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HRB investment in Research Leaders proves successful

A new report from the HRB evaluates the impact of a €38 million investment in the development of research leaders across a range of health specialties in the past 15 years. 

It highlights that targeted investment in this area has:
-    built research capacity across a range of disciplines and career stages
-    produced diverse research outputs 
-    delivered real impact on healthcare policy and changes in practice.

According to Dr Catherine Gill, Programme Manager in Post-award and Evaluation:
‘It is important to establish whether investment in this type of scheme is delivering the intended benefit. Essentially, we looked at what works, what doesn’t and what needs adjustment. This is really important in terms of demonstrating value for money, showcasing outcomes and guiding future funding decisions and approaches to building research capacity.’ 

Key findings
A total of 25 high potential researchers in clinical, population health and health services research were funded via the Research Leaders Awards and Clinician Scientist Awards to become leading investigators in their discipline, mentor and develop others and drive evidence use in policy  and practice in their discipline. This led to:

  • 119 research-related positions funded
  • €28.5 million in additional funding leveraged 
  • 190 policy and practice influences developed
  • 133 collaborations forged
  • 809 peer-reviewed papers published in International scientific journals
  • 149 rewards and recognitions bestowed by scientific peers
  • 197 education and training initiatives delivered
  • 49 instances globally of evidence produced by HRB leaders being cited in clinical guidelines

The leaders did research on a broad range of topics including mother and baby health, cancer, youth mental health, antibiotic resistance, asthma, diabetes and changing lifestyle behaviours to name a few. The leaders’ comments about their experience of HRB support reflects the impact the award had on their career nationally and internationally, the careers of those working with them, the health of people and influence on policy and practice.

My career has changed beyond all recognition from the way it was 11 or 12 years ago, to being an academic leader in my own field, in the university, in the country and internationally … so truly transformative from my point of view.

I really do think this [award] enables people to go beyond where they could’ve expected in their careers. 

I have got two tranches of funding now from the HSE to support the activity of the programme because the benefit is so immediate and we’re working with multidisciplinary teams in the hospital systems. The HSE sees the value of what we’re doing; they have given us additional support. 

Because of the HRB awards, I’ve created a scientific group which is generating research of global impact. That results in better science and better clinical care. Better science because of the grants and publications we generate. But better clinical care because only through research and the protection of research can you get the time to be an absolute expert in the clinical field you’re engaged in. 

‘The HRB is committed to supporting talented individuals in health research,’ notes Dr Gill. ‘One of the key outcomes linked to the report was a change in the HRB’s approach to investing in health research careers with the development of a separate career track for health and care practitioners (HCP) in 2019, which recognises the different challenges faced by clinicians and academics and ensures that potential research leaders among the HCP community have an opportunity to compete for funding.’ 

‘We are delighted with the positive influence this investment has had on the careers of so many researchers, and with the impactful outputs and outcomes that have come from their research. The findings from the report will continue to inform how we fund career development in our next strategy,’ concluded Dr Gill. 

You can read the full report, An evaluation of HRB investment in health research leaders, on the HRB website at