#16 Quantifying the value of medical research

To celebrate the Academy’s 20th birthday, we have put together a snapshot of 20 of our biggest impacts. To find out more about our 20th celebrations and our future plans, read this blog by our President Professor Sir Robert Lechler, and follow #AMS20 on social media.

The Academy would like to thank all our funders, partners and collaborators, without whom none of this work would be possible.


#16 Quantifying the value of medical research

“We have to share the potential of medical science to improve the lives of our citizens, but we must also talk in a language that policy makers understand and can use to promote science within their spheres.

 “The Academy’s work to demonstrate the economic value of medical science has helped make it a priority for the UK government and secure a healthy budget"

Lord David Willetts FRS FMedSci, former Science Minister

In 2005 the Academy brought together experts drawn from the UK, USA, Canada and Europe to examine how best to evaluate the socio-economic benefits of medical research. We highlighted the lack of evidence and asked funders to work together to evaluate the true value of research in the UK. This sparked a large-scale project with partners asking ‘what is medical research worth?’

The initial ‘What’s it worth?’ report was the first ever systematic evaluation of the impacts of UK medical research, focusing particularly on cardiovascular disease. Its publication was marked by an international symposium attended by researchers, health economists, research funders and other stakeholders. The work has been widely cited, including by then Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Conservative Party Science Spokesman, Adam Afriyie MP, in supporting the case for investment in research. 

Subsequent reports published in 2014 and 2018 repeated this work in the context of cancer and musculoskeletal diseases. Overall, these reports concluded that every £1 invested in medical research delivers a return of 25p per year, forever.

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