New report helps inform decisions about how science should be funded

March 7, 2011

Clinical research has greater societal impact over a 15-20 year timescale, while basic research has greater academic impact, according to a new study from RAND Europe and the Health Economics Research Group (HERG) at Brunel University.

Project Retrosight was a multinational, four-year study that investigated the translation of basic biomedical and clinical cardiovascular and stroke research, and its impact on future work, policy, products and healthcare. The study was based on a rich source of material taken from 29 carefully selected case studies of grants for research conducted in these areas that were awarded 15-20 years ago.

Five key findings from the study are:

  • A large and diverse range of impacts arose from the 29 grants studied.
  • There are variations between the impacts derived from basic biomedical and clinical research.
  • There is no correlation between knowledge production and wider impacts.
  • The majority of economic impacts identified come from a minority of projects.
  • We identified factors that appear to be associated with high and low impact.
The study was carried out by a consortium of research partners located in Australia, Canada and the UK, led by RAND Europe and HERG. The research used the Payback Framework, which provides a common structure for examining the research funding process and understanding research impact.

The research was led by Steven Wooding, Research Leader at RAND Europe, who said: "The study showed that research is important, that it has real tangible benefits for society and that how you fund it matters. If you want to make a difference to patients over a 15-20 year time-scale, clinical research is more effective. If you want to build knowledge for the longer-term, then basic research is better."

Professor Martin Buxton at HERG added, "Project Retrosight builds on successful methodologies already used to evaluate diabetes and research funding. We hope its further applications will inform future research funding in more medical disciplines and hence, benefit more patients."

Each of the case studies, on which the research for the project is based, was developed using a range of methods, including structured interviews, document and literature reviews, and bibliometrics. Once the fieldwork was completed, the case studies were systematically rated by an international panel of experts to identify those considered relatively high or low in terms of impact in each payback category.

"Given more opportunities for investment in research than can be supported today, funders need better data and information on which to make important decisions," said Jonathan Grant, President of RAND Europe and a key member of the project team. "Project Retrosight deepens our knowledge of the 'science of science' to understand what works in research funding."

Professor Dame Sally C. Davies, Director General of Research and Development and Chief Scientific Adviser for the Department of Health and NHS, and Interim Chief Medical Officer, commented, "It is important that research funders support, develop and apply research and analysis to inform their strategic thinking, policy and general decision-making. Project Retrosight makes an important contribution to this evidence base."

Explore further: Study probes impact of CSI-style programming on jurors

Related Stories

Study probes impact of CSI-style programming on jurors

September 24, 2008

(PhysOrg.com) -- A new psychological study from the University of Leicester aims to investigate how accurate people's perceptions about forensic science are, where these beliefs come from, and how this forensic awareness ...

11,000 alien species invade Europe

November 20, 2008

For the first time it is now possible to get a comprehensive overview of which alien species are present in Europe, their impacts and consequences for the environment and society. More than 11,000 alien species have been ...

UK Research Funding to Reward Economic Benefits

September 25, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- The UK government is developing a new scheme, the Research Excellence Framework (REF), to assess university research proposals and allocate public funds for research. The scheme is being developed in collaboration ...

Virtual research institute needed to unlock RNA's promise

October 11, 2010

A Europe-wide network of labs focusing on RNA research is needed to make the most of RNA's high potential for treating a wide range of diseases. The recommendation for this virtual research institute comes from a panel of ...

Recommended for you

How the finch changes its tune

August 3, 2015

Like top musicians, songbirds train from a young age to weed out errors and trim variability from their songs, ultimately becoming consistent and reliable performers. But as with human musicians, even the best are not machines. ...

Machine Translates Thoughts into Speech in Real Time

December 21, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- By implanting an electrode into the brain of a person with locked-in syndrome, scientists have demonstrated how to wirelessly transmit neural signals to a speech synthesizer. The "thought-to-speech" process ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.