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Biomedicine international training research programme for excellent clinician-scientists

Periodic Reporting for period 3 - BITRECS (Biomedicine international training research programme for excellent clinician-scientists)

Reporting period: 2022-10-01 to 2023-06-30

Clinician-scientists provide invaluable help in translating research results “from bench to bedside” thanks to their deep understanding of medical problems and their hands-on experience with patients and diseases. Unfortunately, their recruitment and retention has become more and more difficult due to the lack of appropriate funding opportunities, the high clinical workload during the economic crisis and, maybe, because of a change in the culture of the new generations who may not value research.
The “Biomedicine international training research programme for excellent clinician-scientists” (BITRECS) is a 69-months innovative project aimed at recruiting young, international, excellent post-doctoral researchers, provide them with the opportunity to work full-time on the completion of a 36-months research proposal, support their professional growth as clinician-scientists and help them progress along their career path. The BITRECS project is promoted by the Institut d'Investigacions Biomèdiques August Pi i Sunyer (IDIBAPS) and receives funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the MSCA grant agreement 754550 and “La Caixa” Foundation (ID 100010434), under the agreement LCF / PR / GN18 / 50310006.
The conclusions reached at the end of the project is that BITRECS fellows have been able to have a positive impact on the understanding and management of different diseases and to progress in terms of career development.
During the first period of BITRECS implementation, several actions were undertaken to kick-start the programme in accordance with the planned roadmap. As a first step, a campaign to engage IDIBAPS laboratories and partner organisations open to host potential candidates interested in the BITRECS programme, was developed. Adverts were published on the online career portals of internationally renewed scientific journals and in the Euraxess website. The selection and evaluation process were done through a 2-steps evaluation: remote evaluation conducted by an external evaluation agency to ensure the independence of the process and face-to-face interviews. Each candidate received an Evaluation Summary Report detailing their strengths and weaknesses in line with the pre-established evaluation criteria. To guarantee the excellence of the programme only 8 of the 10 fellowships available were assigned.
At month 24 of the project, 8 excellent and motivated researchers had been selected through an open, transparent and merit-based recruitment (OTM-R) linked to an international and peer-reviewed BITRECS call; they all chose one of IDIBAPS’ research lines to join the programme either through an outgoing mobility scheme within the framework of an international collaboration (12-18 months in an outgoing institution and 18-24 months at IDIBAPS) or an incoming scheme (36 months at IDIBAPS). As a result, 7 of the 8 selected fellows started their contract, 3 of them through the incoming mobility scheme and 4 of them through the outgoing mobility scheme. Later on, an official kick-off meeting was organised for them; this event aimed at providing the fellows with key information regarding the training and research programme and at giving indications on how to prepare the dissemination and exploitation plan according to their research proposals

During the second period of BITRECS the implementation, monitoring and evaluation of the research progress achieved by each fellow has been carried out. The main objective of the BITRECS management team has been supporting the researchers to allow them properly to advance in their research projects and career paths. The main tasks carried out along this period have been: welcoming the fellows to the programme; supporting and guiding the researchers at their arrival at IDIBAPS and/or to other hosting institutions; monitoring the progress of both their research and career advancements through Yearly assessment meetings; offering a mentoring support; giving them top-level scientific supervision; facilitating their participation in activities of training, networking and outreach; guiding them to better disseminate or protect and exploit their results.
Additionally, the correct implementation of the whole programme has been also part of the work in this second part of the project. The management team has had to deal in some cases with incidents that arose during the development of the programme. For example, the fellows could request some extra months for their fellowships to compensate the COVID-19 pandemic negative effects. As a result, their fellowships were enlarged but, at the same time, the ending date of the whole programme had to be postponed as well.
Overall, many outcomes have been generated by BITRECS fellows and hopefully more results will still be achieved in the future. All those merits prove that BITRECS fellows, as clinician-scientists, are having a positive impact on the understanding and management of different diseases, always following the main aim of trying to benefit society.
During the whole BITRECS programme to support fellows’ career and research activity has been a priority.
IDIBAPS and the outgoing hosting institutions have provided the fellows with lifelong training and career development activities. Each fellow has been trained according to their individual specific educational needs. The new knowledge and abilities gained at all levels has been monitored. Yearly assessment meetings together with other support tools of the programme has been helpful to offer guidance to the fellows to ensure a fruitful career development.
During their BITRECS fellowships, the recruited clinician-scientists have been in touch with many other clinician-scientists. Thus, they have become part of the core of research clinicians in Europe as it was foreseen. All their BITRECS contracts have been developed within an academic working environment. However, during their fellowships, a big overview of possible professional opportunities had been shown to ensure they will be able to continue developing their career in academia or beyond.
BITRECS project have recruited excellent clinician scientists who, by the end of their fellowships, have contributed to the progression of their research field with scientific results of high translational value and, overall, who have also contributed at improving people’s health by clinical practice based in scientific evidence. The expected impact is now a reality as they have already achieved many scientific outcomes resulting from this work.
As a result, the impacts of the BITRECS programme are helping to increase the value of public investments in translational research by translating research results into clinical practice thanks to professionals very well trained in the clinics and in the labs. Consequently, the BITRECS programme is totally aligned to IDIBAPS vision which is to develop research of excellence that integrates biomedical basic and clinical science to improve the prevention and treatment of health problems in our environment.