Cancer Research Project Managers Network

Inside the OCRB looking into the Lecture Theatre

The Cancer Research Project Managers Network (CRPMN) aims to use existing experience and influence within the cancer research ecosystem in Manchester to encourage and empower individuals to change perceptions and expectations of the project manager (PM) role to enhance cancer research delivery.

PMs sit at the heart of the Team Science ethos in Manchester cancer research, enabling multidisciplinary collaborative research teams to delivery high quality cancer research. Getting a research project off the ground is a complex process involving many different departments across the University and NHS Trusts, as well as potentially other collaborators such as a commercial sponsor, a clinical trials unit, or private companies. The common thread, though, is that PMs do the behind-the-scenes work that makes research happen.

Led by Emma Thorpe,  Kate Vaughan, Holly Summersgill and Kate Brown, the Cancer Research Project Managers Network was established to promote and support the work of PMs working in cancer research across Manchester.



CRPMN Vision

The CRPMN vision is threefold:

  • PMs will be recognised as having valued roles that are integral to research teams as part of the Team Science ethos that underpins cancer research delivery
  • The CRPMN will drive the delivery of exceptional scientific research
  • The CRPMN will lead the way in defining and developing research project management as an independent and recognised profession
Wordcloud of PM tasks
A project manager can help a group to maximise its research potential – having both the scientific knowledge and overarching understanding of the research focus to continually drive identification of funding opportunities, grant applications and manuscript development, whilst other team members focus on lab work or leadership and teaching responsibilities. Importantly, a project manager can also provide an extra connection between group leaders and lab team members to help foster an efficient and collaborative team approach.

Prof. Stephen Taylor

Leech Professor of Pharmacology and Head Of the Division of Cancer Sciences

CRPMN expertise

The CRPMN, with over 50 members, is comprised of a diverse group of highly educated and qualified individuals. Mostly from a science background, PMs have a range of career histories which can be leveraged in many ways to enhance research impact, value and delivery. Within the network, the majority of PMs are employed by The University of Manchester, and approximately 30% are employed by the NHS at various sites across GM. The vast majority (89%) support a research team or theme, rather than an individual researcher.

PMs can offer a diverse range of research expertise and as such can support diverse research types, including clinical, non-clinical, Clinical Trials of Investigational Medicinal Products (CTIMPS), medical devices, and population/community-based projects. The day-to-day tasks of PMs vary enormously both from one day to the next and from one PM to the next and reflect the needs of the research they support.



For further information about the work of the CRPMN, you can view a poster presentation from the Greater Manchester Cancer Virtual Cancer Week 2021, which includes an overview of the expertise and support PMs can provide to drive and deliver outstanding cancer research

Future Direction

The CRPMN wants the MCRC to be a great place to be a project manager, with a welcoming community that provides support and guidance to newcomers. The CRPMN has a strategy and a series of objectives to focus our efforts. Within this strategy the CRPMN is looking to address:

  • The ethos of Team Science
  • The role of the PM in collaborative research teams
  • The needs of PIs to ensure they recruit people into a professional support role that meets their needs.


The CRPMN also provides a forum for its members to ask questions and share best practice, drawing on the large pool of knowledge and experience of its members. Through several sub-groups, the network has created an action plan aligned with its objectives and is focussing on specific areas of interest and greatest need. Sub-groups include:

  • Communication
  • PM Induction
  • Alignment of PM roles within organisations/across cancer research
One of the team’s recent achievements was the publication of the PanDA project funded by Pancreatic Cancer UK. This prospective study is a first-of-its-kind aiming to better define pancreatic exocrine insufficiency (PEI), its diagnosis and treatment, in patients with inoperable pancreatic cancer. As project manager for the team, I was involved in protocol development, ethical approvals, report submissions to the funder and regulatory bodies, data calculation for the breath tests and QC of the database. I am pleased to have been included as an author on the paper and overjoyed that the academic clinicians and researchers in the team value the role of project manager.

Dr Kate Vaughan, Senior Research Programme Manager

Senior Research Programme Manager

I work as part of the translational radiobiology group, initially focussed on head and neck Proton Therapy trials but more recently also managing two large observational studies (RAPPER and REQUITE). The work is varied, and has included managing sample collection from TORPEdO trial patients (the UK’s first Proton Therapy trial), preparing new funding applications, and managing the data/tissue access process for REQUITE. During grant applications my role has been to keep everything on track and pull information together from multiple sites and investigators, as well as to prepare final costings. I’ve also organised a number of patient workshops to support applications - I’ve found these particularly rewarding as they helped me to understand the real impact that treatments have on patients and their families, and why the research is so necessary.

Zoe Lingard

TORPEdO Trial Translational Project Manager and Head & Neck Cancer Research Project Manager

As BARD Senior Project Manager, my role is multifaceted, spanning logistical organisation of data collection and collation, through to identifying at risk patients and referring them for screening. The aim of enhanced breast screening is to identify a breast cancer in its early stages, when treatment options and survival outcomes are more favourable. Through identification of at-risk patients and their subsequent referrals for screening, BARD will undoubtedly save lives.

Dr Joanna Williams

BARD Senior Project Manager

I work as a Project Manager in the Division of Cancer Sciences for the University of Manchester. Our group research focusses on the early detection of gynaecological cancers and includes the investigation of less invasive tests with the potential to improve the patient pathway. My role is to assist the Principal Investigator and Clinical Fellows in the development, set up and running of research studies covering study design, regulatory approvals, stakeholder communications and data management. The role of a project Manager is challenging and interesting, helping to keep projects to time and budget. I feel proud to be part of research where the ultimate goal is to improve future patient care.

Suzanne Carter

Project Manager, Early Detection of Gynaecological Cancers

Where are we based?

CRPMN members are part of the following facilities and centres across Manchester:

STEM Bee in the City 2018

Get involved

Principal Investigators are encouraged to contact the network co-leads  Emma Thorpe, Kate Vaughan, Holly Summersgill & Kate Brown if they wish to discuss their project management needs. The team can support the writing of project manager job descriptions, the recruitment process and the induction for new starters. New project managers to the organisation will automatically be added to the network and will benefit from all the support on offer.

Introducing the Cancer Research Project Managers’ Network

Led by Emma Thorpe, Kate Vaughan, Holly Summersgill and Kate Brown, the Cancer Research Project Managers Network was established to promote and support the work of PMs working in cancer research across Manchester.

BARD: A national targeted breast screening programme for women who received radiotherapy to breast tissue when age under 36

Dr Joanna Williams, Senior Project Manager, discusses the diversity of her role as a Project Manager in contributing to the national Breast screening After Radiotherapy Dataset (BARD), and highlights the importance of breast cancer screening in higher risk populations


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Manchester Cancer Research Nexus

Discover more about the various Centres of Excellence, Research Institutes, and Networks all driving excellence in cancer research across Manchester with research strategies aligned to the MCRC.