Published: 8 March 2023

By Francesca Scott, Communications Lead, Daphne Jackson Trust

In the fast-moving and ever-developing world of research, highly skilled and qualified individuals returning following a career break often find themselves lagging behind their peers. It can be incredibly difficult to find suitable employment that utilises their knowledge and experience.

The Daphne Jackson Trust is the UK’s leading organisation dedicated to realising the potential of returners to research careers following a career break of two years or more taken for a family, caring or health reason, and is an AMRC supporter organisation. Daphne Jackson Fellowships help to relaunch successful long-term research careers for those who have had a career break. The success of the Fellowships rely on strong partnerships with other organisations, whether that’s in terms of funding, hosting or promoting the benefits and spreading the word. Several AMRC member charities have collaborated with the Daphne Jackson Trust in order to sponsor and promote these Fellowships, which has provided benefits for the organisations involved as well as the researchers that are recipients of Fellowships.

“Benefits magnify when organisations support one another and work together. We as a smaller organisation draw huge benefits from working closely and collaboratively with the AMRC, and their member organisations, who share the same goals and desire to be more inclusive and supportive of one another.”

Katie Perry, Chief Executive, Daphne Jackson Trust

Below are just a few of the voices of Daphne Jackson Fellows who have benefitted from the collaborations between the Daphne Jackson Trust and AMRC member charities, highlighting some of ways in which the partnerships have supported their return to research. 

Supporting a balance between research and family commitments

Dr Ami Ketley had a career break of four-and-a-half years while caring for her two children. Sponsored by the British Heart Dr Ami KetleyFoundation (BHF), Ami’s Fellowship project aims to understand the genetic pathways and networks underlying the cardiac abnormalities in a genetic condition called myotonic dystrophy. This data will ultimately help to direct potential treatment opportunities and therapeutic developments.

Ami’s Fellowship has meant she’s been able to balance family commitments with continuing to work on her specific research area of choice:

During my career break I often felt that it would be difficult to re-start my career in research. The Daphne Jackson scheme with funding support from the BHF has allowed me to return to work in a flexible way to work around my family commitments, on a project linked to my previous research interests. It is a great feeling to be back in research and working on a project that I feel passionate about.”

Providing time to retrain and regain confidence 

Dr Katherine BaxterWhile caring for her children and father, Dr Katherine Baxter took a career break of six years, returning to research with the help of a Daphne Jackson Trust and Medical Research Scotland (MRS) Fellowship. This collaboration provided Katherine with the support and time needed to retrain and regain confidence in her research skills:

I wasn’t aware of any support from organisations like the Daphne Jackson Trust until I was in my career break, and started to look into the possibility of returning to research. Having three years to retrain and develop my capabilities as a researcher has been invaluable and I am now more confident in my abilities and research skills.”

Katherine’s interests are in biofilms - an extracellular substance produced by microorganisms to protect themselves from their external environment. She’s investigating how they contribute to antimicrobial resistance (AMR) to further understanding that will help develop treatments to tackle biofilm-associated disease.

Advancing career progression by filling skill gaps

Dr Winnie ChanDr Winnie Chan took a six-year career break for family reasons. She had heard of Fellowships aimed specifically at research returners, but the link to Kidney Research UK allowed her to apply to resume research in the area she had many years of experience in, while also receiving support to fill any skill gaps that may otherwise have hindered her career progression.

I found the partnership extremely useful. The Daphne Jackson Trust gave me a lot of support in writing my research proposal and preparing for the Fellowship interview. During the interview process, representatives from Kidney Research UK had given me very valuable comments to improve my research proposal prior to peer review. I am very grateful for all the support provided by both Kidney Research UK and the Daphne Jackson Trust.

Winnie’s research project investigates the effects of home-based resistance exercise training, with and without protein supplementation, on frailty status in kidney transplant recipients. 

Maximising access to support

Dr Kirsty Roberts took a career break for family reasons – she’s now a proud Mum of two boys after a research break of around four years, which was longer than planned due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Kirsty is researching the mechanisms underpinning menopausal hot flushes, with the aim of furthering understanding of physiological mechanisms and helping to design effective treatments in the future. 

Before taking her career break, Kirsty had no idea that this kind of support to return to research was available, and feared it would be difficult. She was therefore grateful to her former PhD supervisor for sharing details he’d seen on the BHF website, which led her to apply and be awarded the Fellowship. Kirsty felt supported by both organisations:

“I feel honoured to have been awarded the BHF Daphne Jackson Trust Fellowship and to have the support of two fantastic organisations. As a Daphne Jackson Fellow the support and retraining opportunities are extremely beneficial and reassuring in helping you to get ‘back on track’. I had a health issue at the very start of my Fellowship and was worried about the impact this may have on my programme, but I can honestly say that the support I received from my Fellowship advisor, the Daphne Jackson Trust and the BHF was excellent and helped to ease my fears and take things one step at a time.”

The benefits of championing and supporting a better work/life balance are becoming better recognised, which is why it’s so important for charities and organisations to collaborate and drive forwards schemes that are more suitable to a modern-day research workforce, together.