The Medical-Scientist Project

A multilevel transdisciplinary approach focussed on methodology, ethics and integrity in biomedical research - 2018-2025
Physicians pipettes

The project “Recruiting and training Physician-Scientists to empower translational research” (abbreviated, Medical-Scientist) aims to develop a platform that will merge medical education with training into scientific research, which will become an established integrated platform, possibly operated by a university network. Besides the present Partners, the network will involve other italian and foreign academic institution willing to join in.

Therefore, in its five years duration time it will address all the levels of medical education (undergraduates, postgraduates in specialty training, postgraduates integrated into professional/working environments) and try to define the best pragmatic conditions to:

  1. expose medical students to experimental preclinical and clinical research;
  2. empower physicians who would like to engage into a PhD program;
  3. support physicians already working in the health system who would like to strengthen their fundamentals in science and research.
Following and supporting Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI): our basic underground

RRI principles are based on the six key components of RRI, i.e. governance, public engagement, open access, gender, ethics and science education. We developed the present project aiming at integrating the values and requirements of RRI at several levels:

In defining the project we paid specific attention to public engagement and to active and balanced promotion of science, with particular regard to stakeholders. Identified stakeholders are, in order of priority: medical students, physicians, patients and their families. We sought their active involvement by promoting collaboration with associations and organization representative of medical students (SISM) and of patients and their families (AsPI). We plan to extend such involvement to addictional subjects during the development of the project. This is an important and innovative aspect of our project, as there is increasing consensus worldwide that the engagement of patients and the public is crucial for design and conduct of research (see e.g. Domecq et al., 2014).

We aimed at including and fostering RRI criteria, standards and outcomes during project development, e.g. ethical acceptability, sustainability and societal desirability. We put at the core of both undergraduate and postgraduate medical training in science and research some key principles of paramount importance such as research integrity and accountability, knowledge of ethics principles in preclinical (e.g. with animals) and clinical research (on patients and healthy subjects). Our previous experience provides strong fundaments for the present commitment to ensure that funds and resources are utilized without any misconduct and in an optimal way, according to the purposes of the funding organization (in this case Fondazione Cariplo), taking full responsibility towards the general public.

We also specifically promote the open access to resources and results of the project, first of all being committed to dissemination of training material (videorecordings, handouts, workshops and meetings) through the web, where they will be available to trainees, potential candidates in future training programs as well as to the general public.

Regarding gender equality, we will aim at the integration of such dimension at all the levels of the project, at the same time being committed to attracting the best potential candidates at both under- and postgraduate levels.

RRI principles have been incorporated also in project monitorization and evaluation, with an external independent supervising committee, which is composed of internationally acknowledged experts in biomedical research teaching, training, assessment, research ethics and integrity.

inally, we will aim at promoting and facilitating the use of project results by academic policy makers, with the purpose to render such project as an integrated platform suitable for all the Schools of Medicine at national level.

Our program for undergraduates
Student in lab

To the medical students of the involved universities will be offered the opportunity of a training in preclinical and clinical research in biomedicine, able to enhance their aptitude to scientific research as well as their knowledge and skills as physicians on the methodology, ethics and integrity of medical, experimental and clinical research and also critical reading and writing of scientific papers.

Our first goal will be to measure the current medical undergraduate awareness about research and scientific culture, an indicator of their readiness to develop medicine as a science-based profession.
During the first year of the project, we will propose a questionnaire to all the students enrolled in the selected years of the medical course at the three Schools of Medicine (Varese, Novara, Porto) and will do a comparison between academic years (1st, 4th and 6th years), genders, and previous involvement (or not) in research activities. 

On this basis, a structured research training program will be developed and integrated into the educational plan of the Degree Course in Medicine and Surgery.
It will consist of seminar activities, internships and thesis internships, last at least 3 months (8 credits, 200 hours) and aim at:

  1. integration in research teams and development of a preclinical and/or clinical research project. Students will be allowed to choose among several preclinical laboratories/institutes and clinical wards available in the network of the Leading Organization and Partners. Mobility among Partners both at the national and the international level will be encouraged. To ensure effective involvement of the students into research activities, hosting Partners will receive a budget for materials and supplies to cover costs related to internships. A total of 60 students are expected to be recruited into such training program (on average 5 per partner School of Medicine per year), starting in the second year of the project.
  2. Participation in a workshop aimed at presenting and critically discussing the available opportunities for physicians to develop a career in scientific research.
  3. Enrollment in sessions dealing with how to read and write scientific papers and how to responsibly communicate science. Sessions will be developed in collaboration with associations representative of medical students (such as SISM - Segretariato Italiano degli Studenti in Medicina ( as well as organizations of patients and their families (such as Associazione Parkinson Insubria (AsPI) Onlus (
How to enroll

To apply you must be an enrolled student into a Medicine and Surgery Degree course of the University of Insubria, the University of Eastern Piedmont or the University of Porto in Portugal.
The number of places available is defined each year, based on the offer of internships included in ongoing research programs within the collaborative network of the project.

The training research program will take place once per academic year and admissions will open usually in late summer/autumn.

Opportunities for Postgraduates in specialistic training
Postgraduates in medicine around a computer

Enrollment of physicians in PhD programs existing in the project network will be promoted and consolidated, above all exploiting the opportunity recently provided by italian legislation to superimpose the first year of PhD course with the last year of the school of specialization.

In particular, formal and practical procedures for the specialization-PhD course transition will be defined to become part of the internal regulations of the involved universities as well as a model for other italian academic schools of medicine.

A structured training program in science and research fundamentals for physicians, including ethics and integrity, will be established based on the documented experience of both italian and foreign Partners.

A Master for Postgraduates integrated into professional/working environments
Hands and provettes

A Master in Methodology, Ethics and Integrity in Biomedical Research will be established to address the need of physicians already integrated into the health system to increase their professional and career opportunities through specific training into biomedical research.

This Master will be organized in independent although interconnected modules, and physicians will also have the opportunity to enroll into just one or more of them, as "corsi di perfezionamento", according to their specific interests and needs.

Expected benefits from the project
Physician and patient

From a practical point of view, in the short term we can anticipate the following benefits:

  1. for both medical students and trained physicians in general, a better comprehension of the scientific methods and procedures which are applied in preclinical and clinical research, and which underlie evidence-basd scientific medicine. As a consequence, trainees should benefit from a more critical attitude in their professional activities, which will likely positively impact also on patients;
  2. for physicians involved in clinical research, e.g. in hospitals as regards clinical trials of novel therapeutics, a better knowledge and understanding of methods and procedures, therefore even in this case an empowerment of critical thinking and better skills in dealing with responsibilities connected to the role of physicians in charge of - or just participating into - experimental protocols;
  3. for academic institutions and research hospitals (IRCCS), the opportunity to recruit physicians-scientists alrady skilled in methodology of preclinical/clinical research, therefore empowering medical skills of faculty and staff, with direct benefits also for non-medical personnel as well as a better integration and multi/transdisciplinary collaboration;
  4. for patients and the general public, the promotion of accountability and integrity in science and research as well as of awareness by physicians-scientists to develop a collaborative relationship with patients as main stakeholders, not only for practical health care, but also in the definition of research priorities.

In the medium-long term, we are confident that such kind of projects and initiatives will affect also policy makers, contributing to reverse the present regressive trend which has begun a decade ago and is presently leading to an unprecedented crisis in science, research and education.

Project results communication
Physicians during a worksho

At the end of the project, the main results of each action will be communicated with the best suited methodology. At present, we envision:

  1. internal workshops involving partner institutions, to communicate results (and subsequent plans for further development of the activities as integral part of the medical curriculum) to all the faculty members and students;
  2. one or more national/international workshops, involving representatives from all the Schools of Medicines in Italy, to present and propose the training platform as a suitable standard at the national level;
  3. at least two or three papers submitted to international peer reviewed scholarly journal in the field of academic education and methodology, dealing with the results of questionnaires administered to medical students and subsequent development of integrated training programs.
About us

The project is financed by Fondazione Cariplo and realized thanks to a collaboration between the University of Insubria, the University of Eastern Piedmont (UPO), the University of Porto (U.PORTO), in Portugal, and the Mondino Foundation - National Neurological Institute IRCCS of Pavia.

University of Insubria (Leading organization)

University of Eastern Piedmont - UPO (Partner 1)

  • Roberto Cantello
  • Cristoforo Comi

University of Porto - U.PORTO (Partner 2)

Mondino Foundation - National Neurological Institute IRCCS (Partner 3)

Sigillo Ateneo
University of Easter Piedmont (UPO) Logo
University of Porto Logo
Mondino Foundation Logo


  • The Medical-Scientist Project - Contacts

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