Zakarian Awards

These awards are offered jointly between the Royal College of Ophthalmologists (RCOphth) and Fight for Sight / Vision Foundation. They are named to honour the late Miss Zakarian who generously left Fight for Sight a legacy to help the charity support pioneering researchers. Naming the award after Miss Zakarian pays tribute to her kindness and the important difference she has made to ophthalmology research.


  1. Award
  2. Timeline
  3. Max funding / duration
  4. Success rates
  5. Eligibility
  6. Financial support
  7. Application process
  8. Review process
  9. Contact us


For members of The Royal College of Ophthalmologists to gain experience and skills by undertaking ophthalmic and vision research, and which could lead onto further research or funding opportunities.

The Zakarian Awards are designed to support three categories of researchers:

  1. Ophthalmology trainees not in the IATS or other research training posts seeking to undertake research. Support can be sought for consumables, equipment and open access dissemination and for salary support to buy ‘time out’ from a training programme to undertake research.
  2. Consultants or SAS ophthalmologists holding NHS substantive contracts and without dedicated research time (PAs in job plan). Those holding academic posts/contracts are ineligible. Support can be sought for buying out time in the job plan for research, or for consumables or equipment to establish a research project.
  3. Academic Clinical Fellow (NIHR IATS ACF) Ophthalmology trainees seeking to prepare preliminary/pilot data to develop their proposed PhD projects and/or doctoral research training funding applications. Support can be sought for consumables, equipment and open access dissemination.

We are especially keen to support those without any or very limited prior research experience and/or those not in academic posts in order to help them get started in research, in in line with RCOphth’s position statement on Ophthalmic Research By All.


  • Applications open - April 2024
  • Deadline - 19 June 2024
  • Stage 1 outcome - August 2024
  • Interviews (Stage 2 invited applicants) - 4 September 2024 (tbc)
  • Funding outcome shared with applicants - September 2024

Max funding / duration


12 months, in keeping with the aim of funding a circumscribed research project which may lead to further research opportunities

Success rates

2023/24: 64% (Stage 1), 43% (Stage 2)

2022/23: 67% (Stage 1), 50% (Stage 2)

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  • Lead applicants must be a member of the Royal College of Ophthalmologists.
  • Applicants with no or limited prior research experience are especially welcome to apply.
  • As this scheme is designed for ophthalmologists to gain research skills, the lead applicant should be carrying out most of the work.
  • Proposals to ‘top up’ existing research funding are not eligible, but stand-alone 'bolt-on' projects to a larger, existing piece of work are permitted.
  • Lead applicants must be affiliated with UK academic or medical institutions
  • The research must take place within the UK.
  • Applications are limited to one per lead applicant.
  • Lead applicants must not currently have two or more active grants with the charity. An applicant with two active grants where one (or more) is due to end by the outcome date of this scheme may still apply.
  • The Mentor (rather than the lead applicant) is required to have a contract of employment at the host institution which extends beyond the end date of the award.

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Financial support

  • Funding is made in line with AMRC’s position statement on supporting research in universities.
  • Applications can include costs for:
    • Buying “time out” of training programme or clinics
    • Consumables
    • Equipment essential for the project
    • Animal costs
    • Open access publication costs
    • Conference costs
    • Other expenses, such as PPIE or travel
  • Applications cannot include costs for:
    • Maintenance of equipment
    • Recruitment costs
    • Indirect costs
    • Non-attributable overhead costs

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Application process

All applications must be submitted via Fight for Sight / Vision Foundation’s Grant Tracker system. New applicants must register for an account to access the application form. Returning applicants can login to their existing account.

You must submit your application prior to the deadline to allow your Mentor to approve your application. Your Mentor's approval is needed before the deadline for your submission to be processed.

Following submission, applications will require approval from two authorised signatories of the host institution (Head of Department and Finance Office). We allow 72 hours (three days) from the deadline for approvals. It is recommended to seek the appropriate signatories as early as possible, as these must be added before you submit your application. Please consider any annual leave and double check email addresses, as applications with outstanding approvals 72 hours past the deadline will not be processed.

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Review process

Fight for Sight / Vision Foundation is a member of the Association of Medical Research Charities (AMRC) and follows their guidelines for best practice in peer review.

Zakarian Awards involve a two-stage process.

Applications will be scored by up to three members of the Research Grants Assessment Panel (RGAP) and RCOphth Review Panel.

To ensure that we fund the highest quality research, successful awards must pass a minimum quality threshold as determined by the Review Panel.

The following review criteria are used when considering the application:

Key theme 1: Scientific merit
Category 1: Project

  • An important, clear and focused research question, which is hypothesis driven and/or a PICO question
  • Achievable in the timeframe
  • Adequate and appropriate methods for the research question
  • Evidence to support the feasibility of the project
  • Adequate and appropriate plans for the evaluation of research outcomes, including a sample size / power calculation

Category 2: Research team and environment

  • A research team with suitable experience and expertise evidenced by a good track record that will contribute to the project's success
  • A research environment with the appropriate facilities and resources

Category 3: Governance

  • Appropriate consideration for risks, budget and ethics

Key theme 2: Importance of research

Category 1: Addressing unmet need driven by public involvement

  • Identification of an important, clear unmet need
  • Public involvement in the development of the research proposal, involvement plans throughout the project and engagement plans upon completion
  • Realistic outline of pathway to potential benefit for people with or at risk of sight loss

Category 2: Potential for progress

  • Avoiding duplication of existing or ongoing work
  • Clear pathway to impact
  • Likelihood of significant new understanding or evidence

Key theme 3: Capacity building

Category 1: Training and opportunities

  • Focus on training and development
  • Support from research team and environment

Category 2: Future in vision research

  • Demonstrated interest in remaining, becoming, or training a vision researcher
  • Clear next steps for future studies and funding

Invitations for interviews will be shared with applicants following this. All applicants will receive feedback at this stage.

The anonymised reviews will be shared with the invited applicants, which should be used to prepare for the interview.

The RGAP and RCOphth Interview Panel will make recommendations to Fight for Sight / Vision Foundation's Social Impact and Scientific Research (SISR) Committee on which applications are fundable.

The SISR Committee will then make recommendations to the Board of Trustees considering the Interview Panel feedback and the strategic interests of the charity.

Outcomes and further feedback will be shared with all applicants.

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Contact us

For any queries, please contact Fight for Sight / Vision Foundation’s research team at or the Royal College of Ophthalmologists at