Published: 21 December 2021

By Carol Bewick, Director of Membership Engagement and Communications, AMRC

What can I say about 2021 that hasn’t already been said? Probably not a lot without repeating well worn clichés.

Instead let’s take a look at what made it stand out for us at AMRC. We had so much change. Change upon change but our commitment and drive to and for our members never waned. 2020 had been incredibly busy for all of us – fighting together to find some financial support for the sector with so much research at risk. Whatever happened next would always, by contrast, feel more difficult as the adrenaline started to ebb.

As a team we remained tight. We said sad goodbyes to Aisling Burnand, Hilary Reynolds, Tom Baggaley and, temporarily, to Nisha Tailor and huge hellos to Catriona Manville and Nicola Perrin. But although these internal changes were important to us, very important, it was what we did for you that was our constant and our driver.

2021 was peer review audit time after postponing for a few months due to the pressures of COVID on the sector and the 142 of you eligible worked incredibly hard to make sure you passed. We really want to thank those of you who gave up your time to sit on the audit committee, making it truly peer reviewed. We know how much the AMRC mark of quality is valued so we have started to review what that kitemark means in 2021 and beyond and what best we can do to support you as responsible funders to achieve it.

As ever we kept our eyes on the data to make sure we had the best evidence to make the case. Showing the impact of the research you fund and the impact the pandemic has made on it has never been more important. Over 800 of you viewed our annual infographic showing your collective impact and over 450 have checked out our Making a Difference report so far – and that was only published a month ago.

Continuing to give the sector a joint voice, we came to the conclusion that although the money charities invest in medical research is recognised your wider role in the research ecosystem isn’t so well understood. We have had some interesting conversations with you and our external stakeholders to come to a better understanding of what that vital role is and in the next year we will start to focus on a wider awareness programme so your vital role is more easily understood by all.

We have used the sector’s single voice with multiple incredible stories to make the case for you in response to 12 consultations this year (including what feels like our nemesis – the Spending Review). And we squared up to the challenge by giving oral evidence at two select committees. I sometimes think we are the nerdiest group imaginable as we all hunker down to watch and cheer on our colleague in the spotlight.

As the year progressed, we focused on setting up an Equality, Diversity and Inclusion hub, pulling together the best advice we could find and that you recommended to support the changes that are vitally needed across the sector and across research. At the last count the items had been viewed over 650 times.

But so much more has happened this year than can feature in a short blog: from making AMRC Open Research freely available, to seeing you at our regular networks and our 11 virtual events. We’re really excited that we’re going to be able to add events costs into your fee next year, meaning more of you will be able to attend and we can branch out more in what we offer you.

In yet another year of unprecedented change I can honestly say I believe there have been more than 12 months this year...sometimes in a week. But ending the year with the £20m fund from BEIS and DHSC being distributed by UKRI to 80 charities to fund early-career researchers has been the perfect punctuation to bring us to a new start.

All of us at AMRC wish you the best Christmas you can have and look forward to working with you and for you in 2022.