By Dr Jocelyn LeBlanc, AMRC's data guru

Published: 14 June 2018

AMRC has unique access to data from more than 140 medical research charities across the UK, and we take this job seriously. Each year we collect two main types of data from our members:

(1) Expenditure: money spent on research and charitable activities

(2) Grants: detailed information about each project funded

After much collation, cleaning, and analysis, we provide summary stats for the sector. This helps us achieve our mission of highlighting the sector’s contribution to patient and public health to effectively influence policy and research.

691 emails later

This year we began our annual data collection in January. This is no small task, as you can imagine, and it looms dauntingly in our diaries.

Because I’m a data nerd, I couldn’t resist tallying up how many emails were exchanged during this process – 691 to be exact. What promised to be a tedious task, however, unexpectedly turned out to be a rewarding one because I had the opportunity to (virtually) meet many lovely people who work at our member charities.

11,000 rows of data to clean, 11,000 rows!

To give you a sense of the scale of the data we collect, there are 11,000 rows in this year’s grants spreadsheet (and more than 6 times that in our entire grants database). Everything isn’t simply dumped into one enormous spreadsheet. Each row of data is checked for missing or inconsistent information and then dataset is enriched in several ways.

For example, we determine the geographical location of each research project based on the host institution. Then we can summarise charity-funded research by region. We also sort host institutions into broad categories so that we can identify the types of settings where charity-funded research takes place (universities, hospitals, etc.).

A picture is worth a thousand words

Today’s attention span is infinitesimally short, so we opt to summarise the footprint of the sector using simple stats with colourful graphics organised into a 2-page infographic report. You can view the report and download an infographic pack for your own use here. These bite-sized morsels are perfect for sharing on social media and incorporating into policy work.

Key stats

Here are a few highlights from this year’s infographic:

  • AMRC charities fund nearly HALF of publicly funded medical research nationally.
  • 1 in 8 grants awarded by AMRC members were funded in collaboration with other organisations.
  • More than 17,000 researchers’ salaries were funded by AMRC charities.
  • 200,000 people in the UK were recruited into AMRC charity-funded clinical studies or trials.

How can you use these stats?

Our policy team says that they use these stats in almost all briefings for key stakeholders in order to convey the footprint of the sector and demonstrate why charities matter in the UK’s life sciences sector. Literally everything.

We hope that you will use these stats too. The power of providing numbers to back up general statements cannot be underestimated. Saying that “charities collectively fund nearly half of all publicly funded medical research in the UK” holds much more weight than saying “charities are really important funders in the UK, I swear”. See what I mean?

What’s next?

We slice and dice the data in as many ways as possible to supply useful stats throughout the year. Our spotlight reports dive deeper into specific topics of interest and shine a light on how charities are working in that space. So far, we’ve covered mental health, cancer, drug-resistant infection, healthcare technology, and dementia. This year’s spotlight reports will focus on current high-profile issues so stay tuned!

You can always find these reports on the AMRC website and each new report is publicised on twitter (@AMRC) and in our various newsletters.

A long-term goal of the AMRC is to make all our members’ data publicly available and a first step will be displaying expenditure data in an interactive dashboard on our website. This will enable people to actively explore at their leisure, sorting by things like region or health topic. More on this to come…

Thank you!           

Finally, we would like to say thank you to all our members who sent in their data this year. We hope you find these reports and infographics useful. As always, please let us know your feedback ([email protected]).