SUSTAIN is a pilot programme for women researchers to thrive in their independent research careers. It provides an innovative programme of training and support to develop participants’ leadership and career potential.

Key dates

2 December 2016: Applications close.
Mid December 2016: Applicants are notified about the outcome of the selection process.
21-23 March 2016: Launch of activities and residential workshop.


Applications for the second round are now close.

Not enough women researchers in science are securing senior leadership posts in the UK. A concerted effort is needed to ensure women are appropriately supported along their career trajectory to enable them to secure those senior positions.

SUSTAIN is a unique programme in the UK that is providing women researchers a fantastic opportunity to benefit from individualised support tailored to their career needs.


"SUSTAIN is the first programme that is tailored specifically towards women at the beginning stages of their independent careers. By integrating a range of approaches, SUSTAIN enables new PIs to develop their own, personal leadership styles needed  for their successful progression as scientists."

Dr Eva Hoffman, MRC Senior Non-Clinical Research Fellow, former Dorothy Hodgkin Fellow, University of Sussex

"Trying to build a career, deliver high quality science and raise a family can seem daunting. But you are not alone and many of the challenges faced by women in research are shared. SUSTAIN offers a structured programme of training and mentorship coupled with the opportunity to learn from and share with people who have walked (or are walking) in your shoes."
Dr Elizabeth Sapey, Clinician Scientist, former Starter Grant Holder, University of Birmingham


About the programme

The year-long programme offers interactive skills training and career development sessions, tailored mentoring and the opportunity to network with research leaders. It is designed so that participants are part of a unique cohort to share learnings and includes:

  • Interactive career development workshops

The programme will start with a 2.5 day residential workshop on 21-23 March 2017, followed by three one-day workshops (on 22 June 2017, November 2017 and March 2018). A wide range of issues will be addressed at these workshops, including media training, publishing strategically, finding your work-life balance and developing a personal and leadership style. Each session will be tailored to support attendees through the challenges of combining research, teaching, clinical practice and caring responsibilities. We will also introduce participants to distinguished research leaders at an Inspiring Women supper on the evening of the residential workshop. Confirmed guests include Professor Dame Carol Robinson DBE FRS FMedSci and Professor Sir Robert Lechler PMedSci. 

Hotel accommodation in London will be provided for two nights for the period of the residential workshop, and for the other workshops if necessitated by travel requirements. Travel costs can be claimed in accordance with the Academy’s policy for travel. Childcare support, if needed, will be available up to £50 per child per day for Ofsted-registered childcare. 

  • A peer support network 

The group was matched in co-coaching pairs to enable ongoing peer support and discussion of issues/challenges. Small group work at each workshop helps to embed and put in to practice key learning points.

  • One-to-one mentoring

Participants are mentored by a Fellow of the Academy. Bespoke training on how to get the most out of mentoring, and ongoing support is provided to both mentees and mentors over the course of the programme.

The second round of SUSTAIN will identify and support 20 women for a period of one year. Only award holders from partner organisations are eligible in the first instance.

To be eligible to apply, applicants have to hold one of the following awards or fellowships:

Medical Research Council

  • Career Development Award
  • Skills Development Fellowships (previously Strategic Skills Fellowships) 
  • Clinician Scientist Fellows

The Royal Society

  • Dorothy Hodgkin Fellowship
  • University Research Fellowship
  • Sir Henry Dale Fellowships

Academy of Medical Sciences

  • Starter Grant Award
  • Clinician Scientist Fellowship
  • Springboard Award

All applicants must be available to participate in the career development workshops. We will give as much notice as possible of workshop dates. The residential workshop will be held on 21-23 March 2017 in London followed by a full day workshop on 22 June 2017. Assistance with childcare costs, if needed, will be available.  

Applications are now close. 

Selection process

The 20 participants were selected by a computerised randomisation method, stratified to ensure participants were selected from each partner organisation fellowship cohorts and represent both clinical researchers and scientists from other backgrounds across the UK.

The SUSTAIN Reference Group led by Professor Moira Whyte FMedSci will have oversight of the selection process. Please see the application guidelines for further details.

If you have any questions about the application, please contact Felipe Fouto on 020 3141 3239


A number of reports over the past decade have highlighted the relative paucity of women researchers in science securing senior leadership posts in the UK due to barriers and hidden biases[1][2][3]. Although the number is slowly rising, the Academy believes that a more concerted effort is needed to ensure women are appropriately supported along their career trajectory to enable them to secure those senior positions.

[1] Medical Schools Council, 2013. A Survey of Staffing Levels of Medical Clinical Academics in UK Medical Schools as at 31 July 2012.

[2] UKRC, 2009. Female Attrition, Retention and Barriers to Careers in SET Academic Research. Royal Society of Edinburgh, 2012. Tapping all our talents. NAS, 2010. Gender Differences at Critical Transitions in the Careers of Science, Engineering, and Mathematics Faculty.

[3] Equality Challenge Unit, 2013. Equality in higher education: statistical report 2013:


Reference group members

  • Professor Moira Whyte OBE FMedSci, Professor of Respiratory Medicine, University of Edinburgh (Chair)
  • Professor Susan Wray FMedSci, Professor of Physiology, University of Liverpool
  • Professor Jim Smith FRS FMedSci, Director of Research, The Francis Crick Institute
  • Professor Eva Hoffman, Novo Nordisk Foundation Young Investigator, University of Copenhagen
  • Dr Elizabeth Sapey, Clinician Scientist, University of Birmingham


SUSTAIN is supported by the Academy of Medical Sciences, the Medical Research Council and the Royal Society

Staff lead