There are many practicalities and considerations that require careful thought before embarking on a research project and these will be briefly outlined.
- Animal work
- Writing a grant application
If your research is going to involve patients, their tissues or genetic material you must obtain ethical approval for the project. This is mandatory. Guidance can be obtained from the Health Research Authority who operate a helpful website.
This is a complex area and if your project for example is comparing one treatment against another you need to establish the number of subjects that need to be recruited in order to demonstrate a statistical difference. It is advisable to seek the help of a medical statistician at an early stage, as the subject numbers will obviously have implications for funding and the duration of the project. A good starting point is to contact the Department of Medical Statistics or the Clinical Trials Co-ordinator at your local medical school.
This is a complex and controversial area but in general three fundamental principles apply. These are:
- No alternative exists to animal experimentation.
- The expected benefits outweigh any possible adverse effects.
- The number of animals employed and their suffering should be kept to a minimum.
Animal research is governed by the Animal (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 and three tiers of licence are required which are, a personal licence, a project licence and a certificate of designation.
The Home Office grants licences and regulates and inspects animal experimental work. Further details can be obtained from: www.homeoffice.gov.uk/science-research/animal-research.
Although many creditable research projects have been funded on “a shoestring”, you will need to give serious thought on how to fund the project. It may be that your hospital or practice has some “soft money” for which you can apply but for more complex projects particularly if you intend to take time out, you will require funding from various national bodies such as the MRC, NIHR, Wellcome Trust or Health Foundation. Alternatively, various charities relevant to the research you intend to carry out could be contacted for example, the British Heart Foundation or Cancer Research UK.
Writing a grant application
There is a definite art to this. Your supervisor should be able to give you some advice about it and show you a previously successful application which could act as a template for you application. Do remember that it is your application and you should have a go at completing it and then show it to your mentor.
Costs and the impact on other related departments will need to be submitted and this requires careful consideration.
A series of tips and other advice on making a grant application can be found at NINDS website.
If you have not been put off by all these considerations and want to carry out some research sketch out your project and study the information given on the links. Then approach a suitable supervisor for advice.
Professor Paul Marks, BA, LLM, MD, FRCS, MFFLM