Making medical science work for everyone: A new Academy strategy

Our President, Professor Dame Anne Johnson PMedSci, reflects on the launch of the new Academy 10-year strategy.

I am delighted to announce the launch of the Academy of Medical Sciences new 10-year strategy today.

Our new strategy sets out how the Academy will support research to be more progressive and open to improve the health of everyone, everywhere

Our strategy is ambitious, but realistic and focusses on the areas we believe will have the greatest positive impact on the research sector to improve health. Here, I wanted to highlight some of the most important aspects of our new strategy. This piece sits alongside our Executive Director’s blog which describes the rigorous process we have been through to develop the strategy.

Why now?

It is an exciting time to launch a new strategy – science is currently at the forefront of aspirations for the UK to boost our health, international standing and economy. The pandemic demonstrated what science can achieve, especially when it works hand-in-hand with patients, communities and the public.

Our strategy also comes at a time when the Academy has clearly demonstrated our worth during the pandemic and it is a good time to reflect how we can now move forwards to make the biggest difference.

Thinking differently to solve health challenges

The Academy excels when we bring different people with diverse skills together to solve complex problems – and this is exactly what we need right now to create the best future for science and our health.

We need to think unconventionally if we are going to solve complex problems such as understanding the short-term health benefits of decarbonisation, harnessing artificial intelligence in healthcare and reducing health inequalities.

Our commitments in the new strategy will see the Academy focusing on:

  • Bringing new specialisms, such as engineers, technology and data experts, and social scientists to work together with biomedical and health researchers, patients, and the public
  • Attracting the best minds to research and nurturing them to address complex challenges, which will involve increasing diversity in research
  • Meaningfully involving patients across all of our activities and in the way we work
  • Breaking down research cultures that may stifle open and progressive science
  • Forging more collaboration across the whole of the UK and internationally

In fact, this week at the Academy gives a small preview of the range of work we expect our strategy to encourage and see proliferate. Today I am in Belfast speaking and better getting to know our Northern Irish Fellows and the research community. Later this week the Academy will be meeting with our patient and carer reference groups, who will help shape our policy recommendations on research sustainability. And we are rounding the week off with a masterclass to shine a light on our Fellowship elections and initiate work to bring a broader diversity of expertise, experience and background into our Fellowship. It is this work with wide-ranging expertise that will help us make the changes we want to see in the next decade.

Working with the public is essential

Our strategy recognises that none of our efforts to improve health will be effective if we are not working with patients, carers and the public across all of our work. I have seen time and again how working with patients and the public is vital for success in my work in public health, from my work on HIV going back to the 1980s to the Academy’s work on Covid through the pandemic. Listening to public voices and collaborating with patients can help reframe the questions we ask in science – leading to better outcomes.

Influencing policymakers to improve health

Our work at the Academy has shown how we can influence policy to strengthen research and improve health, from the rapid and robust policy advice we gave to government during the pandemic, to our work to bring academia and the NHS closer together, to our report on Health of the Public 2040 which had led to better coordination of public health. Our strategy commits us to more of this, bringing in more diverse voices, and targeting challenges including tackling health inequalities, the health impacts of climate change and harnessing new technologies, such as artificial intelligence, to improve health. We will also look at the ways we can influence government, funders and regulators to strengthen science in the UK and globally.

Equipping the next generation

Our strategy also puts great emphasis on equipping the next generation of researchers with the complex skill set they will need to be future leaders. Improving health needs the best evidence from diverse and inclusive research, and as such we need to attract and support researchers with a range of experiences and expertise to do this. Nurturing the next generation of brilliant scientific minds will involve building on the extensive and innovative work the Academy has done on mentoring and career support over the past two decades. It means building skills that equip researchers for a future that we cannot now predict, and which needs agile and flexible minds working collaboratively. If we rise to this challenge we can seize the untold opportunity from new technologies, new knowledge and innovation to improve health for all.

The journey of our strategy

At the start of my Presidency in January 2021 I wrote about my aspirations for the Academy under my leadership. Since then, we have developed our 2022-2032 strategy based on the views of hundreds of researchers, partner organisations and patients and taken on board the views of those working in sectors including the NHS, industry and academia. I would like to thank everyone who has contributed and allowed us to create a clear direction for the Academy to make the biggest impact on health.

What next

This is an exciting time for the development of the Academy’s work. I am looking forward to working with our Fellows, the researchers we support, partners, patients and the public in the UK and internationally, to make our ambitions a reality - and to sharing our next steps in implementing our new strategy with you in the coming year.

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