A recent report from innovation foundation NESTA suggested the existence of a ‘biomedical bubble’ that had caused research expenditure in this area to grow disproportionately. Our executive chair Professor Fiona Watt takes a closer look at the claims.
Professor Fiona Watt – MRC Executive Chair
I enjoyed reading The Biomedical Bubble. The authors observe that in common with most Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries, UK Government funding for research with the objective of improving health has grown over the past decade. Many countries have identified human health as the area they most want to address, for the reasons set out in the report. However, I think we should look more carefully at the claim that our share of the research councils’ expenditure has seen “a 75 per cent increase in real terms”. [...]
Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is one of the most serious global threats to human health in the 21st century. One of the researchers taking on this challenge is Professor Matthew Avison of the University of Bristol who is leading the ‘One Health Drivers of Antibacterial Resistance in Thailand’ consortium project. Here, he tells us about the benefits of working together across borders and disciplines, and how the consortium’s approach can help inform AMR research worldwide.
The Thai authorities are monitoring the situation closely and the World Health Organisation recognises their surveillance as an exemplary model for other low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). But the research to date has been in discrete areas.
As the NHS turns 70, Petra Kiviniemi delves into the MRC archive to reveal a history of blood donation closely intertwined with the birth of the NHS.
Still from the wartime public information film Blood Transfusion Service*
Every two seconds, someone needs blood. Blood donations help millions of people, and many would not be alive today if it wasn’t for the generosity of donors and care by our NHS.
The experience of being a volunteer blood donor was a very different picture back in the 1920s. Back then, nearly a century ago, and more than 20 years before the birth of the NHS, donations needed to be directly transferred from one person to another. [...]
Last month, 25 MRC-funded researchers and support staff connected with over 1,400 UK school students online, in the first ever ‘I’m a Scientist MRC Festival Zone’. Over four weeks, our plucky scientists responded to thousands of questions from students, who then voted for their favourite answers. Here our winner Liza Selley, from the MRC Toxicology Unit, tells her tale.
“If a car travels at infinite speed, what evidence can you use to prove it was there?”
There stands my favourite question from the MRC Festival’s I’m a Scientist competition. A prime example of the imagination and inquisitiveness with which children explore the world around them. Of how commonplace thoughts mix with the abstract, and how no question appears unanswerable. [...]
By combining high-tech drones with low-tech methods, researchers are embarking on an MRC-funded project to map out where mosquitoes breed in Malawi. But how could this help with fighting malaria? MRC Fellow Michelle Stanton of Lancaster University and Christopher Jones of the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, currently based at the Malawi Liverpool Wellcome Trust (MLW) Clinical Research Programme in Blantyre, Malawi, are leading the way.
Patient data has the power to revolutionise our approach to medical research and help improve human health. We’re funding scientists to use big data to tackle some of the biggest health challenges, including neurodegeneration. Here Ed Pinches, from Alzheimer’s Research UK, tells us why access to large data sets is so important in our fight against dementia.
It’s the hot topic, the subject dominating much of the latest news. Data. Your data. How it is used, how it is stored, who gets to access it, and for what purpose?
Could something as simple as when we eat influence our body weight and health? That’s what Professors Alexandra Johnstone and Peter Morgan, of the Rowett Institute at the University of Aberdeen, are investigating. In the aptly named MRC-funded Big Breakfast Study, they’re aiming to distinguish whether meal timings are important – and if so, why.
Professors Peter Morgan and Alexandra Johnstone. Image credit: The Rowett Institute
Do you eat breakfast or usually skip this meal to rush to work, or to sleep for longer? If you don’t eat breakfast is it because you don’t feel hungry and can’t face food first thing? Not feeling hungry in the morning might be because you consumed a lot of calories before sleeping.
If you prefer to hit the snooze button, or eat much later in the day, you’re not alone. The most common pattern of eating in the UK is to consume most of our daily calories in the evening – roughly 40% of our daily energy intake – and fewer calories in the morning. [...]
Daniel Zeichner, MP for Cambridge, arrived on my doorstep at midday. My lab doorstep that is, at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology (LMB). He was here to shadow my day and see what we researchers spend our days doing with public funding.
Image credit: MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology
My week in Parliament – the first leg of our exchange – exposed me to the breadth of MP’s interests. As we briskly made our way around Westminster, national and European headlines ran alongside constituents’ concerns; Daniel’s attention was dragged from one issue to the next at an unrelenting pace. [...]
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.
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. [...]
Our Max Perutz Science Writing Award is now in its 21st year. To help 2018 entrants, Isabel Harding shares science writing tips from last year’s winner and runners-up, along with comments from the judges on why their articles made the cut. This year’s competition closes on 4 July.
Kirstin Leslie, from the Institute of Health and Wellbeing at the University of Glasgow, was our 2017 winner. She recommends reading around to help with your science writing: “I feel like if you do read a lot and absorb a lot of material yourself you’ll be able to learn techniques from other writers.
“And without even releasing it I think you can gain a lot of skills through that. It’s just a really useful exercise to think about your research in a way that is relatable to people and is entertaining to people and I think it’s just a really good thing to do.” [...]