Skip to main content

Unfortunately we don't fully support your browser. If you have the option to, please upgrade to a newer version or use Mozilla Firefox, Microsoft Edge, Google Chrome, or Safari 14 or newer. If you are unable to, and need support, please send us your feedback.

Publish with us

How the Society of Radiographers supports a rapidly evolving profession

April 11, 2022

By Libby Plummer

Photo of Charlotte Beardmore and Radiography, the peer-reviewed journal of the Society and College of Radiographers and the European Federation of Radiographer Societies

A leader of the Society and College of Radiographers talks about why investing in education and research is vital to this developing profession. Charlotte Beardmore, Executive Director of Professional Policy for the Society of Radiographers and College of Radiographers, talks about the key role of research in the developing radiology profession. Radiography is the official peer-reviewed journal of the Society and College of Radiographers and the European Federation of Radiographer Societies.

While radiography has been an established profession for more than a century, the practice and education and training of both diagnostic radiographers and therapeutic radiographers has changed dramatically in recent decades. Having celebrated its centenary in 2020, the Society of Radiographers (SoR)opens in new tab/window has been at the heart of these changes as one of the oldest and most experienced radiographer organizations in the world.

As Charlotte Beardmoreopens in new tab/window, the SoR’s Executive Director of Professional Policy, explains:

As technology has developed, professionals have had to develop their skills to enable safe high-quality delivery of imaging examinations and treatment using X-rays and other non-ionizing radiation. As a result, the profession has advanced from being a diploma-level role to a degree-level role early in the 1990s. 

That was when research became embedded as a requirement within the pre-registration education and training programs for the profession in the UK. It was a big step forward for the profession:

Embedding these skills supported the radiography profession to undertake research that provides the evidence base to support advancing techniques and deliver the best care to patients.

Now, the society continues to promote new developments in radiography by supporting the development of its members, their research and the profession at large.

Acting as both a professional body and trade union for the diagnostic imaging and radiotherapy workforce in the UK, the society has more than 32,000 members, the majority of them practitioners. The College of Radiographers (CoR)opens in new tab/window, a subsidiary of the SoR, delivers the educational and research aspects of the society’s work.

As a developing profession, modern radiography is very much underpinned by research. The SoR’s peer-reviewed journal — Radiographyopens in new tab/window — helps support and promote evidence-based practice for the entire radiography community worldwide. This fits in with the society’s overall goals of supporting the imaging and radiotherapy workforce, developing the science and practice of radiography for public benefit, and furthering public education.

Supporting research skills at all levels

The journal also helps to underpin the 5-year strategy of both the society and the college.“We've got very ambitious goals to increase the skills of researchers within the profession at all levels,” Charlotte says, “so that they can deliver pre-doctoral, doctoral and postdoctoral research.”

The College of Radiographers offers doctoral-level fellowships to its members, with four on offer for application in April 2022. What’s more, the College of Radiographers also offers twice-yearly member grants through the CoR’s industry partnership scheme. “One of the essential components of that is that applicants must have the patient voice within their applications,” Charlotte says. “We really believe that all research should have that input and that patients should be involved in the development of research strategy.”

A clear review process is in place to ensure only the most robust applications are approved, and all recipients are encouraged to submit their completed research for publication in the Radiography journal. Research published with funding from the College of Radiographers' Industry Partnership Scheme (CoRIPS) will show the CoRIPS logo in the journal article.

The SoR also has research officers within the College of Radiographers who work closely with members to develop guidance documents to support the development of research skills. These documents include guidance for clinical academic routes as well as research by individual members.

Research is core at all levels of practice and a key requirement for those on the Advanced and Consultant Practitioner professional pathway, working within these higher-level roles. The College of Radiographers also sets the standards for the approval of the radiography educational programs within the College at both pre-registration and post -registration level, and is currently reviewing the Education and Career Framework for the profession. This will be published in the spring on the College of Radiographers website and will provide the underpinning standards for each level of practice within the radiography profession and across all roles, including support workforce, practitioners, advanced consultant, academic, managerial, leadership and research roles.

“We also run scientific congresses and webinars, and we encourage our members to promote and publish their research there as well as publishing in our peer-reviewed journal,” Charlotte says.

As with many organizations, the SoR’s joint annual meeting was transformed into a virtual event during the peak of the pandemic, though it is set to return as a face-to-face event in 2022. The SoR also plans to offer its very successful face-to -ace Annual Radiotherapy Conference again very soon. While online events have helped the society and its journal reach a wider international audience, in-person events are incredibly important for bringing researchers together.

A focus on collaboration

Collaboration is an essential element of the society’s research strategy, and it has strong links with a number of partners, including the Royal College of Radiologistsopens in new tab/window, which itself publishes two journals with Elsevier: Clinical Radiologyopens in new tab/window and Clinical Oncologyopens in new tab/window. The SoR is also a National Society member of the European Federation of Radiographer Societies (EFRS)opens in new tab/window, where Charlotte previously served as President. The EFRS represents more than 40 national societies and more than 60 educational institutions, giving SoR members a strong framework for potential collaborations.

The SoR is pleased that Radiography is the official journal of the EFRS, Charlotte adds:

The opportunity for cross-institutional research is really important for us, and the collaboration with the EFRS is very important in increasing the profile and reach of the journal.

In the spirit of collaboration, the society’s journal already has a global audience and an international advisory board. As Charlotte explains:

We’re really looking to continue to grow that influence and to attract the best authors from the radiography profession around the world. This includes authors’ research from across both radiotherapy and cancer services, together with diagnostic imaging research. Diversity amongst radiographers and their practice continues to increase as their skills are developed to respond to changing service requirements across the world, so it's important that we reflect that and support expertise from different countries and backgrounds. 

During the peak of the pandemic, the journal’s submissions almost doubled. Much of the research was COVID-related, with Radiography playing a critical role in patient pathways during the crisis. The journal continues to go from strength to strength with Associate Professor Jonathan McNultyopens in new tab/window of the University College Dublin School of Medicineopens in new tab/window recently appointed as Editor-in-Chief. Jonathan is an overseas member of the Society of Radiographers and also a past President of the EFRS.

Photo of Jonathan McNulty

Prof Jonathan McNulty, PhD

Embedding research into practice

At a society level, the importance of research is at the core of the SoR’s strategy, Charlotte says:

It's about embedding research within the profession, providing support for junior researchers so that they can develop their skills, and providing opportunities for them to collaborate. Investing in support for novice researchers is hugely important.

The society also has a formal research advisory group with a rotating membership that develops its research strategy. As a result, the research is truly embedded into the specialty by those who are active in the field.

One example of where the positive impact of research can be clearly seen is with the development of Advanced and Consultant Practice roles, introduced to the radiography profession in the UK in the early 2000s. Here, research is a core pillar. The roles offer the opportunity to support innovation and changing practice, delivering improvements in care and outcomes for patients using evidenced based practice.

The growing role of AI in radiography

The need to invest in research is clear, particularly as the technology involved has changed so much and continues to do so. Artificial Intelligence is set to play a progressively larger role in radiography and the wider healthcare world, so this is a very important area for investment in research, Charlotte says. The Society has established an AI advisory group, and the College of Radiographers is already sponsoring a series of awards for AI research:

We must support our radiography practitioners in leading this work associated with the implementation of AI within imaging and radiotherapy services, and these awards will help to ensure service innovation which may benefit from AI is researched effectively to inform radiographic practice developments.

Supporting diversity and inclusion

In addition to investing in research to support the development of the profession and patient care, the society’s future plans also include reviewing its pledge on Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) to support the evolution of the specialty. “We need to work towards meeting the EDI agenda, Charlotte says. “The journal’s editorial board is finalizing its EDI pledge, and we hope to publish this very soon.”