In response to the publication of the Government’s R&D People and Culture Strategy and the Innovation Strategy, our Vice President, Clinical, Professor Paul Stewart FMedSci reflects on what these announcements and the recent Life Sciences Vision mean for health research and what we need to see next.
“In recent weeks, the Government has published a number of strategies detailing how research and innovation, and specifically the life sciences, can drive economic recovery and boost the health and wealth of the nation. Today, this is supplemented by a People and Culture Strategy which sets the need for a “a more inclusive, dynamic, productive and sustainable UK R&D sector in which a diversity of people and ideas can thrive”.
“I welcome these strategies as a positive signal that the Government is serious about its ambition to be a science superpower. The next test of this commitment will come at this year’s Spending Review where I hope the Government will continue in this positive vein. It is particularly welcome today to see the Government recognise that in order to achieve these grand ambitions, we must build capacity and improve career paths and routes to attract tomorrow’s researchers, but also support and show we value the talented people who work in these sectors so that we can retain the broadest range of both domestic and international talent to work in the UK.
“At the Academy, we know that research can’t flourish unless the people behind it are well supported, feel included and able work in an attractive environment where their ideas and contributions are valued. Our work to support those embarking upon careers in medical research puts people at its heart, ensuring we recognise and reward those who lead a research culture that is open to, and supportive for all.
“Our immersive Future Leaders in Innovation Entrepreneurship and Research (FLIER) programme exemplifies this approach, bringing together people from NHS, academia, industry and policy to give them the skills, networks and support that they will need to grow and lead research fit for the future. In our policy work, we are exploring the changes necessary to ensure a sustainable health research eco-system including for the people working in it and we will shortly be launching a major project on this topic. Meanwhile, the UK Young Academy, which we have been developing with the other UK Academies, will be an important step in enabling early career researchers and innovators to influence the issues which affect them. We’re delighted the Government has agreed to fund this and look forward to announcing more details soon.
“I am pleased to see a focus in the People and Culture Strategy on developing new approaches to involving public and patient voices in research. The best research is done with people, not to them. Involving broad perspectives from inception, working with the public to define questions and how we answer them will ultimately deliver research that benefits everyone in our society.
“There is of course much more for the Academy and the wider sector to do, and the People and Culture Strategy provides a useful blueprint for some of the most pressing actions required. It’s now down to all of us working in research to build on this strategy and existing best practice to ensure that research careers really are attractive and accessible to the broadest range of people. Getting this right at a national level is a pre-condition to our global competitiveness and “superpower” status.
“For the part of the Government, these strategic aspirations are welcome steps and I hope they will be followed by action. Some of the necessary actions can and must be achieved within existing funding settlements, but others will require new funding. That is why the Government must back this strategic intent and use the next Spending Review to set out how it will reach the commitment to invest £22 billion in R&D by 2024/25; adequate resource will be critical to ensure that the ambitions set out in these documents can be achieved.”
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