Select Committee on Science and Technology Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI)

  The ABPI has been made aware of the concerns of the Science and Technology Committee, arising from its ongoing Inquiry into the Research Assessment Exercise, that Panels in some subjects may have lacked a sufficiently strong representation from industry, including the pharmaceutical sector.

  It should be noted that in drawing up panel membership for the 2001 RAE, the secretariat of the Higher Education Funding Council took every effort to seek pharmaceutical industry representation via the ABPI. The ABPI, in turn, consulted widely with its member companies on this matter. The ABPI was also consulted on the HEFCE's 2002 Review of Research, a review which considered the future management of the RAE. Possible lack of pharmaceutical industry representation on the panels should not be seen therefore as a result of a lack of information about the exercise or the opportunity to participate.

  In its contribution to the 2000 Science and Innovation White Paper, the ABPI commented on the future of the Research Assessment Exercise and noted that greater efforts were being made for the 2001 RAE to give credit for collaboration between academia and industry. Concerns did remain however that this might not be followed through in practice. The industry agreed at the time that any assessment of science base activities for HEFCE purposes would require a wider range of weighted criteria than used previously, covering not just publication records, but relevance of quality research, links with teaching and more importantly the impact and value to customers of research, particularly industry. The ABPI recommended that the research funding allocation mechanism, centred on the RAE, should be radically reviewed to ensure long-term sustainability of research funding, including infrastructure. In view of the recent outcome of the RAE and the lack of additional funding for those universities that had achieved high level assessments, the original concerns of the industry on certain elements of the RAE remain.


  The ABPI and representatives from a number of its member companies have been involved in the last three Research Assessment Exercises, either as full panel members or observers, with their nominations being put forward by the ABPI, individual companies or through the professional bodies (eg RPSGB, Biochemical Society etc) of which they were members. Messages given to industry in the earlier RAEs that the nature and level of industry/academic collaboration would not be a major contributory factor in the determination of grades may not have been an incentive for industry participation. This, and the perception of some (but not all) Panel members and observers from industry of the 1996 RAE, that little weight was given to their views, may have influenced others in the sector not to get involved.

  The ABPI consulted widely with its membership to identify possible Panel members for the 2001 RAE. Those who have had some previous experience of the RAE brought to our attention the considerable time-consuming nature of the exercise. It was recognised that the full members of the Panels did a huge amount of work to assess the quality of research for each institution. This would have been a very challenging task for someone from an industrial context. Several ABPI representatives did take on this task and invested several weeks of their time in the exercise. This would have certainly had an influence on their decision to participate, or not, in the recent RAE. Others, supportive of the initiative but unsure of the actual commitment expected of them, took a cautious approach and decided not to become involved.

  At the same time, it must be recognised by the Science and Technology Committee that the most recent RAE was carried out at a time of unprecedented change within the pharmaceutical industry in the UK. Various mergers and acquisitions (Glaxo Wellcome and SmithKlineBeecham, Pfizer and Warner Lambert), R&D site closures (Roche, Knoll, Aventis) and planned expansion of others (MSD, Eli Lilly, Pfizer, Organon etc) made it difficult for many senior R&D executives with the appropriate skills to find the time to participate in the RAE and give it the level of commitment it required.


  The ABPI can only comment on those Panels on which it, or a member company, was represented. We consider that the 2001 RAE was carried out extremely thoroughly, and that the process was conducted scrupulously by the Chairman of the Panels, within the remit set by HEFCE. The criteria for assessment were defined in detail well before the exercise (following a wide-ranging consultation exercise) so institutions should have known what they were being assessed against. The ABPI did recognise that criteria were included in the assessment for the 2001 exercise, which meant that there was some recognition of industrial collaboration.

  Overall, the ABPI considers that the 2001 RAE was a definite improvement on the 1996 RAE.

  The pharmaceutical industry operates R&D at an international level and is well placed to recognise world-class research. From this perspective, the industrial representatives on the Panels clearly felt that there has been a real increase in research of an international standing, a view generally confirmed by the panel experts recruited from outside of the UK. The ABPI was also pleased to note that for the first time, it was possible for sponsored clinical research to be allowed into exercise and considered by one of the panels (Panel 3, Hospital-based clinical subjects). How much influence such commercially-sponsored clinical research had on the final outcome is difficult to assess.

  If the RAE does remain in its present form, the ABPI will continue to encourage its member companies to participate. It may be that, because of time constraints, it is inappropriate for industrial representatives to be full Panel members and to be involved in the detailed assessment of the research. Nevertheless, in a number of panels in which the industry participated (as observers) the Chairs did encourage them to become involved in a manner beyond their official role as observers. Some panels in previous exercises have been keen to involve industry and were very pleased to get this input. It is our understanding that some panels took a very traditional view, whereas in others the industry did have a significant influence on the development of the criteria (which included appropriate industrial considerations) and were able to provide some comment, based on these criteria, on all of the submissions.

  Concern has been raised over the apparent failure of the 2001 RAE to generate significant additional financial resources for those universities who have achieved 5 and 5* assessments. This may impact on future industry involvement.

February 2002

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