May 2021 research newsletter


As we slowly but surely move beyond the coronavirus pandemic, I wanted to start by acknowledging the hard work and resilience that you all have demonstrated over the last year, both in continuing your research endeavors and adapting to respond to the needs of the pandemic, often whilst juggling the joys and tribulations of managing it alongside family and caring needs.

For our part, we have worked hard to continue support for your research; in new open calls and in supporting our rich and valuable portfolio of active grants.

You’ve asked us for more information about future funding activities and opportunities. We’ve heard you and will soon share our plan for funding activities for 2021/22. We are also working towards the publication of our new research strategy later this year and would like to thank those who have contributed to its development so far. Watch this space.

As you will be aware, last October we reported ourselves to the Charity Commission due to concerns about bullying and racism in the charity. We now have heard from the Charity Commission that they will be taking no action following the serious incident report. While it is good to know that there will no action taken, we are not being complacent and continue with the work we are doing to become a fully inclusive and actively anti-racist charity. This includes implementing and encouraging diversity and inclusion in the research and researchers we support.

We continue to contribute to and engage with the wider research and funder community, advocating for musculoskeletal research. We know that the outputs of research are vast and not limited to publications and journal impact factors. This is why we are signing up to the Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA), which recognizes the need to improve the ways in which researchers and their research outputs are evaluated.

We will also be contributing to the government review of research bureaucracy, and look at our own processes with the aim of making them more agile and to free up more time for you to spend on research.

We remain committed to supporting the development of future leaders in musculoskeletal research, and in this newsletter we are pleased to share our latest fellowship and PhD scholarship calls. We currently have a number of opportunities for you to get involved with upcoming projects, and we always enjoy hearing from you so do get in touch with any feedback.

Last but not the least, we were very pleased to have successfully hosted the first virtual Fellows’ Annual meeting. I am aware this is a big event for all our Fellows, who like us, look forward to it every year and would like to thank all the 100 plus (!) attendees who logged in and stayed put for the entire duration of the three-day event. There were some fantastic talks and poster presentations by so many of our Fellows and PhD students – thank you for sharing your research insights with us. I’d like to also thank our guest speakers here – Professor Dame Carol Black and our Patient Insight Partner, Frances Borrer, for sharing their heartening and uplifting life stories with us. We will make their talks available to watch and I highly recommend that everyone, especially our early career researchers, prepare to be inspired!

Latest developments and activities

Support for research careers

We are pleased to announce that applications for our foundation fellowship and career development fellowship schemes are now open!

Foundation fellowships are our first postdoctoral awards, which aim to retain the best postdoctoral researchers, and provide an opportunity for fellows to develop independent research ideas at an early stage in their career. Career development fellowships are our intermediate postdoctoral awards, which aim to attract and retain talented postdoctoral researchers, and provide them with the opportunity to develop an independent research career.

Both fellowships are open to basic scientists, vets, nurses and allied health professionals, and projects must be in areas of research relevant to arthritis and musculoskeletal diseases.

All our upcoming deadlines and opportunities can be found below.

New webpages for our Research Advisory Groups

Our research advisory groups (RAGs) and, for childhood arthritis, the Paediatric Rheumatology clinical studies group (CSG) unite specialist researchers, people with lived experience of arthritis and health professionals with one common goal - to highlight the research that is needed to push back against arthritis. We now have a new set of webpages for our RAGs and our CSG, which contain information on their individual focuses and group membership, as well as details of any current vacancies.

Government review of research bureaucracy

This independent review into research bureaucracy will examine why bureaucracy has increased across the UK’s research system and provide recommendations to help reduce administrative demands, freeing up researchers’ time to concentrate on research activities. Within the charity, we are aware that the application process is long and the timings of this can be restrictive, particularly for early career researchers. We will be looking closely at our processes with the aim of making them more agile, and will be coming to you for your help with this work.

Our annual fellows meeting

We recently came together for our first completely virtual annual fellows meeting where our research fellows had the opportunity to share their research, network, and also attend career development workshops. This year, we were delighted to welcome Professor Dame Carol Black, who give an inspiring guest lecture about her life and career. As well as many interesting and informative scientific sessions exploring the aetiology of osteoarthritis disease and pain, leveraging data, inflammation, biomarkers of disease and therapeutic interventions. We also heard from one of our MSK Champions alumni and Good Boost CEO, Ben Wilkins, who shared his approach for making things happen in the MSK community, and from patient insight partner Frances Borrer who shared her own experiences of arthritis and what involvement with Versus Arthritis has meant to her.

We welcomed Versus Arthritis staff to this year’s event, who judged the prize for most accessible talk. Congratulations to the winners!

First place for Fellow with most accessible talk: Dr Hannah James, Educational Research Fellow, University of Warwick.

Second place for Fellow with most accessible talk: Dr Charis Pericleous, Career Development Fellow, Imperial College London.

First place for PhD student with most accessible talk: Imogen Wells, PhD Scholar, University of Birmingham.

Second place for PhD student with most accessible talk: Lucy Marshall, PhD Scholar, University College London.

Thanks to all who attended, asked questions, and engaged with the presenters via the conference software, which scored attendees based on their participation in the meeting. Congratulations to Dr Stephanie Smith of the Pain Centre Versus Arthritis for scoring the most points!

Update on Charity Commission

As you know, we reported ourselves to the Charity Commission when a number of people raised concerns about bullying and racism last summer. This is because as the regulator responsible for charities (on behalf of the regulators in each of the nations), they require charities to tell them about anything they would define as a “serious incident”.

They’ve now confirmed that they will not be launching a formal investigation, as (in their words) they are “assured that that the charity has taken the appropriate steps to now move forward and is doing its best to resolve the issues of concern.” And they “therefore don't propose to take any further action or think that the charity will benefit from advice at this stage.”

While it is good to know that there will be no regulatory or investigatory action taken by the Commission, please be reassured that we are determined to continue with the path we’re now firmly on to become a more inclusive charity.


Professor Christian Mallen has been appointed as the new Director for the NIHR’s School of Primary Care Research, taking over from the University of Oxford’s Professor Richard Hobbs.

His appointment coincides with the start of a new chapter for the school, with a refreshed membership and a new focus on supporting the full spectrum of primary care research and building research capacity.

This new phase of the school’s activities has been awarded £22 million which started in April 2021, running for a five-year period. The school has also received funding of £10 million from the NIHR Academy to support capacity building in primary care research.

Read more about Professor Christian Mallen's appointment.

Upcoming opportunities and deadlines

Foundation fellowships
Deadline 14 July 2021

Career development fellowships
Deadline 14 July 2021

PhD scholarships
Applications opening in June

Help us redesign our research webpages

With the launch of our new strategic priority later in the year, we are taking the opportunity to redesign the research section of our website to ensure that current and prospective grantholders can easily access relevant, up to date and engaging information on our research priorities, opportunities and latest news.

We need your help to make our pages the best they can be!

How can I get involved?

We are looking for people who would like to:

For more information please contact

We’d love to hear from you

If you have any feedback regarding our newsletter, or have any questions please get in touch by emailing