Influencing policy to improve health and wealth

Strategic aims

One of the Academy’s greatest strengths is its ability to convene the best medical scientists to address some of the most significant challenges facing society. We aim to be the UK’s leading source of independent advice for those making decisions about medical research and to provide evidence from medical science to underpin policy development in the public, private and charitable sectors. As outlined in our Strategy, our key themes are: tackling major challenges; maximising our impact; engaging policymakers; and looking ahead. With the Fellowship at the core, we have continued to set, and respond to, the policy agenda.

Significant activities

  • Securing a sustainable science and innovation base. Alongside the Royal Society, British Academy and Royal Academy of Engineering, we published two statements outlining the importance of the research base for the UK’s prosperity. These provided the narrative case and evidence base that helped deliver a successful settlement for science and innovation in the 2013 Government spending review. The Academy’s engagement with HM Treasury and other key decision makers was instrumental in ensuring that medical science and education remained an integral part of the overall research base.
  • Ensuring appropriate regulation around laboratory animals. We have continued to advise the Home Office during the process of transposing the EU Directive on the protection of animals used for scientific purposes into UK law, drawing on the recommendations of the Academy’s 2011 policy report ‘Animals Containing Human Material’. Together with the Society of Biology, we facilitated engagement between the Chair of the new Animals in Science Committee and researchers who use animals in their work. Recognising the importance of transparency in this area, we have supported the development of a concordat on openness in animal research, led by Academy Fellow Dr Geoff Watts FMedSci.
  • Putting research at the heart of Public Health England. Convening Fellows and other experts, we held two workshops with Public Health England to inform its research strategy and to discuss how the new public health service can be underpinned by evidence and evaluated against its research aims.
  • Promoting engagement with policy makers. We continued to provide opportunities to connect our Fellows and other senior researchers with policymakers. Engaging Parliamentarians was prioritised in 2013-4, and as part of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Medical Research, we addressed topics including research on children and young people, personalised medicines, and research in the NHS. The Academy also contributed to Parliamentary select committee inquiries and government consultations including health screening, antimicrobial resistance and reforms to the national census. Our competitive three month policy internship schemes funded by MRC and the Wellcome Trust continue to train a new generation of researchers who are confident in engaging in policy debates, with six interns graduating from the scheme in 2013-4.
  • Maximising the impact of our policy work. We held high-level meetings with stakeholders following the launch of policy reports on academic psychiatry and stratified medicine in 2013 to discuss implementation, securing agreements from policy targets to action recommendations as appropriate. Following up recommendations of previous reports is an explicit commitment in the 2012-16 strategy. In 2013-4 we engaged successfully with decision makers in Government and elsewhere to implement recommendations from previous reports on animals containing human material and the regulation and governance of health research. Our 2012 roundtable and discussion paper on team science led to a working group study to be launched in Spring 2014

Future plans

  • New study on public health. We will launch a major working group study that identifies the research and human capacity required to meet the public health needs of the UK in 2040.
  • Ensuring an effective science and innovation landscape. We will work with the other National Academies and the wider biomedical community to shape the Government’s strategy of science and innovation, including its roadmap for capital expenditure. We will engage with the political parties in the approach to the 2015 General Election, to stress the importance of policies to support science and innovation.
  • Following up policy reports. We will continue to exploit opportunities to bring the recommendations of our previous reports to the attention of relevant decision makers.

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