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Flexible research careers

We believe passionately that breakthroughs emerge when the most talented researchers are given the resources and freedom they need to pursue their goals. Success in this demands diversity - of people, ideas and approaches. We recognise that different people choose different career paths, so we strive to provide flexibility in the range of scientific career opportunities that we offer.

For example, it has traditionally been challenging - particularly for female researchers - to manage a research career with other responsibilities such as family commitments. It can also be difficult for anyone who has taken a substantial career break to return to research. We therefore provide flexible support for women and men at all career stages to ensure that those wanting to continue or return to a scientific career have the best possible opportunity to do so.

Opinion piece by Kay Davies and Mark Walport: Research careers need to be flexible - for all [PDF 148KB]

Two researchers in a level-three containment lab conducting HIV research.

Flexibility in our funding

We make every effort to ensure we provide a flexible and fair funding system that allows excellent applicants, both women and men, to be successful.

We always take into account time (full- or part-time) spent outside the research environment when assessing grant applications.

Re-entering a research career Our Research Career Re-entry Fellowships provide an opportunity for postdoctoral scientists to recommence a scientific research career. These fellowships are for applicants who have had a continuous break of at least two years, and offer the opportunity to undertake refresher or further training. Our fellows include those who have returned to research after taking a break for family commitments and those who have worked outside of research (for example in industry). In addition, institutions awarded the Institutional Strategic Support Fund may in principle use part of this award to co-fund Daphne Jackson Trust Fellowships that fall under the Trust's biomedical or public health remit.
Maternity/paternity/adoption/sick leave and pay

When the Wellcome Trust pays researchers' salaries on our grants and they take maternity, paternity, adoption or sick leave, we will cover the actual cost paid by the employing institution that is over and above any recoverable statutory pay. In the case of grant holders, the end date of their grant may also be extended for the period equivalent to the leave taken. We will also consider requests to cover additional direct research costs (such as research staff and expenses) that may be incurred due to the grant holder taking such leave. Further details of statutory leave entitlements for parents, including recently expanded rights for paternity cover, can be found on the Direct.gov website.

Flexible working

Wellcome Trust funded researchers may change their working hours, following discussion and agreement with us and their employing institution. The length of the award will be extended, as appropriate, in these circumstances. For further details or if you have any queries on flexible working, please contact our Grants Information Desk:
T +44 (0)20 7611 5757 
E sciencegrants@wellcome.ac.uk

Our policies and activities supporting flexible research careers

We work to ensure an environment in which research can flourish. Our policies and activities illustrate our commitment to supporting research careers.

Supporting career development of researchers Institutions employing researchers and their teams should provide environments in which both women and men can excel at all levels of their research careers. We expect organisations that hold Wellcome Trust funding to adopt the principles of the Concordat to Support the Career Development of Researchers, one of the key principles of which is to promote diversity and equality in all aspects of career management for researchers. We also support in principle the Research Councils UK Statement of Expectations for Equality and Diversity [PDF].
Ongoing monitoring We are tracking the progress of Wellcome Trust grantholders' careers with our Career Tracker. The first wave of results was published in March 2010 and the second in May 2011. This ongoing monitoring of the research workforce is giving us a better understanding of the career progression and career choices our grantholders make, which will help to inform our provision of research and career support.
Wider environment As part of our policy and advocacy work, we have been involved in high-level conversations on ways to improve the gender balance of the workforce and promote flexible working. We monitor the demographics of our research community and consider these aspects in all of our policy work, from research workforce issues to our provision of science education resources.

Further information

  • Our funding opportunities in biomedical science.
  • Our information and resources on managing a grant.
  • Wellcome Trust Investigator Awards: statistics on applications and awards made.
  • Vitae, a UK organisation championing the personal, professional and career development of doctoral researchers and research staff in higher education institutions and research institutes. Vitae’s ‘Straight talking’ report highlights challenges for researchers seeking careers advice.
  • The Athena SWAN Charter, which recognises and celebrates good employment practice for women working in science, engineering and technology (SET) in higher education and research.
  • Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute and EMBL-EBI ‘Sex in Science Programme’, whichaims to generate discussion and raise awareness about issues traditionally facing women in science, and to drive policy and practice changes to redress them.
Wellcome Trust, Gibbs Building, 215 Euston Road, London NW1 2BE, UK T:+44 (0)20 7611 8888