Seizing international opportunities

Strategic aims

Medical science is an increasingly international endeavour and many major health challenges are now global in nature. The Academy strives to ensure that the UK takes a leadership role in tackling these challenges and in enabling excellent researchers to move and collaborate across national boundaries. Our key themes are: influencing European policy for health and research; responding to global health challenges; and promoting international mobility, connections and capacity building. In delivering these aims we draw on the expertise of our Fellows working in the UK and overseas and on our partnerships, particularly with our sister Academies across the world.

Significant activities

  • Informing European medical science policy. Our international work in 2013-4 was dominated by the need to influence developments in the European legislation on data protection and clinical trials. We also worked with the Association of Medical Research Charities on a campaign to ask MEP candidates for the 2014 European elections to ‘pledge to help every patient in the EU by improving biomedical research and maintaining the UK’s global leadership in this field’. A cohort of MEPs who support biomedical research will be an important component of future efforts to influence European legislation. We collaborated with the UK National Academies to respond to the Government’s review of the balance of competences between the UK and the EU, noting that the current system creates significant positive overall benefit for UK researchers and institutions.
  • Securing the future of research using patient data. Working with the Wellcome Trust and the Federation of European Academies of Medicine (FEAM) we continued to alert policymakers and parliamentarians across Europe to the negative impact of amendments to the EU Data Protection Regulation. If passed, this legislation could hinder, or even prevent, research that is vital to public health. This will continue to be a priority area for activity in 2014-5.
  • Influencing the EU Clinical Trials Regulation. The Academy worked with FEAM to support liaison of member academies with their national governments around effective adoption of the new EU Clinical Trials Regulation. Whilst the final text of the Regulation does not address all issues raised in the Academy’s 2011 report on regulation and governance of health research, it represents a significant improvement on the previous legislation.
  • Building relationships with international networks. In August 2013, the Academy’s Foreign Secretary was elected to the Executive Committee of the Inter Academy Medical Panel (IAMP). We also continued to play a leadership role in FEAM, where our Foreign Secretary has been an Officer and has supported FEAM’s work to establish long-term governance structures by creating a representative Council for the first time.
  • Developing bilateral relationships with international Academies. In March 2014, we signed our first Memorandum of Understanding with an international Academy, the US Institute of Medicine, at a meeting attended by joint Academy Fellows/IOM members, other Fellows and senior academics, and government representatives including the Chief Medical Officer and Chief Scientific Adviser. The President also met with the  residents of the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences and the Israel Academy of Humanities and Sciences.
  • Encouraging international exchanges. The Daniel Turnberg UK/Middle East Travel Fellowship Scheme continued to flourish, with an expanding consortium of donors now supporting the scheme. During 2013- 14, 25 grants (totalling £69,050) were made to early career biomedical researchers, giving them the opportunity for short-term exchanges between institutions in the UK and the Middle East.

Future plans

  • Continuing to engage with European medical science policy, particularly to influence European legislation in data protection. We will also follow up work initiated in March 2014 to engage UK MEPs on biomedical research issues.
  • Supporting the Government’s work to engage emerging scientific powers by working with the other National Academies to deliver a major programme of international fellowships as part of the newly established Newton Fund.
  • Strengthening our links with the US IOM by jointly delivering an international workshop on improving reproducibility and robustness of medical research. • Continuing to work with networks such as FEAM, the IAMP and the UK Government’s Global Science and Innovation Forum to extend the reach of the Academy’s policy influence and impact.
  • Developing our relationships with international Academies and global health stakeholders in the UK and overseas.
  • Developing the Daniel Turnberg UK/Middle East Travel Fellowships to ensure it continues to diversify and remains fit for purpose.

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