Medical research charities are committed to funding research that positively impacts people living with health conditions or diseases. For many charities, this is only made possible through public donations and so charities must let the public know how their money is being spent and what impact it is having.
The pathway to impact is rarely linear. Instead, it often involves many different funders and research teams over a long period of time. This cumulative nature of impact makes it challenging to track in an effective way.
AMRC is helping a number of our members use an online tool called Researchfish that allows them to collect data on the outcomes of their research funding over time. Collecting data in this consistent way allows us to pool data together from many different charities and perform an in-depth cross-sector analysis of the outcomes of the research funded by our members.
This report follows on from our initial 2017 impact report, incorporating two more years of data and new stories of how charity-funded research has impacted patients and society. The report is structured around the five areas of impact shown below.
For a PDF version of this report please contact our Communications Officer, Leo.
If you have any questions please contact our Research, Data and Impact Manager, Jocelyn.
With thanks to the Medical Research Council, Researchfish, and participating charities.
The Association of Medical Research Charities (AMRC) is a membership organisation representing over 140 charities in the UK who collectively invested £1.6 billion in medical research in the UK in 2017. This represents an estimated 98% of total charity investment in health and medical research in the UK.
A core part of our strategic plan is to help our members highlight the wide ranging impact that this level of annual investment has in the health and medical arena.
At least 8 million people donated to health and medical research charities in the UK in 2017. Charities have an obligation to their supporters to show that money being donated is being used wisely. Failure to show the positive impact donations are making could lead to a decline in public support and donations to medical research charities. This would reduce the amount of research that was funded, meaning only those areas of research supported by the government and industry would be progressed.
AMRC is in a unique position to analyse research outcomes across multiple charities. This type of cross-sector analysis provides a compelling insight into the impact of the medical research sector as a whole and helps present Government and policy makers with a view of the sector.
Researchfish is an online tool supported by Research Fish Ltd that is used to collect data on the outcomes and impact of publicly funded research. It was developed in collaboration with the Medical Research Council (MRC) in 2008/09 in response to the MRC’s need for a consistent way to monitor their research portfolio and to collect information on the outcomes of the awards they funded. It was rolled out to a much broader array of funders from 2012 onwards when a federated version of the service was launched.
Since 2014 all seven UK research councils have made submitting data via Researchfish a mandatory requirement for all their award holders. This has led to an increase in awareness of the system, and an increased understanding of the need to collect such data, across the UK research community. A wide range of other funders including a subset of AMRC charities also now use the platform, although each of these has individual policies on whether submission is mandatory.
The data behind the report was obtained from a subset of our members who use Researchfish to collect the outcomes of funded research. This work was only possible thanks to a long-term collaboration with the Medical Research Council (MRC) and Researchfish and funding from MRC. More information about Researchfish and the 4-year deal (April 2018 – March 2022) can be found here.
The data was downloaded from Researchfish in April 2018. A detailed description of the dataset can be found here and the steps taken to prepare the data can be found here.
We have organised the report around five areas of impact. Each area constitutes a separate section of the report. After a short description of the impact area, there are a few key stats like total number of outcomes and percentages of awards with each type of outcome. This is followed by more in depth analysis of the different types of outcomes that are included in that area. There are also breakdowns by subtypes of outcomes and things like sector and country where relevant. Throughout the reports there are case studies illustrating examples of how a charity-funded research has made an impact.
We have also analysed impact across the different grant types (awards for people, projects or infrastructure) and across research activities (focusing on cause, cure, or care).
The data in this report was downloaded from Researchfish in April 2018 and is self-reported by researchers funded by 44 different AMRC charities.
This includes almost 95,000 outputs from 6,729 awards funded by 44 charities, representing £2.1bn in total value.
Many AMRC charities choose to gather outcomes from research through methods other than Researchfish. The report contains data from 30% of the AMRC membership and therefore this report does not completely represent the medical research sector as all charities differ vastly in the way and types of research that they fund.
The full list of the 44 participating funders can be found here. To put this in context, this subset of charities
It is important to note some caveats about the dataset:
Charities funded awards for a variety of durations from 1 to 9 years, with most awards lasting for three years. The dataset contained awards that had started between 1999 and 2018, with most occurring during the 2012-17 period.
Funders use a number of types of awards to support research, ranging from short ‘pilot’ grants to large multi-project ‘programme’ grants, and from studentships to support trainee researchers ‘PhD awards’ to ‘chairs’ supporting senior academics.
Types of awards:
A table with a full breakdown of all the grant types can be downloaded here.
The majority of awards were assigned Health Research Classification System (HRCS) codes based on their title and abstract, which allows for stratification by research activity and health area. This coding was done either manually by individual charities or using an algorithm through Uber Research that “autocodes” the awards. It is important to note that the distribution of awards for each research activity and health area reflects the charities using Researchfish and does not necessarily represent the distribution for all AMRC charities.
For research activity, of the awards assessed in this report:
Other includes: Stroke, Generic Health Relevance, Reproductive Health and Childbirth, Ear, Metabolic and Endocrine, Infection, Mental Health, Blood, Oral and Gastrointestinal, Congenital Disorders, Injuries and Accidents, Skin, and other.