How Policy Can Help Develop and Sustain Workforce Capacity in UK Dementia Research

Insights from a Career Tracking Analysis and Stakeholder Interviews

Published in: BMJ Open, v. 6, no. 8, e012052, 2016

Posted on RAND.org on September 06, 2016

by Sonja Marjanovic, Catherine A. Lichten, Enora Robin, Sarah Parks, Emma Harte, Calum MacLure, Clare Walton, Jim Pickett

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OBJECTIVES: To identify research support strategies likely to be effective for strengthening the UK's dementia research landscape and ensuring a sustainable and competitive workforce. DESIGN: Interviews and qualitative analysis; systematic internet search to track the careers of 1500 holders of UK doctoral degrees in dementia, awarded during 1970–2013, to examine retention in this research field and provide a proxy profile of the research workforce. SETTING AND PARTICIPANTS: 40 interviewees based in the UK, whose primary role is or has been in dementia research (34 individuals), health or social care (3) or research funding (3). Interviewees represented diverse fields, career stages and sectors. RESULTS: While the UK has diverse strengths in dementia research, needs persist for multidisciplinary collaboration, investment in care-related research, supporting research-active clinicians and translation of research findings. There is also a need to better support junior and midlevel career opportunities to ensure a sustainable research pipeline and future leadership. From a sample of 1500 UK doctorate holders who completed a dementia-related thesis in 1970–2013, we identified current positions for 829 (55%). 651 (43% of 1500) could be traced and identified as still active in research (any field) and 315 (21%) as active in dementia research. Among recent doctoral graduates, nearly 70% left dementia research within 4–6 years of graduation. CONCLUSIONS: A dementia research workforce blueprint should consider support for individuals, institutions and networks. A mix of policy interventions are needed, aiming to attract and retain researchers; tackle bottlenecks in career pathways, particularly at early and midcareer stages (eg, scaling-up fellowship opportunities, rising star programmes, bridge-funding, flexible clinical fellowships, leadership training); and encourage research networks (eg, doctoral training centres, succession and sustainability planning). Interventions should also address the need for coordinated investment to improve multidisciplinary collaboration; balanced research portfolios across prevention, treatment and care; and learning from evaluation.

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