Supporting health and care research that transforms people's lives

  • Date

    Wed 25 Sep 19

Dr Andrew Bateman

Dr Andrew Bateman is the new Director of the NIHR Research Design Service, based at the University of Essex. Here, we asked him about the service and his role.

What is the NIHR?

The National Institute for Health Research is the nation's largest funder of health and care research. It works in partnership with many organisations including the NHS, universities, local government and patients to deliver and support world-class research that transforms people's lives.

What is the University’s role in the NIHR?

Under the leadership of Professor Gill Green, Essex has won three rounds of five-year funding to provide one part of the NIHR infrastructure to support academics and clinicians in the East of England.

We host the Research Design Service (RDS) here in Essex, as well as managing subcontracts with teams at Universities of Bedfordshire, Cambridge, East Anglia, Hertfordshire.  Together we support people to develop high quality funding applications, providing clients with crucial advice and peer review before the submission deadlines. The interactions with academics and clinicians is also a source of “intelligence” back to NIHR Central Commissioning Facility to help them understand barriers to success.

What does your role involve within the NIHR?

As the Director, I provide strategic direction to a team of about 30 advisors. Their job is to meet one-to-one with applicants to review their ideas, guide their work and, sometimes, give what might be a rather unpopular opinion to hold back from submitting. Of course, academics remain free to ignore the advice! Nationally I am involved in the communications and social media side of things, to promote awareness of the RDS.

What is your area of expertise?

Alongside my interest in research design, my main research is in the field of brain injury rehabilitation. I’ve published work on assessment of symptoms, new interventions, measurement of outcomes and patient experiences. I’m currently particularly interested in online resources to support self-management of brain injury-related problems.

Why did you become interested in this area?

I’ve been working in this area since I graduated in 1990. I originally qualified as a Chartered Physiotherapist. I was always interested in the issue of “why my patient, a brain injury survivor, could not understand or complete the tasks I’d set”.  I went on to complete a PhD in Neuropsychology (1997) where I investigated cognitive impairments, and I’ve remained fascinated by this topic ever since.

What are your key career highlights/roles to date?

I should probably say securing a Readership here at University of Essex! I’m genuinely very excited to be here and to have the chance to make collaborations around the University and to have the freedom to develop my research plans.

Before coming here I count myself lucky to have been involved in many interesting projects. Perhaps one of the most life-changing things was to secure in 2016 a grant from the British Council’s Newton Fund that enabled me to take a delegation of post-docs to Brazil.  I remember looking at the room of about 30 Brazilian scholars and UK post-docs all working with me and thought it’d be a while before I could lead a lab comprising so many brilliant people. We prepared a strategy for neuropsychological rehabilitation research and forged collaborations that are continuing to this day. I’m looking forward to going back to Brazil in November when I will be discussing some next steps for my own neurorehab collaborations there.

What else are you involved with professionally?

I chair a charity that is lobbying to improve awareness of rehabilitation and we have a key publication coming out this autumn in collaboration with the Guardian.

I’ve picked up more than 5,000 followers on Twitter where  I try to record a blog/micro-blog about the many things I’m doing or thinking about. I find this is a very helpful memory aid – so looking back I can see the people I’ve met and where I’ve been.  It is certainly a bonus and encouraging that some others seem to find the things I write about helpful.