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Promoting diversity in stroke clinical research leadership

Published: 29 October 2019

New analysis has shown that stroke studies supported by the NIHR Clinical Research Network (NIHR CRN) have a high proportion of female Chief Investigators - including those in the early stage of their research careers.

The NIHR is committed to promoting gender equality in research leadership. In addition, all NIHR CRN specialties have a shared objective to promote and improve the involvement of early career researchers in studies they support. This is vital for ensuring the development of the next generation of clinical researchers, while ensuring appropriate role models and mentors are in place amongst those leading studies.

Out of a total of 202 stroke specialty studies on the NIHR CRN portfolio in 2018/19:

  • 49 per cent of Chief Investigators were female (66 of 136)  - and
  • 22 per cent of those were early career researchers (15 of 66)

In addition, the CRN’s analysis shows that stroke Chief Investigators (CI) leading CRN supported studies in 2018/19 were from a wide range of professional backgrounds - reflecting the multidisciplinary nature of stroke research and care. CIs leading stroke specialty studies included those with medical backgrounds - in addition to healthcare professionals from nursing, therapy, psychology, assistive technology and biomechanics.

Professor Tom Robinson, Professor of Stroke Medicine, University of Leicester, and NIHR CRN National Specialty Lead for Stroke, said: “NIHR recognises and promotes the importance of excellence in its research leaders in all disciplines, and stroke is proud to have highly successful and internationally leading female chief investigators that are truly inspirational to our future research leaders.”

Professor Anne Forster, Head of the Academic Unit of Elderly Care and Rehabilitation, University of Leeds, and former Clinical Lead for the Yorkshire Local Stroke Research Network, said: “Whilst it is clear some professions have some progress to make it is great to see that neither gender nor profession is a barrier to leading large scale research projects that will contribute to enhancing care for all after stroke.”

Stroke is one of 30 specialties within the NIHR CRN. It participates in two international collaborations, the Global Alliance of Independent Networks in Stroke (GAINS) and the European Stroke Organisation Trial Alliance (ESOTA) - both of which are committed to promoting the international funding and delivery of stroke research - as well as the development and mentorship of stroke researchers. In addition, ESOTA has also prioritised the promotion of women in academic stroke medicine - which provided the opportunity for the NIHR CRN to reflect on its own support of female leadership of multidisciplinary stroke research.

“Understanding the value of diversity and inclusion in the area of stroke research leadership is absolutely crucial if we are to ensure we are delivering optimal world class research. By being inclusive we are using all the talent accessible to us and spearheading the delivery of evidence for best care of our stroke patients and their families.”

Professor Marion Walker, Professor in Stroke Rehabilitation, University of Nottingham, and former Associate Director for Rehabilitation, NIHR Stroke Research Network

This snapshot of the NIHR CRN stroke portfolio shows a commitment to promoting Chief Investigators from a range of professional backgrounds, including a high percentage of female staff. This is important in providing role models for future trial leadership, and reflects the commitment of NIHR to promoting gender equality in research leadership.

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