By Dr Cat Ball, Senior Policy Manager, AMRC

Published: 29 April 2019

Watching the London Marathon yesterday on the sofa, I had both a serious case of FOMO and a massive sense of pride watching all the runners with AMRC member logos emblazoned across their chests. 

The first was short-lived (I'm really not a runner) but the second got me thinking. The marathon start line is like a showcase of the UK's medical research charity sector; I’d a hedge a bet that most of AMRC’s 146 members were represented. You don't need to look much further to see a public commitment to research. It was seriously inspiring. 

Thankfully, our political leaders are also committed to research. The government are seeking to achieve a target of 2.4% of UK GDP invested in R&D by 2027. We’re at around 1.7% at the moment so this is a significant aim. It’s one of the central commitments of government’s over-arching Industrial Strategy and a key means for the UK to stay ahead post-Brexit. The other major political parties also had similar commitments in their manifestos at the last elections. 

However there's a crucial difference between the research commitments from government and those from the marathon runners. From just a glance of the runner’s tops it's clear to see what they're running for - from epilepsy to mental health to cystic fibrosis research. Ultimately, they’re running for research outcomes that have real impact on people’s lives. These could be cures for diseases, game-changing new treatments or support to make life with a long-term condition that bit more manageable.

But what is the government investing in research for? What is 2.4% of UK GDP invested in research aiming to achieve? Boosting the economy and the UK’s productivity yes, but what else?

Of course, it’s great that we have the 2.4% commitment and I wouldn’t want to detract from that at all. But I think it’s important that we – policy people, government and the public too - think about what we want it to achieve. What would we want a more R&D intensive nation to look like?

To think about the answers to some of these questions, perhaps government could draw some inspiration from the London Marathon starting line. Because ultimately what many of those people are running for, and what research means to them, is hope. That's what medical research brings patients and the public and this should be a key part of what government are trying to achieve for us all.

And in relation to the FOMO, I did end up entering the ballot for next year’s event…