Making a difference: Impact report 2017

Introduction and Context

Chapter One

Introduction and Context

Our goal is to help our members highlight their impact…

The Association of Medical Research Charities (AMRC) is a membership organisation representing the leading medical research charities in the UK. AMRC currently has 140 member charities who collectively invested £1.6 billion in medical research in the UK in 2016[1]. A core part of our strategic plan is to help our members highlight the wide ranging impact that this level of annual investment has in the health and medical arena.

So that they can maintain public support…

At least 8 million people donated to health and medical research charities in the UK in 2016. Charities have an obligation to their supporters to show that money being donated is being used wisely. Failure to show the positive impact donations are making could lead to a decline in public support and donations to medical research charities. This would reduce the amount of research that was funded; meaning only those areas of research supported by the government and industry would be progressed.

We provide them with the tools to do this…

AMRC has been helping our members use a range of tools to maximise the data that they can collect on the outcomes of the funding they give out, and also to analyse that data to uncover the real world impact of their charity’s investment in research. Impact analysis at the level of each individual charity is fascinating and, of course, vital for the charity itself and the community that it represents. However analysis of research outcomes at higher levels, across multiple charities or the whole sector, provides a compelling insight into the impact of the medical research sector as a whole and helps present Government and policy makers with a view of the sector.

None of it would be possible without our partners…

The data used in this report was obtained from a subset of our members who use the online platform researchfish® to collect the outcomes of funded research. This work is only possible thanks to a collaboration with MRC and researchfish® and funding from MRC that covered the license costs of AMRC members with a UK research spend of £25m or less per annum to use the system.

But we still face the challenge of sector wide analysis…

Sector wide data analysis has traditionally been, and continues to be, a challenge not only of data collection but also of data sharing. AMRC is in a unique position to be able to analyse the data from across our membership of 140 charities which represents an estimated 98% of charity investment in health and medical research in the UK. In this report we present our first in depth cross sector analysis of the outcomes of the research funded by our members. We aim to highlight not only the vital work the charity sector is doing, but also to show how vital data sharing will be moving forward if we are to really understand the impact of the charity sector as a whole.

This report reflects the impact of almost a third of our membership…

The report is based on data from 40 AMRC member charities who are actively using researchfish® which represents 29% of AMRC membership (40/140). The full list of participating organisations can be found in appendix 4.

Based on their annual spend, the charities in the report account for 40% of the annual research spend on medical research by AMRC member charities.

About researchfish®

researchfish® is an online tool supported by Researchfish Ltd that is used to collect data on the outcomes and impact of publically funded research. It was developed in collaboration with the Medical Research Council (MRC) in 2008/09 in response to the MRC’s need for a consistent way to monitor their research portfolio and to collect information on the outcomes of the awards they funded. It was rolled out to a much broader array of funders from 2012 onwards when a federated version of the service was launched.

Since 2014 all seven UK research councils making up RCUK have made submitting data via researchfish® a mandatory requirement for all their award holders. This has led to an increase in awareness of the system, and an increased understanding of the need to collect such data, across the UK research community. A wide range of other funders including a subset of AMRC charities also now use the platform, although each of these has individual policies on whether submission is mandatory.

As of April 2017 over 100,000 awards from over 100,000 researchers were being tracked in researchfish®. The total value of the funding being monitored in the system tops £45 billion and so far over 2 million outcomes have been attributed to these awards. In this report we have analysed the data submitted against 5,287 awards from our participating members.

About the analysis

When medical research funders support research they do it to achieve the following aims:

We have used these 5 aims as a framework for analysis. As some funders will only support research that focuses on one or two aims and others on all five, it is important that each is considered on its own merits, and linked back to the funders research strategy.

We have also analysed the impact across the different grant types (people, projects or infrastructure)[2] and research activities (cause, cure, or care)[3].

We have provided examples of the kinds of impacts reported by researchers. These range from papers to computer models, to new policies, drugs and devices. Each is linked to the funder that supported an aspect of the work, demonstrating that funders large and small fund research that makes a difference.

Context

This report analyses the impact outcomes collected by 40 funders using the researchfish® system in April 2016. These funders reflect the wide spread of AMRC member charities:

In total, 5,287 awards were reported on, which represented £1.62bn. The vast majority of these awards were awarded to universities (93%). The average award amount was £305,925 but infrastructure awards were substantially larger.

Award grant types:

Charities funded awards for a variety of durations from 1-16 years, with most awards being for three years (see appendix 1). The dataset contained awards that had started in all years between 1999 and 2017, with most in the 2012-14 period, meaning most would be in their second to fourth year. By analysing the time taken for outputs to be attributed, we were able to get an idea on how long it took for an output to be produced, which in many cases was beyond the life of the grant.

Figure 1 Figure 1. When did the awards start?

Award research activities:

Figure 2 Figure 2. Type of health category

Award health areas:

See appendix 3 for a breakdown of the health category and research activity codes and grant type definitions.

The award outputs are split into the following chapters:

Outcome category Outcome type
Generating new knowledge Publications
Research tools and methods
Research databases and models
Translating research ideas into new products and services Intellectual property and licensing
Spin out companies
Medical products, interventions and clinical trials
Software and technical products
Influencing policy and other stakeholders Influence on policy, practice, patients and the public
Engagement activities
Stimulating new research via new funding or partnerships Further funding
Collaborations and partnerships
Developing the human capacity to do research Next destination
Awards and recognition
Use of facilities and resources

Figure 3. Breakdown of the award outputs into outcome categories.

References

  1. AMRC research expenditure database 2016 ↩︎

  2. these are based on ‘grant types’, as described in appendix 3 ↩︎

  3. these are based on research activities within the Health Research Classification system, as described in appendix 3 ↩︎

  4. UK Health Research Analysis 2014 (UK Clinical Research Collaboration, 2015) ↩︎

  5. Wellcome Trust’s portfolio contains a high proportion of ‘general health’ research, making it the largest in all-AMRC analyses - see http://www.hrcsonline.net/ for example ↩︎