Routes into academic training
Medical trainees can participate in research in a number of different ways, and at different stages in their career.
Academic Foundation Year 2
These posts are specifically designed to include an academic component to offer a taster for a future academic career. 1 of the 4 month slots is set aside to gain experience of research or in medical education. The Academic FY2 would usually be expected to undertake a small research project during their time. There are only a limited number of these posts around the United Kingdom in pathology specialties.
Non-academic specialty training posts
Specialty training posts in the pathology specialties do not always set aside dedicated time for research and are predominantly intended to train an individual for a future consultant position. It is, however, important that all trainees gain a basic understanding of research as they will have to be able to interpret evidence in the literature in order to influence their future clinical practice. Some specialties allow trainees to spend some standard training time undertaking research. This can be negotiated with the local department and Training Programme Director.
Trainees can also undertake Out of Programme Research (OOPR) which, if prospectively approved by the General Medical Council, can count towards the award of the Certificate of Completion of Training. An application form for prospective approval is available on the College website.
Academic Clinical Fellowships
These posts are intended to provide a base from which a trainee at an early stage of their career can develop a passion for research and generate pilot data that will allow them to apply for funding to come out of programme and complete a PhD or MD. The posts are usually funded by the National Institiute for Health Research (NIHR) although similar posts with alternative funding may be available. Posts are for up to three years, during which the trainee should spend 25% of their time on a research project. Trainees appointed to ACF posts are usually early in their training i.e. ST1–3.
The trainees will undergo an annual academic ARCP where both academic and clinical progression will be assessed. If individuals fail to progress in the academic stream or do not want to continue in research after three years then they revert to ordinary specialist training; however the expected progression is to a funded higher degree. Details of this process can be obtained from the NIHR.