Clinician Scientist Program FAQs
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q: I am a resident who has just been accepted into Psychiatry at the University of Toronto for residency. I am interested in applying to the CSP, but I’m not from Toronto, and don’t think I can arrange a project and supervisor by the April 15th deadline. What should I do?
A: There is a second application cycle to the CSP, which takes place in November each year. Many residents chose to start residency and apply to the CSP later in first year, or in subsequent years, to give more time for project preparation and liaison with supervisors. There is no wrong time to apply to the CSP.
Q: I am a resident interested in applying to the CSP, but I already have a PhD. Am I still eligible?
A: Residents with prior research training are still eligible to apply. If accepted, they would be considered part of a ‘post-graduate’ stream, which can afford ongoing research training opportunities, and longitudinal protected research time throughout their psychiatric residency training. Please contact the program director for further information or questions. Post-graduate CSP trainees are also eligible to receive up to $ 1500/year throughout the 5 years of residency for attending/presenting at scientific conferences, and are expected to participate in the seminar series.
Q: I am a resident in the CSP; how do I get reimbursed for travel expenses for presenting at a scientific meeting?
A: Reimbursement for travel expenses for presentations at scientific meetings will be available up to $1,500 per fiscal year (June 1 – May 31) for CSP residents. Please note that this period differs from the academic year (July 1 – June 30) and extra consideration should be given to conferences occurring in May or June. Submissions after May 31 will be applied to the following academic year. The funding for the previous year will no longer be available (i.e. funding is non-transferable across PGY levels).
Please submit your expense reimbursement claim as soon as you have completed your trip, at the latest within four working weeks following completion of travel or other activity for which expenses were incurred. Expenses such as registration fees or poster printing fees will be counted in the academic year in which the travel or other activity was completed. In other words, expenses cannot be counted towards an earlier fiscal year if the travel or activity has not been completed. Timely reporting is very important to ensure that charges are recorded against departmental accounts in the correct accounting period and to avoid personal interest charges on credit cards (which are not eligible expenses).
Please be aware of the following guidelines when submitting a travel expense reimbursement form and supporting materials:
- Access a reimbursement form on the University of Toronto website.
- The reimbursement form requires original signatures, therefore faxed or scanned copies will not be accepted.
- A copy of the email of offer to present at the conference, sent to you by the conference organizers.
- ONLY original receipts are acceptable, including boarding passes, electronic ticket confirmation with confirmation of method of payment, conference registration payment, hotel accommodations, meals (NB: alcohol is NOT reimbursable), and payments for airfare with itineraries, taxi and other transportation, as applicable. For on-line purchases using a personal credit card, the receipt would be the printout of the confirmation of purchase, registration, etc, provided by the website after payment.
- Claims for which receipts are missing may not be reimbursed.
- Credit card statements are required to process your reimbursement and to show currency conversion on the day of purchase, as you will be reimbursed according to converted Canadian currency. Please note the credit card statement must include the following: your name, last 4 digits of your credit card number, and the expense you are claiming. Please ensure this is submitted with your expense claim.
- Further instructions can be found on the University of Toronto Finance page on submitting travel expenses
Q: How do I pick my research supervisor?
A: This is one of the most frequently asked questions by residents in the CSP – and for good reason as it is one of the most critical parts of becoming a clinician scientist!
There are many factors to consider when choosing a supervisor, but we recommend considering three principles: interests, compatibility, and resources/track record.
Interests: coming into the CSP, you likely have an idea of the type of work you are interested in. For example some residents come into the CSP very interested in imaging, while others come with an interest in qualitative research. A major strength of our program is its breadth and depth. There are opportunities to pursue a diverse range of research topics and methodologies.
When picking a supervisor, we advise incoming residents to find a supervisor with at least some overlap in research interests. However, you may not find a supervisor who shares each of your interests, so you will need to be somewhat flexible. It is important that your supervisor has the expertise in your area of interest so that they can properly supervise you and your project.
Compatibility: we recommend that residents meet in person with potential supervisors to see if there is a good “fit”. This is important because you may be working with this person for most of your residency program and you want it to be someone you can get along with.
The best research supervisors take interest in your development into a productive clinician scientist. This often goes beyond advice on specific projects and can involve mentorship on career guidance, work-life balance, and time management.
Resources/Track Record: residency is a busy time, and while you will have protected time for research, it is quite a small amount of time compared to full-time graduate students. Nonetheless, this is a challenging reality for practicing clinician scientists. In order to be productive in your research, you need a supervisor who is also productive in their research. We suggest looking at their recent publications for their quantity (i.e. how frequently do they publish), and quality (i.e. is it a good quality peer-reviewed journal). Another important aspect to consider is whether residents are given authorship, and in particular, listed as first-author in presentations and publications.
You can also speak to former students of your potential supervisor. They will be able to share their perspectives on their experience with the supervisor. Former students will be able to give you a first-hand account of the supervision they received and if it enabled them to be productive. Some supervisors may have also had previous clinician scientist residents. These can be very valuable people to speak with. They will be able to tell you first-hand how the supervisor was able to support them during their clinical training.
Q: I’ve got my supervisor. Now how do I pick my research project?
A: After picking a research supervisor, picking a research project is the next most important task. There are two parallel considerations in choosing a research project: short-term and long-term goals. It is important to have the opportunity to be productive in terms of first-authored scientific presentations and publications. This will allow you to have responsibility for an aspect of a project, to go through the experience of peer-review, and to help develop your CV. It is also important to have longer-term goals such as: learning about specific research methods, learning how to frame a question and initiate the steps that would lead to a grant submission, learning how to manage a research team and have a role within a research team and learning how to develop a research portfolio that has an “identity” or clear thematic link that brings different projects together. Of course there are many goals in addition to these examples.
The main point is that one needs to balance efforts and time investment so that there is both evidence of productivity (using traditional metrics) and evidence of progress and growth in research skills. These concepts can also be described using the CANMEDS scholar and leader roles.
We have a few suggestions that we recommend to residents in selecting their projects. These suggestions do not cover all possibilities, however, they may be helpful for you in selecting your project.
Start small: some residents enter their research career in residency wanting to complete large, ambitious clinical trials or intensive lab work with animal models. That enthusiasm is great, however we have found that when residents start out tackling large, complicated projects, it can often lead to frustration because of road blocks that appear early on. Therefore we often advise residents, especially when first starting out, to start with small projects such as a dataset analysis of an existing trial, or a chart review. This allows you to get started in your research career and determine what is manageable with residency training.
Balance learning and productivity: residency is a very busy time! In your PGY-1 year you have 2 months of dedicated research time, and then half a day per week for the remainder of your residency. This is not a lot of time, especially when added to your clinical duties. We want you to gain experience in analyzing data, writing manuscripts, and presenting abstracts.
Although it is important to gain an understanding of data collection, if too much time is spent collecting data (e.g. recruiting participants, patient interviews, laboratory experiments), this may make it difficult to make progress with data analysis and writing.
We highly recommend that you select a project for which there is some easily accessible data (i.e. a pre-existing dataset) that you can analyze or where data can be collected in a short period of time (i.e. a small chart review). This is not to say that a project where you collect data is not possible, it is simply more challenging to complete. Many residents become involved in multiple projects during the course of their residency. We encourage a “balanced portfolio” of longer term projects along with projects that can yield research productivity in the current year.
Be location independent: clinical work tends to operate on a set schedule with well-defined hours, while research work operates on a very flexible schedule (i.e. much of research happens outside the 9-5 hours). There will often be times that you will not be able to get into the lab for a number of reasons (i.e. the lab is only open during times you are in clinic or you are placed at a clinical site far from your research site).
For these reasons, we recommend that you pick a project you can work on remotely from home or your clinical office. This will allow you to make progress if you choose to work on research outside of your protected half-day.
Follow your passion: all of the above guidelines are general principles that we have recommended to residents in the past. However, the most important aspect of picking a research project is passion. Passion is important because you may be working on research in the evenings and weekends, and there are often challenges such as having papers rejected. Passion can help reduce the strain experienced during challenging times.
Q: I’m in PGY2/3/4 – how do I get my protected research time?
A: As clinician scientist residents there is a need to maintain balance between clinical care and research time. As psychiatry residents we have a priority to our patients and their care, but at the same time we want to be as academically productive as possible.
Here at the University of Toronto your academic half day is considered to be protected academic time away from clinical duties. However, various factors relating to the trainee, setting, and/or supervisor can lead to barriers in accessing the protected research time.
If you are having difficulty obtaining approval from your supervisor, we recommend first meeting in person to discuss what the barriers may be. You may find out if there is a particular day or time that works with the clinic/unit for being away from the unit. Sometimes alternative arrangements (such as 1 full day every 2 weeks, or your research time just allows you to attend research meetings during the day) can be coordinated that may work better for both you and your supervisor.
If you still feel that you are unable to gain your protected research time you can always contact the CSP Chief Resident or the CSP Program Director for further guidance on this issue.
Please note that research half days are not considered days that are protected from call. You may indicate a PREFERENCE to not be post-call on your research day, but you cannot indicate a CANNOT call request for these half days.