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Insight blog: Posts from the "Opinion" Category

Stories about the people, science and research of the Medical Research Council.

Why we need to work together to support team science

22 Feb 2019

The follow-up meeting report by the Academy of Medical Sciences highlights good progress in supporting the careers of team scientists over the past two years. But there’s more to do. Here our Executive Chair Professor Fiona Watt, also a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences, shares how we’re working to encourage the uptake of team science models of research.

An important step in supporting team science is keeping track of the current roles and projects of the researchers we fund. Alongside other funders, we’ve adopted platforms such as ORCID to capture research outputs and allow the evaluation of contributions to grants. ORCID enables researchers to take ownership of their data to construct multipurpose portfolios of outputs and impacts. [...]

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Industry and academia – stronger together

21 Sep 2018

Derived from proteins made by the body’s immune system, monoclonal antibodies are successful drugs used to treat millions of patients. The MRC/UCB Antibody Discovery Initiative offers academic researchers access to UCB’s high-tech antibody discovery platform. Andrew Popplewell, Head of Antibody Discovery and Engineering at UCB Celltech, explains how the initiative is geared to help promote collaborative research.

Andrew Popplewell

Image credit: Andrew Popplewell.

In the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industry today, collaboration and networking are all-important. And the value of tapping into academic knowledge, expertise, and talent is widely acknowledged. [...]

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Is there a crisis in student mental health?

13 Sep 2018

Starting university should be a time for having fun and making new friends. So why are we seeing record referral rates to student counselling services and reports of student suicides in the news? And what can universities do to help? Dr Nicola Byrom, Lecturer in Psychology at King’s College London, is using UK Research and Innovation ‘Network Plus’ funding to find out.Nicola Byron

Type ‘Student mental health’ into a search of UK news and you’ll be hit by headlines referring to: ‘The ticking time-bomb’, ‘Students being let down’, warnings that ‘problems are rising’. If you read these stories in isolation, you’d be forgiven for thinking that we’re in the depths of a crisis in student mental health.

In reality the picture is much more complex. In June this year, the Office of National Statistics reported that the suicide rate among the general population is actually higher than the comparable age group of university students. [...]

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To stop AIDS we must reach the ‘mobile population’

23 Aug 2018

Janet Seeley

For the past three decades, Janet Seeley, Professor of Anthropology and Health at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, has been engaged in HIV research across Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. For the last 10 years, she has led the Social Aspects of Health Across the Lifecourse programme in the MRC/UVRI and LSHTM Uganda Research Unit. Here she tells us about some of the challenges in getting HIV testing and treatment to everyone in need.

 If everyone living with HIV takes an HIV test and knows their status, and if everyone with an HIV-positive test begins antiretroviral therapy (ART) HIV treatment rapidly, this enhances their chance of living a healthy life into old age. That treatment can also reduce the amount of virus in a person’s body to such a low level that they will not pass the virus on to others.

This is universal test and treat, a strategy aimed at getting everyone who is living with HIV on to treatment and thus significantly increasing the proportion of people who are aware of their HIV status and receiving that treatment. [...]

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Going further to make all clinical trials public

8 Jun 2018

By backing the AllTrials campaign we commit to making all clinical research – both positive and negative – publicly available. We’ve taken the lead in the UK by helping our researchers achieve this goal. But there’s still more funders can do, as Síle Lane, Head of international campaigns and policy at Sense about Science, explains.

Síle Lane

The MRC was one of the first organisations to sign up to the AllTrials campaign which is now supported by almost 800 organisations worldwide. AllTrials is the global campaign for all clinical trials to be registered and results reported.

With backing from organisations like the MRC we have been able to put clinical trial transparency on agendas at the highest levels including the World Health Organisation, the UN, national governments and the European Parliament. New laws mandating transparency have been written and serious discussions have started in research organisations and professional societies about new rules they should adopt to support more transparency. [...]

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A scientific meeting of minds

25 Apr 2018

Academic conferences present researchers with a fantastic opportunity to share their work, gain feedback, and spark new collaborations. But to attend most conferences you must submit an abstract of completed work, months in advance. What if you’re just getting started? Roni Tibon, together with Rik Henson and other members of the MRC CBU Open Science Committee, raised the issue in a recent article published in Trends in Cognitive Sciences. Here Roni guides us through the problem, and what they see as the solution.

Roni TibonA call for abstract submissions opens for a great conference in July. The deadline is early January.  Many of your colleagues are going and it’ll be a wonderful opportunity to get input on your work and learn about other peoples’ research.

But as you check the submission guidelines, you realise that the conference organisers ask for abstracts to include results and conclusions, and you can’t provide any conclusions. Maybe you’re still collecting data, considering your design or haven’t started running your experiment yet. [...]

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How research can give patients a voice

4 Apr 2018

Eilean MacDonald

Eilean MacDonald was diagnosed with childhood arthritis when she was only a baby. 18 years on, as well as dealing with normal teenage life and managing her condition, she’s helping MRC researchers on a stratified medicine study to pick the right treatment, first time, for future patients.   

It all started when I was 18 months old and I bumped my knee. My parents noticed that the swelling wouldn’t go down, and took me to our local hospital. They ran tests but the doctors couldn’t figure out what was wrong, so I was referred to the rheumatology department at Alder Hey children’s hospital, where I was diagnosed with Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (JIA). [...]

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Medical research has a bright future

27 Mar 2018

After nearly eight years at the helm of the MRC as Chief Executive, Professor Sir John Savill steps down at the end of March, just before UK Research and Innovation comes into being on 1 April. Here he reflects on how he’s translated his priorities into research investments which will strengthen the UK research ecosystem for the future.

At the end of this week I will have completed an eventful seven and a half years as CEO of the MRC. Thanks to wonderful support from across the MRC’s extended family, much has been achieved for medical research. [...]

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Greater use of new technology to collect data can revolutionise longitudinal studies

24 Jan 2018

Phone app measuring air quality

Dr Andy Skinner and Chris Stone believe that new technology has the potential to transform health data collection in the longitudinal community – and that there are already promising signs of this among early adopters.

In the last decade or so advances in bioinformatics have made it easier for health researchers to study people’s genetic make-up (genotype) in detail. For example, it is now possible – and has become almost routine – for health researchers to identify genes associated with specific diseases using genome-wide association studies. [...]

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Sharing rare data for a common cause

10 Jan 2018

The information that gathers in our wake as we move through life and health centre or hospital waiting rooms is a powerful tool for medical research. Cecily Berryman tells us how a health emergency brought discussions about data science to the heart of her family.

Three years ago my husband suddenly became very ill. He needed emergency surgery to fix a tear in his aorta, the huge artery that carries blood as it pumps away from the heart. Afterwards the surgeon called it an ‘acute aortic dissection’ and mentioned it was likely to be a connective tissue disorder that has a genetic cause. Extensive testing revealed it was not a known disorder. [...]

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