Stories about the people, science and research of the Medical Research Council.
19 Sep 2016
The time and effort that peer reviewers give to the MRC peer review process is invaluable in helping our research boards and panels make funding decisions. MRC Peer Review Programme Manager Rachel Prosser asked board and panel members for tips on writing a grant application review.
1. Know what you’re doing
It sounds obvious, but it’s important to read the guidance carefully. It’s there to help you use your expertise to provide the best review possible. Is it a grant? Is it a fellowship? Different MRC grant schemes have specific assessment criteria so, before you get started, check what type of proposal you’re being asked to review. Remember: if you have concerns about any element of the review or the process, please just get in touch before you start – we’re really happy to help.
2. Make it (un)personal
Try to keep your review strictly professional, not personal. Bear in mind that your report will be fed back to the applicant who will have an opportunity to respond to any questions that you raise. To remain anonymous, it’s important to avoid including anything in your assessment that will identify you personally. This includes making references to your own work, where you have worked or who you have worked with. [...]
Continue reading: 8 top tips for writing a useful grant review
14 Sep 2016
Just how useful is it to get access to a pharmaceutical company compound? Back in 2012 Dr Richard Mead of the University of Sheffield was one of 15 academic project leaders funded by the MRC to research an alternative use for a compound no longer being developed by AstraZeneca. As we launch the next round of the MRC-Industry Asset Sharing Initiative he tells us how the collaboration has brought together the best of both worlds.
Copyright: Richard Mead
I’m no stranger to the pharmaceutical industry. I spent three years in drug development at Celltech in the early 2000s. But even with my experience, it’s still amazing to be reminded of the resources that pharmaceutical companies have at their fingertips. It sounds obvious, but their access to unique compounds, and their ability to make them, is impressive. [...]
Continue reading: Why MRC-industry asset sharing is a win-win for me
1 Sep 2016
Elly Tyler, a PhD student from Queen Mary University of London, has taken a break from her research to learn about the world of science policy, as an intern at the Academy of Medical Sciences. If you’re an MRC-funded PhD student and you’d like to do the same, the next round of applications opens 12 September 2016.
Photo credit: Academy of Medical Sciences
What do you think of when you hear the words ‘science policy’?
As a PhD student in my PhD bubble, I’d always thought that science policy was relatively straightforward. You identify a topic – like the use of animals in research – do some research, write a report, and then send it to government. Job done – influence made. But, what I didn’t really get was …how? How do you identify the topics to shine your spotlight on? How do you get government to listen? How are changes in policy made? [...]
Continue reading: From labs to legislation
10 May 2016
The MRC funds research across the biomedical spectrum in all major disease areas. But do you know what happens to your MRC grant application when you press ‘submit’? Familiarising yourself with MRC peer review will not only help you navigate the selection process but also learn more about what reviewers are looking for. We invite you to go behind the MRC scenes in our short animation explaining how the MRC peer review process works.
Find out more about peer review on our website [...]
Continue reading: MRC peer review explained
10 May 2016
Engaging in peer review of grant applications means helping ensure public money is spent as wisely as possible. The decision-making process is difficult, but with over 20 years of peer review experience Eleanor Riley, Deputy Chair of the MRC Infections and Immunity Board and Professor of Infectious Disease Immunology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), explains what makes a good review and how everybody gains if everybody takes part.
Eleanor Riley. Credit: Anne Koerber, LSHTM
To be sure we fund important research questions, high-quality research and well-designed studies we need to ask for the opinions of people who best understand that research area. It is a long, difficult and sometimes imperfect process but it is the only way to ensure we allocate finite funds to the very best projects. [...]
Continue reading: Why peer review needs you – and you need peer review
3 May 2016
Charity partners Alzheimer’s Society and Alzheimer’s Research UK will be instrumental in involving people living with dementia in the work of the new £250m MRC-led UK Dementia Research Institute. Here Alzheimer’s Society Ambassador Keith Oliver shares his hopes for how the new institute will make life better for people with dementia, now and tomorrow.
Photo copyright: Alzheimer’s Society
My world changed in 2010 when I was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease at the age of 55. My early symptoms were falling over, an element of reduced concentration and being unable to follow things as well as I did previously.
I went to the GP thinking I’d got an ear infection and was sent for an MRI scan. When I had an appointment with a neurologist to discuss the scan he said, totally out of the blue, that it looked like the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. After attending a memory clinic for around four months of quite intensive testing and assessments I received a diagnosis. [...]
Continue reading: Dementia: care today, cure tomorrow
26 Feb 2016
MRC Chair Donald Brydon discusses the Spillover Report, published this week in BMC medicine. Spillover measures the wider economic gains from public investment, both government and charity. The report was funded by the MRC and led by Professor Jonathan Grant, Director of the Policy Institute at King’s College London. It considers 30 years of data from 1982 to 2012 and provides an up to date and accurate picture of the effect of public funding on the UK economy.
Public funding for research, although not generous, has led to scientific advances that impact on millions of lives and have delivered extraordinary health gain. It also has a very healthy effect on the economy.
For every £1 we invest in medical research, we see a 17 per cent annual return to the UK economy, indefinitely.
That’s before you take into account the monetised benefits of a healthier population. Include that and the rate of return rises to somewhere between 24 and 28 per cent. [...]
Continue reading: A healthy return on public medical research spending
26 Nov 2015
Since its election in May, the UK Government has been considering how it wants to prioritise spending over the rest of the Parliament. Yesterday afternoon, the Chancellor George Osborne presented these plans to Parliament, giving the first public confirmation of how much Government funding will be set aside for science from 2016/17 to 2020/21. MRC Public Affairs and Policy Manager Jane Bunce looks at what we know and what details are still to come.
1 Dec 2015: The post has been updated to confirm that Innovate UK funding is being kept outside the ring fence.
The Conservative Government was elected on a pledge to eliminate the budget deficit, and, in further attempts to reduce public spending, deep cuts were expected in yesterday’s Spending Review and Autumn Statement 2015. In the end, the Chancellor confirmed that over the four years £12 billion of savings would be made to Government departments.
The Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), the parent department through which research council funds are channelled, received an overall 17 per cent cut, compared with, for example, 24 per cent to the Treasury budget and 22 per cent to the Department of Energy and Climate Change’s resource budget. And while other parts of BIS, including higher and further education, are seeing heavy cuts, the science budget – the largest pot of public money funding UK science – seems to be largely spared. [...]
Continue reading: The Spending Review and science: what we know and what we don’t
5 Oct 2015
Sitting down to write a grant application? Recently submitted a proposal or been successful in the last MRC board round? Building grant writing skills is a great way to help secure funding. With experience of working with various MRC boards and panels, Dr David Crosby, Programme Manager for Methodology and Experimental Medicine, has a pretty good idea of what they’re looking for. Here he describes how to master the application process and make your grant stand out from the rest.
1. Allow plenty of time
Everything takes longer than you think it will. No matter how simple it may seem to pull together a project there are lot of different steps, some more time-consuming than others, involved in submitting a proposal.
2. Choose your funder and scheme carefully
It’s good to talk! Speak to the funders – we’re here to help. Ask us questions to get an insight into what we’re interested in. Sign up for information feeds, find out what kind of research is in a funder’s remit and read through guidance and eligibility criteria carefully. We don’t want you wasting your time – or ours – applying for an inappropriate scheme. [...]
Continue reading: 12 top tips for writing a grant application
18 Mar 2015
At the moment, researchers have a certain number of years after their PhD to apply for MRC fellowships, after which point they’re ineligible. But is a ticking clock the best way for scientists to flourish? Here Simone Bryan, Programme Manager for Strategic Projects here at the MRC, explains why we’re removing time-bound criteria from our fellowship applications to help give people the time they need.
One of the best things about my job is getting the chance to meet so many brilliant and talented researchers who are doing jobs they love. But, for all its wonder, pursuing a research career is competitive and challenging.
In particular, moving from being a postdoc to an independent investigator in your own right is hugely challenging. It’s usually done by securing a personal fellowship which pays your salary and research costs. [...]
Continue reading: Science doesn’t only need sprinters