Annual SPHeRE Network Conference at RCSI marks 10 years of programme

Thursday 11 January 2018: The fourth annual SPHeRE Network Conference opened in RCSI today bringing together researchers, policy-makers and practitioners under the theme of “The Value of Patient and Public Involvement in Research, Healthcare and Health Planning”.

The conference coincides with confirmation that the HRB will invest €2.5 million to extend the SPHeRE Programme for a further three cohorts of PhD scholars. SPHeRE (Structured Population & Health Services Research Education) is a structured PhD programme run jointly by RCSI, Trinity College Dublin and University College Cork but with collaborating partners in all Irish universities. This year marks the tenth anniversary of the HRB PhD Scholars Programme and SPHeRE Programme and this milestone will be celebrated as part of today’s conference.

The conference provides an opportunity to focus on the key issues relevant to population health and health services (PHHS) on the island of Ireland. The conference was opened by Professor Kathleen Bennett, RCSI, followed by keynote speakers including Dr Anne Cody, HRB; Professor Robbie Foy, University of Leeds; Dr Derick Mitchell, Irish Platform for Patient Organisations, Science and Industry; and Professor John Browne, UCC.

Speaking ahead of the conference, SPHeRE Programme Co-Director Professor Anne Hickey, RCSI, commented: “We are delighted that this year’s conference coincides with confirmation from the HRB that they will invest a further €2.5 million to extend the SPHeRE Programme for a further three cohorts of PhD scholars.”

“Ten years ago our colleagues and alumni in RCSI, Trinity College, Dublin and University College Cork launched the first structured PhD programme in health services research in Ireland. SPHeRE continues to build on its success, has expanded to incorporate population health research topics, now encompasses all universities in Ireland, and continues to grow as a network connecting research, policy and practice. We invite anyone working in the area of population health and health services to become more involved in the SPHeRE Network,” Professor Hickey concluded.

Further details of speakers and topics across keynote and parallel sessions can be viewed on the conference programme. People can follow the conference through the SPHeRE Twitter account and the conference hashtag #SPHeRE10.


About SPHeRE

SPHeRE began as the ‘HRB PhD Scholars Programme in Health Services Research’ with funding for an initial four cohorts of scholars. The Programme was expanded in 2013 with the launch of SPHeRE and now provides a key infrastructure to support health research in Ireland through its unique and innovative PhD education, training and research programme. This is expanding Ireland’s capacity to conduct high quality interdisciplinary population health and health services research and maximize its translation to policy and practice.

To date, the Programme has graduated 33 HRB funded PhD scholars and an additional 16 doctorates funded through alternative sources. A further 52 PhD scholars are enrolled on the Programme currently (31 HRB funded and 21 alternative/self-funded). Key outputs of the programme include 264 peer reviewed journal articles, 245 oral conference presentations and 62 individual scholar awards and bursaries, as well as a number of policy impacts from evidence generated by SPHeRE scholars.

SPHeRE scholars regularly publish in leading journals including the British Medical Journal, PLoS One and the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. Scholars have also achieved recognition through a variety of awards including best oral and poster presentation awards at conferences, as well as wider recognition such as the BMJ Editor’s Pick 2015, and the HRB-TMRN and The Irish Times 2015 national writing competition awards.

Funded by the HRB under award PHD/2007/16 and SPHeRE/2013/1

Further information is available at