Published: 22 December 2022

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

It’s that most wonderful time of the year again. Yes, you’ve guessed it – the time when I traditionally look back over our shared year.

I must admit I was sorely tempted to do a ‘12 days of Christmas’ as I’m sure between prime ministers, health secretaries, science ministers, level of inflation etc. I’d have been able to have a full house, but I shall refrain.

I think it’s safe to say it’s been yet another unpredictable year with lots of change. How naïve we were back in the good old days thinking that austerity was the riskiest time in our shared history. Ladies and gentlemen let me introduce to you Brexit and the pandemic (I shan’t mention political turmoil).

Taking it as a given that it’s been a crazy year politically and economically, what has been going on here? Well, it’s all change at AMRC too. It’s been the first year with Nicola Perrin at the helm as CEO. She has been a delightful surprise, bringing us to a new normal at AMRC. In recent weeks we have also appointed a new chair, the fabulous Louise Wood. Can you imagine how hard it was to keep that juicy piece of potential news secret? Thank you to all formal reps for voting her onto our Executive Council.

We said goodbye to three of our favourite long-term team members, Gill Daniell, Jocelyn le Blanc, and Claire Middleton while who would have predicted our very own Leo Neale would become Leo Bradley and be on the verge of giving birth as I write (have I won my bet and is baby Bradley with us already?). And we have been joined by Tehilloh Bevlovski and Ellen Hinkley – who we’re really enjoying working with already. If you haven’t said hello yet, please do.

What about the work I hear you ask? What have we done for (and with) you? Frankly too much to describe without it becoming an exceptionally long and unread list.

There were, however, some highlights that resonated. Early in the year we published an animation along with our colleagues from across the sector in industry and the public sector to show the value of the UK’s diverse medical and health research funding system. We knew how hard it was to articulate the vital role charities play and had been striving to make it make sense to all, so not only could everyone understand but could also explain it! It boiled down to three key things: charities being vital partners in medical and health research funding because they respond to patients’ priorities, tackle areas of unmet need and accelerate health impact.

Recently we built more tools with an animation focusing purely on this vital role. Thank you to all of you who helped us. I hope it’s as useful for you as it is already proving to be for us.

The transition to a new normal goes on apace. We were incredibly pleased to see 443 early career researchers funded by 80 member charities getting support from the £20m BEIS/DHSC support fund. With another £15m in the offing we are holding our breath to see how much further impact this will make. Your letters of thanks made what had been a bittersweet moment for us of not getting the much larger sum we had asked for during the pandemic into something which we could be grateful for and we knew was making an impact for your funding.

It has been a year of incredible highs and lows. The reception in Parliament celebrating the research from during the pandemic led to a certain amount of fangirling from the team. I didn’t ask for selfies with prominent scientists – honest! Our first summer social was the best fun we’d had in a long time – seeing so many familiar faces. Who will ever forget hook-a-duck or jenga with membership questions and prizes of our infographics?

On an incredibly sad day in November, we also got together with some of you at the funeral of our much-loved ex-CEO Aisling Burnand. Although we knew she was ill, nothing prepares you for the loss. Getting so many messages from you and seeing your genuine emotion I know would have meant the world to her. We are organising a memorial reception on 28 February 2023 for those of you who knew and loved her so do keep an eye out to make sure you get to join us.

Throughout this we kept on keeping on. We’ve been examining what is important for research funding today. What makes a responsible research funder and how can we support you to have the tools to be the best you can be? We’ve already published some new resources and made signing up to a statement supporting the involvement of patients in research a condition of membership, and there is much more for us to do over the coming year.

What will 2023 bring? We have a lot of ideas on the cards including a Festival of Partnerships! I hope this time next year we are writing about what a steady and predictable year we have had.