Keynote Address by Martin Bobrow


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"Issues in Research Funding Allocation".

Charities, governments and other funders of research must
prioritise the areas in which they allocate research funding. An
old but unresolved issue, is the weight that should be given
to questions that the general public feel need urgent answers.
Other groups remind us of the unsolved pressing issues of the
developing world and the responsibility we have developing
preventive measures and treatments for tropical and orphan

This keynote lecture, delivered by Professor Martin Bobrow, will
introduce us to some considerations relating to science funding
in this. Should global disease priorities, achievability of research
goals or research quality be guiding funding allocation? As a
society, do we need ethical guidelines that would drive future
research agendas? Are these guidelines more urgently needed in
recession times?

Martin Bobrow studied medicine in South Africa. He worked in
Edinburgh and Oxford, before becoming Professor of Medical
Genetics in Amsterdam, London and then Cambridge in 1995.
He retired from this post in 2005.

He has been Deputy Chairman of the Wellcome Trust, Chairman
of ULTRA (Unrelated Living Transplant Regulating Authority),
Chairman of COMARE (Department of Health Advisory
Committee on radiation in the Environment), Deputy Chairman
of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics, Chairman of the Muscular
Dystrophy Campaign and a member of the Medical Research
Council and the Human Genetics Advisory Commission.

Published in: Health & Medicine, Technology
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Keynote Address by Martin Bobrow

  1. 1. Research Council priority programmes Digital Economy Energy Global Food Security Global Uncertainties Lifelong Health and Wellbeing Living with Environmental Change (BIS 2010)
  2. 2. What broad principles guide (and restrain) those who allocate research funds? •What is research? Very varied; principles should be generalisable •Is source of funds (government vs. charity vs. commercial) of over-riding importance? •Should research findings be for the “public good”? And if so, what exactly IS the public good?
  3. 3. 2010/11 Government Research Spend (£1000’s)Research Councils 2,549,353AHRC 100,717BBSRC 362,341EPSRC 771,289ESRC 158,061MRC 545,585NERC 298,071HEFCE 1,731,300QR Research 1,618,300National Academies 87,832Royal Society 48,558British Academy 26,448Royal Academy of Engineering 12,826Science & Society 15,441International 5,104UK Space Agency 163,805Total S&R Resource 4,575,906 Adapted from BIS 2010
  4. 4. What do funding panels consider? •Originality •Importance of question/impact of result •Timeliness/tractability •Track record •“Science quality” – how well is the project thought through? •Applicability/commercial potential •Costs/value •strategic fit
  5. 5. AHRC funds research, training and knowledge exchange in the arts andhumanities. Its strategic goal is to deliver world-leading research that:§ furthers understanding of human society, culture and creativity;§ analyses historical and social context, and the interpretation of experiences,identities and cultural assumptions; and§ creates social and economic benefits directly and indirectly throughimprovement in social and intellectual capital, social networking, communityidentity, learning and skills and quality of life. (BIS 2010)
  6. 6. Approximate annual R&D spend, UK MRC NIHR Big charities pharma Extracted from NESTA 2011
  7. 7. Two common strategic directives: •Translational research •Tropical infectious diseases and other work of benefit to people in poor countries