Latest news and updates

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

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 from June 2020. 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
  • Fellowship Prizes

For our planned work with the Medical Research Council (MRC) around the upcoming Advanced Pain Discovery Platform call for new consortia, we will continue to work with colleagues at MRC on the progression for this call. We will share any updates here.

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.

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

We are recruiting for a Programme Director to spearhead our Advanced Pain Discovery Platform

Following the announcement last year of our £24M joint funding with the UK Government (UKRI) to establish the Advanced Pain Discovery Platform (APDP), we’ve been working hard with our government partners to progress this exciting initiative. The APDP aims to deliver an interdisciplinary consortium-based platform of national scale, generating discovery and early translational science that will break through the complexity of pain and reveal new biological, cognitive and psychosocial treatment approaches to address a wide spectrum of chronic and debilitating conditions.

An initial priority has been to launch recruitment of a visionary programme director to spearhead the whole of the APDP and to lead on the initiation and development of the various aspects of the platform. They will ensure the successful implementation and integration of the platform into the wider landscape through collaborative approaches and execution of the strategy, maximising the portfolios’ overall research excellence and real-world impact.

Funding is available to buy out one day a week of the successful applicant’s time to dedicate to the APDP. For more information on the role and how to apply please visit the MRC website

The closing date is 4pm on Friday 7th February.

For more information on this or any other aspects of the APDP please contact Clare Farmer at research@versusarthritis.org.

Foundation Fellowships – applications open

Applications are now open for our next Foundation Fellowship call. Foundation fellowships aim to retain the best postdoctoral researchers in areas of research relevant to arthritis and musculoskeletal diseases and provide an opportunity for fellows to develop independent research ideas at an early stage in their career. Foundation fellowships are open to basic science and other non-medical (including nurses, allied health professionals and veterinary surgeons) PhD students in the final year of PhD training, or within one year of completing their PhD at the time of application. These fellowships can't be taken up until the PhD has been awarded.

How to apply

Clinical Research Fellowships – applications open

Applications are now open for our next Clinical Research Fellowship call. Clinical research fellowships are our entry level scheme for talented medical and non-medical healthcare professionals. They're awarded to encourage clinically qualified professionals into an academic research career in any discipline relevant to arthritis and related musculoskeletal conditions. They aim to provide training in clinical and/or laboratory research techniques leading to a higher degree (usually a PhD).

Full details of the scheme and guidance documents are available here.

Additional information and FAQ’s about applying for fellowships are available here.

How to apply

The deadline for applications is Wednesday 26th February 2020.

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.

Funding available to address priorities in chronic pain research through a joint call with the NIHR

We’re delighted to be partnering with NIHR Programme Grants for Applied Research on their cross-programme themed-call in the management of chronic pain to address priorities in disease management and applied health research as identified through our pain roadmap.

Co-funding is available for appropriate studies in the Programme Grants for Applied Research chronic pain themed call for all rounds being opened throughout 2019 and 2020.

Our roadmap for pain (PDF, 1.62 MB), launched in 2018, prioritises 14 challenges to be overcome to understand, treat and prevent pain. This joint call seeks proposals for programmes of work that address research questions in the following roadmap priority areas:

  • Interventions
  • Workplace
  • Services
  • Under-represented groups
  • Prevention

The amount of funding awarded and the length of the funding period will depend on the nature of the proposed work, in particular whether or not the proposal includes a substantial powered trial.

The next call for applications to this call opens on 3 October 2019 with a deadline of 27 November 2019. For more details or to apply, please visit https://www.nihr.ac.uk/documents/nihr-themed-call-on-the-management-of-chronic-pain-nihr-programme-grants-for-applied-research-in-partnership-with-versus-arthritis/20388

Recent achievements from our researchers

We're pleased to announce some exciting achievements from Versus Arthritis researchers around the UK.

Professor Elizabeth Jury – who was previously one of our career development fellows – has been promoted to Professor of experimental rheumatology within the Inflammation department, University College London.

Congratulations also to Dr Ross Wilkie of Keele University (based at our primary care centre) who has won the health professionals in rheumatology award from European League Against Rheumatism, in recognition of his work identifying targets to reduce the increased risk of mortality in people with arthritis.

Professor Cathy Holt (based at our biomechanics and bioengineering research centre) has been elected as one of the Fellows of International Orthopaedic Research by the International Combined Orthopaedic Research Societies (ICORS) at their June meeting in Montreal. The academy aims to demonstrate, celebrate and disseminate excellence in orthopaedic research, and advance learning and public awareness in this area.

Also at our biomechanics centre, Dr Kate Button has been appointed Specialty lead for Musculoskeletal disorders by Health and Care Research Wales. During this three-year appointment Dr Button will be building network of principle investigators within musculoskeletal research, supporting uptake of studies in Wales, and engaging with counterparts around the UK.

If you have any good news stories or achievements to share, please do get in touch with the research department at research@versusarthritis.org. We love to hear about our researchers’ achievements.

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 16:00 on 18 September 2019.

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.

Communicating about your research

We are currently working on a project within the charity, bringing research to life, in which we are looking at ways to help people tell the story of research. The more we ask people, the more it seems that what we need to do through this project is help our volunteers, colleagues, people with arthritis, and researchers, to be the storytellers about our research.

Our researchers are key to this as you have a unique and in depth understanding of the research and how it fits in the wider context. Communicating your research to a non-specialist audience is a skill and something important that researchers are doing increasingly through different means, such as social media and public engagement events.

We have put together a short survey to help us understand how you as researchers are currently engaging with the public about your research, what has helped you to do this and what additional support could help you.

Please help us to understand these key pieces of information by completing our survey. Closing date is 30 June 2019.

Thank you in advance for your time and input. Any queries or problems, please do get in touch with us at research@versusarthritis.org.