The Academy of Medical Sciences has convened a Working Group of experts from academia, industry, charities and the NHS to explore the sustainability of health research in the UK.Status: Ongoing
Future-proofing UK Health Research: a people-centred, coordinated approach
In 2021/22, the Academy of Medical Sciences convened a Working Group of experts from academia, industry, charities and the NHS to explore the actions needed to future-proof health research in the UK.
The final report, published in May 2023, has been produced by 30 experts from across the UK, including established and emerging research leaders, patients, carers and representatives from the public, private and charitable sectors. It details key threats to UK health research and the steps needed to protect it.
Download the report here or from the downloads section of this page.
For decades, the United Kingdom has been widely recognised as one of the best places for health research bringing improved health, social and economic benefits for the people of the UK and the wider world.
Research during the COVID-19 pandemic produced revolutionary new vaccines and treatments against the disease. In recent years, discoveries have made possible new therapies for cancer and autoimmmune diseases amongst others, while public health research led to the life-saving smoking ban.
But this progress cannot be taken for granted, the Working Group has found, and urgent action is needed to stop the UK from losing exceptional strengths.
The report, ‘Future-proofing UK Health Research: a people-centred, coordinated approach’ is a timely and evidence-based review of the long-term sustainability of the UK health research system. It was informed by leaders and organisations across all parts of the research system including patients and carers.
The project, chaired by Professor Dame Julia Goodfellow FMedSci and Professor Sir Peter Mathieson FRSE FMedSci, analysed the strengths in the health research system and identified factors which threaten the UK’s ability to deliver health and economic benefits in the long term.
Issues identified by the report
The current UK health research system is no longer fit for purpose because:
- It presents too many barriers to too many people,
- It discourages the movement of people between sectors,
- It fails to cover the full cost of health research, and
- It does not do enough to support research in the NHS.
At risk is the UK’s ability to deliver world-leading health research and the benefits that brings to patients and the public.
Solutions to future-proof the research system
Excellent research needs a strong, future-proofed research system that allows talented researchers, science and innovation to thrive. This project develops a vision for what sustainable health research in the UK should look like.
The report urges all stakeholders, including UK policymakers, and funders, to address the glaring issues, and offers four key recommendations:
- We must place people at the heart of the UK health research system. Research culture and career structures can be narrow, inflexible, precarious and exclusive, undermining the ability of diverse individuals, including patients, and those with broad expertise to fully explore their potential and deliver innovations.
- We must ensure talented people can develop careers that span sectors to address a lack of movement of researchers between roles in public, private and charitable research sectors.
- We must ensure that the true cost of excellent health research is adequately covered, to address a funding model which relies on cross-subsidy from international students as the total cost of research in universities is not covered by any funder.
- We must maximise the research potential of the NHS, which currently struggles to make health research part of the norm.
Hear from people within the system as they share their experiences and call for urgent action to be taken to protect the health research that saves and improves lives everyday:
This report launched on 10 May 2023. Read the press release.
This project will set out to produce a short vision document on the future sustainability of the health research eco-system and pipeline for talent in the UK. The vision will consider the factors which constitute a sustainable health research ecosystem and explore the intersection between different actors including Government funders; Higher Education Institutions (HEIs); medical research charities; Independent Research Organisations (IROs); industry and the NHS.
It will be informed by evidence collected from a range of sources, which may include a call for written evidence, oral evidence sessions, evidence gathering workshops, commissioned research and previous Academy activities and recommendations.
The vision will include recommendations for relevant stakeholders pertaining to:
- The financial sustainability of health research in HEIs, IROs and the NHS
- The sustainability of the pipeline for health research talent (encompassing training, career development and cross-sectoral mobility)
- Cross-sectoral collaboration as a model for sustainable health research
- The role of a sustainable health research eco-system in preserving the future economic and health security of the UK
This project will be inclusive of the wide range of disciplines encompassed within health research and will take a four-nations approach to develop recommendations relevant to the whole of the UK.
The project is being overseen by a Working Group with a diverse range of expertise.
- Professor Dame Julia Goodfellow FMedSci, Independent
- Professor Sir Peter Mathieson FMedSci, Principal and Vice-Chancellor, University of Edinburgh
- Dr Rasha Al Lamee, Clinical Senior Lecturer, National Heart and Lung Institute, Imperial College London
- Gilly Anglin-Jarrett, Lived Experience Expert
- Professor Frances Brodsky FMedSci, Professor of Cell Biology, UCL
- Professor Dame Nicky Cullum FMedSci, Professor of Nursing, University of Manchester
- Professor Alastair Denniston, Consultant Ophthamologist and Honorary Professor, University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust/Universiry of Birmingham
- Professor Tim Eisen FMedSci, Global GU Oncology Franchise Head, Roche
- Professor Ian Greer FMedSci, President and Vice Chancellor, Queen's University Belfast
- Professor Jackie Hunter FMedSci, Chair, BenevolentBio
- Dr Harren Jhoti OBE FMedSci, Chief Executive Officer, Astex Pharmaceuticals
- Professor David Lomas FMedSci, Vice-Provost Health, University College London
- Dr Maria Palmer, Director, NHS R&D Forum
- Sir Mene Pangalos FRS FMedSci, Executive Vice President, BioPharmaceuticals R&D, AstraZeneca
- Professor Ruth Plummer MBE FMedSci, Professor of Experimental Cancer Medicine, University of Newcastle
- Sarah Rae, Lived Experience Expert
- Professor Caetano Reis e Sousa FRS FMedSci, Principal Leader and Assistant Research Director, Francis Crick Institute
- Professor Sir Nilesh Samani FMedSci, Medical Director, British Heart Foundation (BHF)
- Professor Irene Tracey FMedSci, Vice Chancellor, University of Oxford
- Professor Julie Williams FMedSci, Director, Dementia Research Institute, Cardiff University
- Professor Ele Zeggini FMedSci, Director, Institute of Translational Genomics, Helmholtz Zentrum München
Patient and Carer Reference Group
- Gilly Anglin-Jarrett, Lived Experience Expert
- Sarah Rae, Lived Experience Expert
- John Cassidy
- Leroy Decosta Simpson
- Sophie Evans
- Lynn Laidlaw
- Candice McKenzie
- Nanik Pursani
- Mandy (Amanda) Rudczenko
- Karen Swaffield
- Additional members who prefer not to be named for personal reasons
Below are some of the key steps we completed as part of this project. Some of them were sequential, while others took place concurrently.
Our goal was to draw on the full breadth and depth of experience available across sectors, disciplines, career stages and geographies.
- Written consultation (seeking views on the most and least sustainable elements of UK health research, as well as the key barriers and opportunities for enhancing it)
- Deep-dive workshops (consulting a range of stakeholders - including early- and mid-career researchers, lived experience experts and other individuals drawn from across academia, the NHS, industry, charities and more - to explore in detail the key findings from the written consultation and wider research)
Patient and Carer Reference Group (seeking to embed the perspective of patients and the public in each aspect of the project)
Public dialogue (working with public engagement experts to seek the views of a representative sample of the public around the value of health research and its sustainability)
Working Group (to steer and shape the whole process)
Stakeholder testing (further consultation with a range of stakeholders - see above for examples - to seek early views on the project's possible recommendations)
Peer review (organised by a separate secretariat to test and challenge the report before publication)
In and around these milestones, the project's Working Group and Secretariat (of Academy staff) worked continually to seek and synthesise evidence that supported the final report.
- Workshop Report: Maximising the benefits of a diverse health research eco-system
- Workshop report: Early and mid-career researcher priorities for sustainable health research careers
- Workshop report: The contribution of cross-sector mobility to the sustainability of health research in the UK
- Ipsos report: The future of health research in the UK - An online dialogue project for the Academy of Medical Sciences
Head of Science Base & Careers Policy
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