UK DRI cross-centre Themes

Guidance on how to propose a new Theme - January 2020

Collaboration is a founding principle of the UK DRI. We add value by bringing together disciplines, perspectives and approaches to accelerate discovery. The aim of cross-centre Themes is to promote interdisciplinary collaboration across the UK DRI by supporting dynamic and creative groups of researchers addressing major scientific questions in neurodegeneration. We expect to launch several Themes throughout 2020 and beyond.  

Themes - 

  • Draw on the breadth of expertise available throughout the UK DRI to focus on strategic areas of shared interest in dementia research.
  • Support collaborations, including at the interface of pre-clinical and clinical science, seeking routes to enable translation of Theme-related discoveries including biomarkers, disease modifying interventions etc.
  • Establish Theme-related Early Career Researcher (ECR) networks focussing on, but not exclusive to, postdoctoral level scientists with a view to providing enhanced mentorship, opportunities for cross-centre workshops and small sand-pit events, travel support, etc.
  • Establish a route to monitor technical advances in the Theme as related to the dementias.
  • Facilitate engagement with additional funders outside the UK DRI to support multidisciplinary collaborative projects tackling key aspects of neurodegeneration.
  • Engage potential industrial partners/investors by taking advantage of UK DRI IP arrangements, with the support of the UK DRI Business and Innovation team.
  • Serve as a route to forge collaborative links with other UK dementia-related initiatives and resources (e.g. DPUK, UK Brain Banks Network, NIHR Dementia Translational Research Collaboration, etc).

Each Theme will have a scientific leader (or co-leaders) who is a UK DRI Group Leader or an Associated Member with relevant scientific expertise in the topic. The Theme Leads will identify a group of other UK DRI Group Leaders from multiple UK DRI centres with a shared interest in the Theme. UK DRI Associated Members and strategically relevant external collaborators can also be included in this working group.  

The Theme Lead should develop a short (maximum 2-3 page) proposal outlining: 

  • Brief background and rationale behind the choice of your particular theme topic.
  • Theme lead(s) and names of other UK DRI Group Leaders, Associated Members and external PIs who will collectively ensure the success of the Theme and an indication of their roles and expertise. (As the Theme develops it will be important to draw up and maintain a full list of Theme members/participants.)
  • Management and communication plans for how you will build and maintain the collaborative spirit of the Theme and share information, knowledge and ideas.
  • Key deliverables. (What are the tangible aims of the Theme beyond ‘getting together’?)
  • Potential for technology development (if applicable).
  • Longer term plans and expected outcomes.
  • Approximate budget and justification for requested resources (these will vary according to the Theme aims).
  • Whereas it is up to the Theme Lead(s) to decide how best to organise the Theme, it is expected that every Theme will convene at least twice per year, with at least one in-person meeting. One of the meetings should be focussed on ECRs, and one should be focussed on strategic discussion.
  • The annual Connectome conference will include an additional opportunity for Themes to meet. These Connectome-associated meetings should be open to the wider UK DRI community to build up the network of research groups working in a particular area and encourage collaboration on topics of mutual interest.
  • Prior to a Theme being formally proposed and recognised, HQ may offer to financially support a planning meeting to enable potential Theme Leads and other senior participants to discuss aims and ideas.

Theme Leads will be asked to provide a brief annual report describing membership, achievements and plans. This annual report is the mechanism for seeking renewal of funding for the Theme. 

  • Planning Workshops: HQ may agree to finance a planning meeting to enable the Theme leadership to develop their ideas and aims.
  • Project Manager: Established Themes will be provided with a centrally-funded Project Manager to work with the Theme Lead(s). Whereas it is expected that the Project Manager will provide organisational and administrative support of the Theme and Theme leader, s/he will primarily support the Theme Lead(s) at a higher level including, for example, horizon scanning/scoping research activities, liaising with UK DRI HQ, working with other Themes to identify synergies, identifying external collaboration opportunites, and developing Theme projects and aims. (Theme Project Managers will support multiple Themes, providing up to 0.5FTE support to each Theme.) Although the Theme Project Managers will work closely with Theme Leads, they will report to the UK DRI Directors.  
  • Director Financial Support: UK DRI will make Theme-related awards to the Theme Leads. The amount will vary depending on the proposed activities and associated proposed budget. These funds could be used flexibly according to the objectives of each Theme, to support, for example, workshops and other events, creation of shared tools/reagents, small travel awards for ECRs, etc.
  • Other UK DRI Support: Innovative ideas emerging from Theme collaborations are very well placed to also attract support from other UK DRI programmes, such as the Tools & Technology, Pilot Projects and cross-centre Postdoctoral programmes.

Proposals for new Themes will be assessed by the UK DRI Directors with input from the Operational Board.  HQ aims to make decisions on Theme proposals within approximately six weeks of receipt of a formal proposal. 

For  questions and to discuss Theme ideas, please contact Aoife (

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