited to be given the opportunity to work with Versus Arthritis, who avidly support the next generation of researchers. I look forward to building upon the opportunities which Versus Arthritis provides through working with the charity, up and coming researchers and members of the Fellowship Expert Group to develop new initiatives to support our future leaders in musculoskeletal research.”

For more information about career support, please visit the Fellowship and career support section of the website.

Keeping Research Connected webinars

This month we hosted our first Keeping Research Connected webinars, which brought over 200 people together to share updates on the impact and response we are seeing as a result of COVID-19.

This included how our research and wider charity activities are being affected and how the research sector as a whole has been impacted by COVID-19. As well as sharing the challenges we are facing, we celebrated some examples of the remarkable innovation and adaption that we are seeing in our research community and in our charity.

If you missed it, you can watch it here...

You can also view the presentation slides separate here (PDF, 858 KB), and find answers to questions submitted to the Q&A session here (PDF, 148 KB).

We would like to continue to tell the story of how our community is adapting to this pandemic – your experiences really strengthen our fundraising, communication and advocacy work. Please share your COVID-19 stories with us, so that we can highlight what you are doing. We also welcome feedback and ideas for future events. You can get in touch with us at researchliaison@versusarthritis.org.

Versus Arthritis Webinar: Keeping Research Connected

We understand this time of uncertainty is having a significant impact on the research we fund, as well as the health and well-being of our researchers, health care professionals and participants in research.

We will be hosting a webinar on May 7 and again on May 13, which will be led by our Director of Research, Stephen Simpson. In the sessions, we will share highlights of how Versus Arthritis is doing, how our research and wider charity activities are being affected, and how we are responding. We will update on managing current and planned research, as well as how we are working with other organisations across the sector in response to the challenges we all face. We would like to begin to understand and share how our research community is being impacted, and how you are all adapting and stepping up to meet the challenges of COVID-19.

The session will be hosted via Microsoft Teams Live, during which we will host a Q&A. We encourage you to participate and to tell us what is important to you at this time. We welcome you to submit your questions in advance to researchliaison@versusarthritis.org.

Please join one of the webinars via Microsoft Teams app or in your web browser using the following links (a helpful video about joining Teams Live events can be found here).

Thursday May 7 4.00 pm – 5.00 pm (UK time)

Wednesday May 13 2.00 pm – 3.00 pm (UK time)

Support for COVID-19 global registries

At the moment, little is known about how patients with rheumatic diseases or autoimmune conditions, many of whom use medications and drugs that suppress the immune system, are affected by COVID-19. To address this and inform care, Versus Arthritis is asking for participation and promotion of two global COVID-19 initiatives:

  1. The COVID-19 Global Rheumatology Registry, is a tool for rheumatology healthcare providers to enter data about their patients, reporting any and all cases of COVID-19 in rheumatology patients, including those with mild or no symptoms. Practitioners in the UK should enter details for ADULT and PAEDIATRIC patients in the EULAR - COVID-19 Database which is linked to the global registry. This global approach allows for a mass collection and sharing of anonymised data across the globe. This will help guide rheumatologists and other clinicians such as specialist nurses in advising and caring for their patients and in evaluating the risk of infection in patients on immunosuppression.
  2. A European patient registry has been launched. Anyone (adults or parents of a child) with a rheumatological, autoimmune or autoinflammatory disease is invited to take part. Participants will be asked a series of questions and sent follow-up surveys each week to learn how COVID-19 may affect them. It’s hoped the information gathered in this registry can inform the way that doctors manage and treat patients with rheumatic diseases with COVID-19 infections. It is hosted by Juvenile Arthritis Research.

The initiatives are both part of the COVID-19 Global Rheumatology Alliance, a new organisation that was rapidly formed in response to the global COVID–19 pandemic (established March 12, 2020).

For any further enquiries, please contact enquiries@versusarthritis.org.

COVID-19 - Message from Stephen Simpson, Director of Research, Versus Arthritis

Updated 31 March 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic is an issue for us all professionally and personally. This is a major public health emergency that the Government is having to respond to, and all efforts need to be deployed to stem the spread of the virus.

We know that it will have a serious impact on people with arthritis, our research and our researchers. We are committed to working with our communities to find the best possible solutions for us all.

We want to be as flexible and supportive as possible and understand this time of uncertainty will have a significant impact on the research we fund, as well as the health and well being of our researchers, health care professionals and participants in research.

We're working together with other organisations such as the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) and the Association for Medical Research Charities (AMRC) to find the best ways we can come together and support medical research now and in the future.

We know that you will have significant challenges in the coming months. Our research community will be called upon to provide essential front-line NHS services. Similarly, scientists, pharmacists and lab technicians could be required to support the effort.

We're fully aware that clinical research has slowed or halted, and we know that many universities have entered or are actively considering a shutdown.

We recognise that as a result, research projects may temporarily pause or even potentially close down as a result of the impacts of COVID-19.

There are some specific issues relating to this that we would like to provide guidance on:

Current research

  • The decision to pause or close-down any research will be a local decision to be made by the chief/principal investigator and the sponsor. We will support any local decision to move personnel to front line duties and will work with teams after the crisis to explore ways for research projects to be reinstated.
  • We're recommending that any clinical research in particular, that has been recently awarded but not yet started, delay the start date to adjust to the possibility of not being able to recruit.
  • Where individuals working on research projects become unwell or need to self-isolate, we will follow the employing organisation’s own policy, in line with your Conditions of Award.
  • We will be flexible on the use of underspend and budget virements to cover any exceptional and additional cost incurred by the COVID-19 pandemic to keep your research activities going.
  • Our position is to offer no-cost extensions to your award if needed. Please follow process in Grant Tracker.
  • Where costed extensions are necessary, these will be considered on a case by case basis as required.

New funding activity

This is an incredibly testing time for all our academic and NHS colleagues. In order to support the mobilisation of crucial staff and avoiding disruption to the work of other key staff and peer reviewers, we have made the difficult decision to pause our current open calls and any future planned activity, including planned peer review of active calls.

Currently, we are planning on re-starting calls later this year. This position will be frequently reviewed as the national situation evolves.

Current active calls

  • Clinical Research Fellowships
  • Foundations Fellowships
  • Medical Technologies

Planned calls affected

  • Senior Research Fellowships
  • Career Development Fellowships
  • Priming Confidence and Creativity in New Research
  • Portfolio Development Fund

For our planned work with the Medical Research Council (MRC) around the upcoming Advanced Pain Discovery Platform call for new consortia, we are continuing to work with colleagues at MRC on the progression for this call. Pre-call information on the consortia call can be found here and revised opening and closing dates for this call will be available soon.

Travel awards

Changes have been made to the fees charged by UK train operating companies when exchanging an advance ticket with an initial travel date until the end of April 2020.

If you have made arrangements to travel to conferences which have been cancelled and a refund is not possible, we will honour the cost of the travel.

Support from Versus Arthritis

Our team are continuing to work from home to support you. If it's possible. please contact your Versus Arthritis Award Team to update us about any changes to your activity or with concerns you may have.

For general enquiries about our research please contact research@versusarthritis.org.

Here is a list of frequently asked questions about the impact of coronavirus on Versus Arthritis Research (PDF, 136 KB).

Applications for the career development and senior research fellowship schemes opening soon

Applications for our career development fellowship and senior research fellowship funding schemes will be open by May 2020 with a joint deadline of the 9th September 2020.

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.

Senior research fellowships are our most prestigious fellowship grants. They're awarded to outstanding researchers committed to a 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.

Both fellowships are open to basic scientists, vets, nurses and allied health professionals, and the senior research fellowships are also open to medically and surgically trained applicants. Projects must be in areas of research relevant to arthritis and musculoskeletal diseases.

How to apply

The Versus Arthritis Outstanding Fellows Prize

We are very pleased to announce the launch of The Versus Arthritis Outstanding Fellows Prize. The prize will recognise academic achievements, research outputs and contribution to new knowledge with potential for significant impact on the quality of life of people with arthritis.

We will be awarding two prizes in 2020 – the Versus Arthritis Outstanding Fellows Prize (early career category) and the Versus Arthritis Outstanding Fellows Prize (late career category).

The recipient of each prize will receive a personal cash prize, a research support award payable to their institute and a commemorative trophy.

To be eligible to apply, applicants must be a current Versus Arthritis PhD student or Fellow, or completed a fellowship no longer than 12 months before the closing date for applications. Applicants must also be currently employed by or matriculated at an eligible UK institution which is willing to receive the research support award on behalf of the recipient. As The Versus Arthritis Outstanding Fellows Prize recognises individual achievements, joint applications are not eligible.

How to apply

Fight for Sight / Versus Arthritis PhD Studentship – abstract applications open

Abstract applications are now invited for a PhD Studentship co funded by Fight for Sight to address arthritis and visual impairment. This includes, but is not limited to Bechet’s Syndrome, Giant cell arteritis, and Sjögren's syndrome. Any research relevant to inflammation and uveitis are also welcomed. The proposed project must aim to stop or reduce sight loss. The studentship provides a grant of Grant of up to £100,000 for three years including stipends, PhD fees and consumables. Applications must be made by the potential PhD Supervisor(s). These grants are administered by Fight for Sight, more information and details on how to apply and details of the fellowship can be found at https://www.fightforsight.org.uk/apply-for-funding/funding-opportunities/phd-studentships/.

How to apply